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California Lawmakers Urge Delay in New Marine Vessel Retrofitting Rule

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 2278
April 1, 2024

A group of California lawmakers led by Representative Michelle Steel has written a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom asking him to postpone the enforcement of a new marine vessel retrofitting rule that they say poses a threat to the security of supply chains.

The Commercial Harbor Craft (CHC) regulation, first implemented in 2008 and later modified in 2010, has been instrumental in reducing air pollutants, such as diesel particulate matter, fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur oxides, by encouraging the transition to cleaner Tier 2 and 3 engines for certain types of vessels.

However, in 2022, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted new amendments expanding the rule, which will require towing vessels operating in California to upgrade to cleaner combustion Tier 3 and 4 engines and install diesel particulate filters (DPFs) to reduce emissions. According to the lawmakers, these filters have been associated with dangerous fires in diesel engine trucks, with the cost of compliance for each vessel owner estimated at around $5 million.

The amendments will be gradually implemented starting later this year until 2032. The American Waterways Operators (AWO), a leading trade association for the U.S. tugboat, towboat, and barge industry, has strongly opposed the amendments over potential safety hazards to mariners and the viabilitiy of maritime operations.

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In their letter, the lawmakers state that the rule, if put into effect as planned, could place an unnecessary economic burden on the tugboat, towboat, and barge industry and affect over 50,000 jobs. They also pointed out the rule’s potential to disrupt the movement of nearly 665 million tons of domestic cargo annually.

“California’s ports depend on this multibillion-dollar industry to move nearly 665 million tons of domestic cargo each year. CARB regulations already burden our supply chains; this will only magnify the problem,” the letter states.

“CARB’s continued disregard for key stakeholder input requires swift action before the eagerness of some to fulfill a regulatory agenda risks Californians’ safety and economic well-being. These risks can be mitigated, and I urge you to take prompt administrative action to delay the Commercial Harbor Craft rule beyond its December 31, 2024 effective date,” it concludes.

The letter was co-signed by Representatives John Duarte, Ken Calvert, Jay Obernolte, and Young Kim.

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