New rules proposed to curb motorboat emissions

The Bush administration is considering several environmental rules, policies, orders and miscellaneous other actions as its days in office dwindle to a precious few. Included in the possibilities is a controversial Environmental Protection Agency rule that would regulate marine and other small-engine emissions.

In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, any change involving “nonroad spark-ignition engines and equipment” is sure to affect a boatload of people. Minnesota has one boat registered for every six people, the highest per capita boat ownership rate in the country.

The regulations would also cover lawnmowers, garden tractors and other piston-powered motors of less than 25 horsepower.

The proposal would reduce emissions from motors starting in 2009 for new marine engines, including, for the first time, inboard and stern drive models. The standards would apply to land-based engines in 2011 and 2012.

“Nationwide, these emission sources contribute to ozone, carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter nonattainment,” the rule reads.

Dirty marine motors out-pollute cars
The EPA says that one dirty marine motor can emit as much pollution in an hour as 348 cars. Lawnmowers aren’t nearly as bad, but still emit as much pollution in an hour as 11 cars.

One way to meet the requirement is for catalytic converters, such as the one on your car only considerably smaller, to be added to the engines to regulate their nitrogen oxides and other emissions that add up to smog. The EPA estimates that the converters and assorted hoses would add from $20 to $25 to the price of the machine. At least one marine manufacturer, Indmar Marine Engines, says it can meet the standard.

Opposing the rule change are other marine interests, as well as lawn and garden equipment makers, like Milwaukee-based Briggs and Stratton, which says it has already reduced 75 percent of smog-forming emissions in its engines since 1995. Among its worries are that the converters add heat to hot-running engines, increasing fire hazards.

The EPA rule was published this spring, but there is no word on when final action might be taken. White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, in a May memo, urged his administrators to get all proposals in before June 1 and final action before the election. You might remember that the Bush Administration was critical of the Clintons and their “midnight regulations” in early 2001. “We need to … resist the historical tendency of administrations to increase regulatory activity in their final months,” Bolten wrote.

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