Making the same mistakes

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Why do we make the same mistakes over and over again? Last week was my first blog entry for Soundings Trade Only, and I submitted it without a headline. I left it to someone else to write the headline. That was my mistake.

I agree there were two lines in my entry that justified the headline “Gas Prices Not a Deterrent.” But that wasn’t my intended message. I am not disconnected from reality! 

As Memorial Day approaches, media coverage of boating rises dramatically. In my first blog entry, I was trying to suggest some talking points that present a silver lining for boating. We don’t have to be completely defeatist when we speak to the media because there are certainly some positive messages we can deliver.

As an industry, we’re about to make the same mistake we’ve made before with Congress. Too many are doing too little to help fix the EPA permitting issue for boaters. The recreational boating industry directly employs upwards of 250,000 people. There are 12 million registered boats in the U.S. Last year, nearly 60 million adult Americans went boating.

But despite these impressive figures, we can only document approximately 17,000 people—including industry members and boaters—that have emailed their Senators and Representative to urge them to enact S. 2766 and H.R. 5949 (The Clean Boating Act of 2008) into law. 

S. 2766 today passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (see today's story on Trade Only's e-mail newsletter.) An identical companion bill, H.R. 5949, passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week. We have opposition to this legislation. Because of the partisan nature of D.C. politics, Congress is often unable to move legislation. They do listen to their constituents, though; however, they’re not hearing from enough people on this issue.

Even if S.2766 does pass out of the EPW Committee today, the bills still must be voted on the floor of the House and the Senate. If anyone is successful in amending one of the bills, they go to a conference committee. Then, if finally approved, the legislation must be signed into law by the President.

There are approximately 130 days left until September 30, the permitting deadline. With recesses for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and the Fall elections, Congress will likely work less than a quarter of those days. You do the math. Time is running out!

Without this legislation, on October 1 of this year EPA will put in place a permitting system for several common discharges from boats (engine cooling water, bilge water, grey water, deck runoff, water from bait wells and more). Worst case scenario: Recreational boaters will be required to pay large permitting fees in every state in which they operate their boat. 

Best case scenario: A general permit will be required that identifies best practices recreational boaters must follow. In either case, the worst part is that a provision of the Clean Water Act allows your neighbor to bring a citizen lawsuit against you for failing to follow those best practices, and the fine for violating this permitting (in accordance with the Clean Water Act) is $32,000 per day.

If we think business is bad today, wait until every boater has to obtain an EPA permit for hundreds of dollars for each boat they own and in each state they boat! Or, wait until the first boater gets fined $32,000 a day for a harmless water discharge from his or her boat!

We wound up with a luxury tax because the industry failed to communicate to members of Congress that the tax would be devastating to our businesses. Are we going to make the same mistake again with EPA permitting?

Don’t wait for someone else to contact your senators and representative. Visit www.BoatBlue.org today; do it right now while you are online reading this! Click the “Take Action” button and send your elected officials a letter that has already been drafted for you. Then ask each of your employees to do it, too. It takes less than 10 minutes. Or, better yet, call your Senator’s and Representative’s offices and tell them it’s important to you, your employees and your customers that they support and enact S. 2766 and H.R. 5949.

There is nothing more important to your business today than taking this simple action!

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