EPA Tier 4 Emissions Rules Pose a Problem For Maine’s Lobster Boat Builders

In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier 4 emissions rules for commercial marine vessels with engine power above 599 kW (803 hp) went into effect. Tier 4 refers to standards set by the EPA to reduce emissions of particulate matter (PM), oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and other toxins from new, non-road diesel engines. Previously Maine lobster boats were subject to Tier 3 standards for their vessels.
The regulations, however, may be an example of putting the cart before the horse. “First, no engine manufacturers had any emissions-certified products in the engine displacement ranges used in our applications above 800 hp that were Tier 4-ready,” explained Peter Emerson, OEM and Dealer Support Specialist New England for Mack Boring and Parts Company. “The second problem is that even if there were products available above 800 hp, we can’t properly install and use the emissions equipment that is attached to the engines to make it meet the emissions legislation.” Boat builders were exploring installing twin engines in new lobster boats as a way around this requirement.
More Maine lobstermen are now fishing offshore. That means there has been an increase in the number of larger, high-powered vessels heading thirty or forty miles offshore to tend trawls of traps. Many of those boats have 1000 hp engines. A fishing day for an offshore lobsterman may be 12- to 24-hours long, which means the big engines are running for much longer than those in the inshore fishery.

EPA’s regulations for commercial marine engines have put Maine boat builders in a bind.
Photo courtesy of Maine Coastal News.

In 2016, before the standards were implemented, Emerson and several Maine boatbuilders decided to take the issue directly to the EPA. “There was very little movement,” Emerson commented wryly. He led a presentation on the impact of the Tier 4 standards at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum in 2017 which Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA), attended.
“It is a ridiculous situation. The only engine models currently available for Tier 4 marine are far too large for any lobster boats. Obviously EPA didn’t understand the Maine lobster fleet,” McCarron said. The MLA board of directors voted to take the issue to Maine’s Congressional delegation to inquire about options to exclude lobster boat engines from Tier 4 requirements. However, since the EPA had already been through rulemaking, the delegation urged MLA to raise this issue with EPA. The MLA worked with Mack Boring and sent a letter in February to EPA director Scott Pruitt, explaining the problems with the Tier 4 requirement for Maine’s lobster fleet, with little result.
So Emerson, several Maine boatbuilders, and the MLA went back to the delegation asking Representative Pingree and Senators Collins and King to put pressure on EPA for relief. EPA responded. In mid-November, Emerson took three EPA staff from the Ann Arbor, Michigan, office to meet with Maine boatbuilders throughout the coast to discuss the needs of lobstermen concerning boat safety and performance. “They came very open-minded, very professional, and very willing to dig into this issue and understand customer use and application the best way possible,” Emerson said. Emerson introduced the EPA team to people at Wesmac Boat, SW Boatworks, Light’s Fiberglass as well as Billing’s Diesel and Marine, Toppin’s Diesel and Marine, Kennedy Marine Engineering, and Jason Chipman, a lobsterman, from Milbridge  “The message was consistent and clear that for this type of fishing it’s very hard to use Tier 4 equipment and furthermore there are no engines available that are certified,” Emerson said.
The EPA allows a type of waiver to boatbuilders under a “hardship provision” in the regulations. Maine boat builders can apply for this waiver to receive relief from the Tier 4 regulations for a 12-month period. “They gave information about the contact at EPA who would be responsible for working with each of them to file the paperwork necessary. They were very helpful,” Emerson said. The EPA will work to amend the Tier 4 regulations during the next nine months to get a long-term solution in place before the hardship provisions expire, according to Emerson. “They understand that there are no Tier 4 certified engines available in the displacement range this application requires and no engine manufacturers are currently working to produce them due to cost and technical feasibility,” Emerson said. “For now we have an interim solution on a case-by-case basis and going forward it appears to look positive that the EPA will be making some changes.” He anticipates any changes to the regulations to be unveiled late in 2019.