The Passenger Vessel Association (PVA) said today that it has requested that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hold a virtual public hearing as it considers a waiver submitted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) concerning its most recent version of the Commercial Harbor Craft Emissions Rule.

The CARB waiver request, published in the Federal Register on March 17, seeks EPA authorization of its Commercial Harbor Craft regulation which sets stringent emissions limits for passenger vessels that operate in California. PVA said that the Clean Air Act generally preempts state and local governments from promulgating emissions rules, but it does allow the EPA to authorize California to adopt and enforce emissions reduction rules that are at least as protective of public health and welfare as applicable federal standards.

PVA President Jim Swindler wrote in a letter to the EPA that the “PVA acknowledges that EPA has issued two prior waivers for the original and current versions of the Commercial Harbor Craft regulation, but the new proposal departs in significant ways from the two prior versions. Technologies to satisfy the proposed requirements are not currently available at a cost that can be absorbed by passenger vessel operators, and they are not likely to be developed by the deadlines established by the proposed rule.

"Consequently," continued Swindler, "PVA members will be confronted with the need to replace existing vessels that cannot accommodate new engine designs and associated emissions reduction technologies. This result is not reasonable or feasible. It will likely cause existing vessels to be removed from service without replacement due to the higher cost of new vessels and inability of vessel operators to pass that significant cost on to the consumer. PVA operators would like the opportunity of a virtual hearing to explain this to EPA directly.”

PVA said an estimated 37 of its members that operate passenger vessels in California will be affected.