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EPA Responds to Maine’s Concerns over Tier 4 Engine Standards

Image Courtesy Dustin Delano

In late August, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would delay implementation of Tier 4 emission standards for commercial marine engines for three years. The delay would provide relief to boatbuilders and manufacturers of lightweight and high-power marine diesel engines used in the lobster fishery. In addition, EPA will institute a new waiver process, which would allow for continued installation of Tier 3 engines for certain vessels if suitable Tier 4 engines continue to be unavailable and streamline the engine certification process to promote certification of engines with high-power density. “This proposed rule will give boat builders and Maine’s lobster fishermen regulatory certainty and encourage continued progress for cleaner diesel engines,” EPA New England Acting Regional Administrator Deborah Szaro said in a press release. “This action is a win-win for builders and lobstermen and allows Maine’s vibrant fishing economy to continue.” In 2017, when Tier 4 emissions rules for engines of 803 hp and greater went into effect, the rules hit lobstermen who fish offshore hard. Most offshore vessels use engines above the 803-hp threshold, but the specialized hull designs and deck layout of those boats left little space below for the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology used to meet particulate emission standards. Offshore lobster boats require more deck space to carry traps, and more speed to complete their trips in a reasonable time. At the urging of Peter Emerson, New England dealer support specialist for Mack Boring and Parts Company , in 2018, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) board of directors voted to take the issue to Maine’s Congressional delegation to push for options to exclude lobster boat engines from Tier 4 requirements. Since the EPA had already been through the rulemaking process, the delegation urged the MLA to raise this issue with EPA. The MLA worked with Peter Emerson to send a letter to former EPA director Scott Pruitt explaining the mismatch of the Tier 4 requirement for Maine’s lobster fleet, but with little result. The MLA, Emerson, and several Maine boatbuilders went back to the Congressional delegation to ask Representative Chellie Pingree and Senators Susan Collins and Angus King to intercede with the EPA. In November, three EPA staff from Ann Arbor, Michigan, met with Emerson and spoke with Maine boatbuilders throughout the coast to discuss the needs of lobstermen concerning boat safety and performance. “ Maine Lobstermen’s Association was instrumental as an organized body who could capture the attention of the Senators and Congress people who needed to be alerted over the situation,” noted Emerson.  “We are pleased to have worked together with the EPA to find a commonsense solution that supports Maine boatbuilders and lobstermen,” said Senators Collins and King and Representatives Pingree and Jared Golden in a joint statement. “This delay in the implementation of the Tier 4 emission standards for commercial lobster-style boats should provide engine manufacturers time to design and certify engines that will both comply with Tier 4 emission standards and work safely and efficiently in these boats.”

A public hearing will be held on September 20, 2019 at 9:30 a.m., at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, Maine.

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