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Threat of lawsuit against EPA could affect industry

Environmental groups are threatening the Environmental Protection Agency with a lawsuit that could result in additional regulations for boatbuilders.

The Sierra Club and California Communities Against Air Toxics said in an Aug. 26 letterrecently posted to the EPA’s website that the agency failed to review toxics standards for 46 industries, including the marine industry, as required by the Clean Air Act of 1990.

According to the law, the EPA had eight years after finalizing the boatbuilder Maximum Achievable Control Technology in 2001 to perform the assessment, called a residual risk review, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

The agency has yet to conduct reviews of several industries because of staffing issues, and more recently because of sequestration and budget cuts, NMMA director of environmental and safety compliance John McKnight told Trade Only Today.

“Clearly they have failed in what they were required to do under the law, so I anticipate that the courts will order them to do it,” McKnight told Trade Only.

It will take time for the matter to work its way through the court system, McKnight says.

“It’s something we need to follow closely, but it won’t be something that we need to react to immediately,” McKnight said. “But it’s important that boatbuilders are notified because ... it’s going to come and, when it comes, it’s going to be a big deal.”

The review could result in the EPA saying it thinks the current standards are adequate, McKnight said. Or it could prompt the agency to further regulate the industry by, for example, making all builders move to closed-molded technology.

“This could take it to the next phase. They could turn around and say, ‘We think MACT did a good job,’ but industry knows there’s further technological advancement out there. They’ll do a very thorough review and they might see that 60 percent of boatbuilders are using closed-molded techniques and think, ‘We think everyone can do it because this is a technology that is feasible,’” McKnight said. “Who knows what else will come down the pipe between now and then? Technology always advances.”

More regulations would mean more money spent by manufacturers to implement new technologies, he said, adding that the industry already made a big investment in 2001 when the initial law went into effect.

“I’ve been anticipating this to happen,” he said. “We were supposed to hear from the EPA on residual review in 2009 and they haven’t done anything, which is fine with me, but that’s what these environmental groups do. They’re law firms posing as environmental groups. This is, again, the government putting the microscope on our industry.”

— Reagan Haynes

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