On August 20, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler travelled to Maine to announce a delay in the implementation of Tier 4 marine diesel engine rules, an action that the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) had long sought.
At present, certified Tier 4 marine diesel engines are not commercially available for use in Maine lobster boats. This final rule provides regulatory relief by amending EPA’s existing rules to allow for the continued installation of Tier 3 engines in new vessels for a limited time – until 2022 or 2024, depending upon the size and type of vessel.
“This relief gives boat builders and operators flexibility to meet EPA standards during the next several years”-Andrew Wheeler, EPA Administrator
“Lobstermen and pilot boat captains are at a particular disadvantage when changes in emission rules occur, because the larger market for diesel engines can’t build new models quickly enough for marine users – putting these operators in potential violation of pollution rules through no fault of their own.”
In 2008, EPA adopted Tier 4 emission standards for new commercial marine diesel engines at or above 800 hp in order to reduce emissions of particulates and oxides of nitrogen. Compliance was phased in over time, with the final deadline in 2017. That is when the MLA, working with Maine’s Congressional delegation and engine manufacturers, raised concerns with the EPA that certified Tier 4 engines remained wholly unavailable for installation in newly constructed lobster vessels seeking to power with engines of 800 hp or higher.
The EPA regulations required boat owners to use the cleaner Tier 4 engines when building new boats or repowering existing ones despite the fact that engine manufacturers haven’t yet been able to build Tier 4 engines that can fit properly in lobster boats. The engines are too big and would take up far too much space on already cramped fishing boats, a problem particularly vexing for offshore lobstermen.
Kennebunk lobsterman Chris Welch, who is an MLA board member, said the delay is a good decision for the industry. “Lobstermen, particularly those who fish offshore, will continue to be able to carry a large number of traps without sacrificing time or putting undue strain on their engines, which ultimately makes for safer fishing,” he said.
The final rule should provide engine manufacturers time to design and certify engines that will both comply with Tier 4 emission standards and work well in lobster boats. The delay also will help those boat builders who have found themselves unable to obtain the certified engines needed for new vessels. The MLA has asked for the exemption from the rule to be made permanent. Administrator Wheeler indicated the EPA will consider the request, however, the new rule includes a waiver provision that can be used, if necessary, after the new start date for the Tier 4 standards should suitable engines continue to be unavailable.