Sens. Boxer and Murkowski Introduce Bill to Extend Moratorium on Discharge Permits for Commercial Vessels

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-California, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today introduced  a bipartisan bill (S. 3372) that would extend  the current moratorium on a permit requirement for commercial and charter fishing vessels and other commercial vessels under 79 feet long.  The legislation would provide these commercial vessels a three-year moratorium extension from permits for discharges under the Clean Water Act. 

Two years ago, in the 110th Congress, bipartisan legislation introduced by Murkowski was enacted to place a two-year moratorium on the permit requirement while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Coast Guard were directed to conduct a study to evaluate the impacts of discharges incidental to the normal operation of such vessels.  The results of that study will determine whether and how the discharges should be regulated by EPA through National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits.

The two-year moratorium is set to expire on July 31, 2010; however, the results of the study have not been fully analyzed. It is also critical to note that it would be difficult for the EPA to issue the permits by July 31.

Senator Boxer said, "The legislation we are introducing today allows EPA to conduct the analysis needed to ensure that our waters are protected from pollution while minimizing the burden on commercial and charter fishing vessels in California and across the nation."

Senator Murkowski said, "I am pleased to join with Senator Boxer to introduce this important piece of legislation, and I look forward to working with her and my colleagues to pass this before the current moratorium expires in two months. In Alaska, the 9,700 vessels that make up the commercial and charter fishing fleets would be adversely affected if the moratorium expired. Given the near impossibility of the EPA to have a permit in place by July 31, these vessels would immediately be in violation of the Clean Water Act for an incidental discharge of any kind.  It will take the EPA a significant amount of time to analyze its study and determine if these discharges need to be regulated.  If so, they then would have to further develop a new permit for these vessels.  Given the amount of time all of this would take, it is imperative that we extend the moratorium on a permit requirement as soon as possible."