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New regulations may pose too big a challenge – Monterey Herald

MONTEREY – Some Monterey harbor craft businesses say they want to do their part to reduce emissions, but not at the cost of going out of business.

The California Air Resources Board is proposing regulations that would require all California harbor crafts to upgrade their engines to cleaner, more efficient technology. Some whale watching and sportfishing businesses of Monterey worry that for financial reasons, compliance is infeasible.

“They put a lot of scary in our lives,” says John Mayer, co-owner of Discovery Charters of Monterey. “They didn’t need to do this.”

The Board states these regulations are essential in curbing emissions, cutting harbor craft diesel particulate matter by almost 90% and nitrogen oxides by over 50%. This reduction would put a significant dent in California’s pollution, as harbor crafts are some of the greatest contributors. The Board adds that the reduced pollution would benefit the health of coastal communities.

“One (harbor craft) engine has the same emission levels as … 160 school buses,” says Bonnie Soriano, branch chief of California Air Resources Board. “We need to have them cleaned up to protect the communities around these marine facilities.”

Some Monterey whale watching and sportfishing businesses are on board with reduced emissions and improved health, but business owners note that technological limitations complicate compliance.

The issue is engine size. Marko Mlikoton, spokesperson for the Sportfishing Association of California, explains that the Board’s amendment would require engines that aren’t made for passenger vessels. Further, the only suitable engines available are too heavy for passenger engine rooms. He says this would mean most boats would need to be replaced for businesses to comply.

Replacing harbor crafts is no simple task either, as new boats cost on average $5 million. Small business owners in the Monterey Bay area say this is infeasible.

Ken Stagnaro, a boat captain for a sport fishing and whale watching company in Santa Cruz, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that he predicts seven out of every 10 boats wouldn’t be able to handle the financial strain.

“If it comes down to too much expense, it’s not worth it to me,” Stagnaro said. “If our boats become obsolete, a lot of people won’t do it. They just can’t do it. To put myself in debt like that at my age, to be in that kind of debt like that for 10 years or more, forget about it.”

However, the Board highlighted a few measures in place to aid compliance.

Firstly, the regulations incorporate a phase-in process, with older engines requiring replacement sooner than newer ones. If these regulations require vessel replacement, businesses could receive an eight-year extension up to 2034 depending on how old the engine is. Mayer insists the extension is not long enough, though. He likened it to being diagnosed with a terminal illness, yet told that you can live a few extra years if you make healthy choices.

Next, the Board highlighted incentive programs available, such as the Carl Moyer grant to aid in replacing harbor crafts, if necessary.

Lastly, the regulations include low-use thresholds, providing exemptions for vessels that operate under a certain number of hours within 24 nautical miles from the shore.

Mayer says he wishes that the Board would “tap the brakes a bit,” explaining he would prefer these regulations to wait until smaller clean engines are available. That way, he and other Monterey businesses could simply repower their current vessels without needing to buy new boats.

However, Soriano explained these regulations will play an essential role in updating this technology.

“In reality, these engine makers are not going to produce these engines until they’re required,” she says, “and so, we produce a rule that requires this type of technology, and it signals the engine makers that this equipment is necessary.”

What’s more, David Quiros, the manager of the Board, says that the proposed regulations ensure a level playing field for sportfishing and whale watching markets. If a company purchases cleaner boat engines, they would likely need to increase the ticket prices to offset the cost. If that company increases their prices, it would put them at a competitive disadvantage compared to other companies. Requiring all businesses to purchase cleaner engines prevents this inequality in the market, Quiros says.

The Board understands the affected businesses are small, environmentally conscious companies that are trying to make a living, so they emphasize that they are being careful to make the proposed regulations as fair and flexible as possible.

Almost 30 Californian chambers of commerce and tourism authorities have banded together in a coalition to defend commercial vessel owners. This coalition sent a letter to the Board to explain their concerns, and a petition to Gov. Gavin Newsom to intervene in these proposed regulations.

These new laws would be an amendment to existing regulation of California harbor crafts. The Board will meet to review this proposal to a hearing on Nov. 19. This hearing will provide appropriate revisions to the proposed amendments based on public comment. Then, the final review and vote would occur in the spring of 2022.

The California Air Resources Board is accepting public comment until Nov. 18. The proposal fact sheets can be found at https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/our-work/programs/commercial-harbor-craft/chc-meetings-workshops  and instructions to leave public input at https://www.arb.ca.gov/lispub/comm/bclist.php 

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