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Mr. OBERSTAR. I want to compliment the gentlewoman on her splendid work on this legislation and her leadership of the subcommittee, the gentleman from New Jersey for his consistent and persistent advocacy. And if we pass this bill tonight, it will go directly to the President.
Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of S. 3372, a bill that extends a provision prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and States from requiring permits under Section 402 of the Clean Water Act for certain discharges that are incidental to the normal operation of commercial vessels less than 79 feet in length and all fishing vessels. This Chamber has now twice passed the language contained in S. 3372.
I thank the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. LoBiondo) for his continued work on this issue. As I have said many times to my colleague, we will get this legislation signed into law.
This legislation extends a narrowly tailored provision enacted by Congress in 2008 to establish a moratorium on permit requirements under the Clean Water Act for certain discharges from fishing vessels and those commercial vessels less than 79 feet in length. This legislation ensures that EPA has sufficient time to consider the implications of discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel, while preserving the goals of the Clean Water Act to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters.
When the moratorium was established two years ago, EPA was directed to conduct a study on discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel. The purpose of this study was to provide the Agency and Congress with additional information on the nature, types, volumes, and composition of vessel discharges, and the potential impact of these discharges on human health, welfare, and the environment.
EPA completed this study earlier this year and determined that discharges from these smaller vessels are not benign. Appropriately, EPA plans on bringing these vessels within the scope of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. Currently, however, EPA does not have the framework in place or the resources to expand NPDES coverage to these smaller vessels.
S. 3372 extends the current moratorium to December 18, 2013. This extension will allow EPA time to implement the appropriate Clean Water Act mechanisms for controlling, minimizing, and properly addressing these types of vessel discharges. It will also allow the Agency to plan for the inclusion of these smaller vessels when the Agency renews its Vessel General Permits program.
The language contained in S. 3372 was included in H.R. 3619, the ``Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010'', which passed the House on November 2, 2009. In addition, last week, the House passed H.R. 5301, introduced by the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. LoBiondo), which included this provision.
I strongly urge my colleagues to join me in support of S. 3372.
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