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Posted by on May 8, 2011 in Boating Law, Environment, UK, US |

Emissions Legislation: Long View

Antipollution laws are formidable at first, but they can be a plus.

Lately I have been reading up on the California state legislature taking action regarding high concentrations of dissolved copper, which scientists have determined is harmful to mussels, oysters, scallops and sea urchins, in places such as San Diego and Newport bays. The legislation will affect the marine industry because antifouling paints contribute to high dissolved copper levels.

And, of course, the marine industry is pushing back.

Catalytic converters and oxygen sensors, like those on this Indmar V8, presented engineering challenges at first, but engine manufacturers found a way to make them work on water-cooled exhaust.

Catalytic converters and oxygen sensors, like those on this Indmar V8, presented engineering challenges at first, but engine manufacturers found a way to make them work on water-cooled exhaust.

It takes me back to the early 1970s, when the Environmental Protection Agency, led by the California Air Resource Board enacted new legislation restricting the amount of pollutants cars and light trucks could spew out their tailpipes. Of course, the auto industry resisted and lobbied, but the bills became law anyway.

The EPA also has sought further reductions of boat engine emissions. And when marine engine companies learned that the EPA wanted catalytic converters installed on boat exhaust, they too resisted. Even the Coast Guard objected, but the laws were passed—and once again engine companies found a way. Indmar, manufacturer of engines for Malibu, Moomba and Supra watersports boats, was one of the pioneers of the marine catalyst.

Of course, few in the industry will admit it, but the emission-control and fuel-delivery systems that have emerged as a result of legislation on cars and boats are at least part of what make modern marine engines so reliable. Fuel-injected ki boat and runabout engines are better now than the carbureted engines of 10 years ago. Much better.

It all comes flooding back to me as I read about the battle over antifouling paints. The industry either can fight it—which seems to be the usual tactic—or acknowledge that high concentrations of dissolved copper are insidious, and work toward a new, environmentally friendly antifouling paint. And maybe, just maybe, there will be some spillover benefits to the new formula, just as there were with emissions laws.

The point is that any antipollution legislation will always present a hurdle to marine industry engineers at first, but they always find a way. We all pay more in the form of higher MSRP on engines or for a gallon of bottom paint, but when you consider the price we pay for disregarding the environment our boats let us enjoy, or the food we take from it, the price sure seems worth it.
—Brett Becker