E15’s troubled timeline; Clean Marina successes

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The government shutdown could affect the EPA’s rollout of year-round E15 sales. Also, Ohio and Maryland earn their stripes for clean marina facilities and practices.

President Trump’s decision to allow year-round E15 sales, thereby putting at risk the nation’s boaters and millions of other small-engine owners, may be tripped up by the partial government shutdown. My smirk is probably obvious.

The Environmental Protection Agency had announced a target date of May to issue the final rule allowing 15 percent ethanol blends to be sold all year. Currently, E15 can only be sold during the summer months. Sucking up to the farm and ethanol producers lobby, the administration last October directed EPA to engage in the required rulemaking process to waive the summertime “Reid vapor pressure” requirements. (Reid vapor pressure is a measure of gasoline’s volatility.)

But the government shutdown has EPA working with a skeleton staff, according to a report from Reuters. “This is a priority for both President Trump and acting administrator Andrew Wheeler,” EPA spokesperson Michael Abboud told the news service. “The ongoing partial shutdown will not impede EPA’s ability to keep to our deadline.”

Not so fast!

There are two considerations EPA may not want to talk about. For one, experts are seeing that despite EPA’s schedule, which is considered ambitious, the shutdown compounds difficulties in meeting the schedule whether the agency admits it or not.

Indeed, Bloomberg recently reported that Paul Argyropoulos, president of Policy Nexus Advisors and a former senior policy adviser for the EPA, noted: “If you start getting in beyond these two weeks, then it does begin to ramp up the pressure because there won’t be people there to work on this stuff.”

We’re now past two weeks, with no end to the shutdown in sight.

Another game-changing probability: Argyropoulos believes that, once issued, the EPA’s E15 ruling will be legally challenged. Opponents in the refining industry will question whether the EPA even has the legal authority to provide an RVP waiver or whether Congress must be the body to do so.

Even the Renewable Fuels Association acknowledges the problem. “From the outset,” RFA president Geoff Cooper told Bloomberg, “the EPA gave itself very little wiggle room to complete the year-round E15 rulemaking before summer, so the shutdown is making a tight timeline even tighter.”

So while the shutdown is nothing more than politicians total failure to do the jobs we’re paying them to do, this result for EPA does make me smile. And no matter what happens at EPA or in the courts, it’s likely the boating industry gains more time to push for necessary and meaningful education, notifications and warnings that can prevent the danger and problems related to misfueling.

Ohio, Maryland Clean Marinas

A well-earned shout-out goes to the Ohio and Maryland Clean Marina programs for a successful 2018.

In Ohio, the program recertified 11 marinas and certified one that received platinum status under a newly created tiered certification program. Meanwhile, the Clean Boater Pledge was signed by 347 more boaters last year under the Ohio Clean Boater Program. The program makes boosts awareness of the environmental impact of boating activities.

The Ohio staff also held eight workshops and training seminars that reached 9,070 people. And for marinas and boatyards, new guidance was rolled out on boat wash-water to coincide with the state’s new requirements for marinas to treat pressure-wash wastewater.

The Ohio Marina Conference is slated for Feb. 20 at the Catawba Island Club in Port Clinton. The day will feature educational presentations by experts on topics requested by area marinas.

In Maryland, the Clean Marina Initiative closed out the year recertifying seven marinas that met regulatory requirements and environmental best practices. This renewed their Clean Marina certifications for another three years.

For Maryland marinas that aren’t yet certified, the program announced its annual workshops, which includes tours of marinas and presentations about current topics. They are scheduled for Feb. 7 in Rock Hall, Feb. 12 in Solomons and Feb. 14 in Annapolis.

Finally, the Maryland Clean Marina program issued a reminder that winter is a good time to review and update Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety data sheets for chemicals that staff uses; the review should be documented and kept on file. It’s also a good time to organize permits, plans and records, especially the General Permit for Discharge from Marinas and Boatyards.

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