California Emission Limits

Emissions limits OK'd for boats

Restrictions will reduce pollution from marine engines.

San Jose Mercury News
12 December 1998
SACRAMENTO (AP) -- California's air-quality enforcers say their new rules to limit pollution from pleasure boats and personal watercraft will go a long way toward cleaning up the air.

The Air Resources Board unanimously approved rules Thursday to sharply cut pollutants from new two-stroke and four-stroke marine engines, including outboard engines for boats, beginning in 2001.

Ubiquitous engines

Hundreds of thousands of those engines are used in many motor boats; Jet Skis and other personal watercraft; and small fishing boats. Inboard engines are covered by different rules.

The rules, far more stringent than federal anti-pollution standards, are intended to reduce emissions that state scientists contend have a dramatic impact on air quality.

The regulations would take effect first with engines built in 2001, then be tightened in stages through 2008. By then, the engines would be 90 percent less polluting than they are today, according to the board.

``Currently, a personal watercraft operated for seven hours produces more smog-forming emissions than a 1998 passenger car driven for 100,000 miles,'' an Air Resources Board staff analysis said.

Personal watercraft spew 100 tons or more of pollutants into California's air on a summer day, according to the staff. The most polluting of the craft, those powered by two-stroke engines, also pour unburned gasoline into the water.

The Air Resources Board, whose decisions are watched closely around the country, adopted the rules after months of hearings and testimony.

Environmentalists said the regulations don't go far enough. Boat owners and sellers, engine manufacturers and lobbyists for personal watercraft said the regulations could economically cripple California's $11 billion boating industry.

``We think the rules could have been much tougher.  . . I don't think the marine industry has any idea how easy it got off,'' said Russell Long, a spokesman for the San Francisco-based Blue Water Network, an environmental coalition that includes the Sierra Club.

Industry opposition

Representatives of the marine industry questioned the board's assessment of the impact of the engines' pollution and said the industry had made good-faith efforts to provide clean engines.

Moreover, they said, the cost of modifying the engines to comply with the regulations is higher than the board's estimates. The board said altering an engine would add an average of 14 percent to the cost, which would be passed on to consumers.

The engines range in price from a few hundred dollars to $20,000.

John Jay, a Milpitas boat retailer, said the new regulations are ``just too costly. It's as if they are going to intentionally regulate me out of business.''

©1997 - 1998 Mercury Center

Return to Recreational Boat Building Industry Home Page