U.S. Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) applauded passage of his language to place a permanent moratorium from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state regulations and fines governing incidental discharges on commercial fishing vessels and all other commercial vessels less than 79 feet. The "Commercial Vessel Discharges Reform Act of 2013" as introduced by LoBiondo in November was included in H.R. 4005, the "Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act," which was unanimously passed last night by the House of Representatives.
"The House took decisive action tonight to protect our commercial fishermen, charter and tour boat operators, and owners of other commercial vessels from frivolous citizen lawsuits and daily fines that could exceed $32,000 per violation. Without action now by the Senate, the EPA would penalize vessels from discharging such things as deck wash, bilge water, and the condensation from air conditioning units -- and the economic livelihood of vessel owners would be sunk," said LoBiondo, a senior member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. "As South Jersey is home to the second biggest fishing port on the East Coast with the Port of Cape May, my legislation is critical to supporting thousands of jobs up and down the Jersey Shore. The Senate should quickly follow the House's lead and support this bipartisan bill."
In 2006, a federal court in California ruled that the EPA had to regulate the release of ballast water, bilge water, deck wash, rain water runoff and other incidental discharges from vessels under the Clean Water Act. Over 28 states have added additional and often contradictory regulations on top of the federal standard. Commercial vessels (except fishing) over 79 feet will still need to comply with the EPA standards and all recreational vessels, regardless of size, are permanently exempt from the regulations.
At a March 4th hearing of the House Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, James Rousses -- Vice President of Boat Operations for LaMonica Fine Food in Millville -- testified that: "While we support common-sense environmental protection we are very concerned about the negative impacts of the vessel general permit for what we believe constitutes little environmental benefit These fishermen, with small boats and operations, will not have the resources to understand the permit, much less comply. It is in fact, discriminatory to impose big government, big business requirements on these small businesses. And the crushing effect upon this segment of the industry, is even less comprehensible, when the near-zero effect of the permit is calculated."