The ongoing discussion between CARB and commercial passenger vessel owners was brought to a head on Jan. 12 when CARB hosted a webinar to discuss the proposed amendments to commercial harbor craft regulations. The meeting ran an hour longer than intended when webinar participants contributed an abundance of comments, questions, and concerns for CARB staff to address.
CALIFORNIA— On Jan. 12, the California Air Resources Board hosted the Commercial Harbor Craft Regulation Remote Public Webinar to discuss the next steps on the proposed amendments to the planned changes to engine regulations for commercial vessels.
The webinar highlighted incentive funding opportunities, discussed the approach for responding to direction provided by the board at the November hearing, considered options for implementation and outreach for the program in the coming years, and discussed plans for returning to the board for a Spring 2022 hearing where CARB will consider approving the proposal.
In late 2021, CARB announced its proposed regulations for commercial vessel engines, which could impact sportfishing and whale watching boats. The new regulations have the intention to improve air quality, but boat owners have had trouble getting on board with the proposals.
By early 2023, CARB aims to have Tier-4 engines become a requirement for all commercial vessels, an engine that has only been tested on farm equipment and never on boats.
The Tier-4 engine is susceptible to overheating and then combusting, an event that has limited solutions when out on the water. In addition, most boats are constructed of wood and fiberglass, highly flammable materials, and the new engine would require boat owners to reconstruct their vessels entirely out of steel. The Tier-4 engine is also much larger and won’t fit into most boats without some form of reconstruction, an expensive cosmetic procedure for boat owners.
The meeting began with background information on the topic, then continued to discuss funding options for harbor crafts, streamlining compliance extensions, reviewed technology, and implementation, discussed zero-emission contingency measures, and finally, CARB’s next steps in the process.
Attainable funding was a major discussion amongst participants. According to CARB, funding program options for commercial harbor craft vessels include:
– Low Carbon Transportation (LCT)- this program provides mobile source incentives to reduce greenhouse gas, criteria pollutant, and toxic air contaminant emissions through the deployment of advanced technology and clean transportation. For more information or questions about LCT, please contact Earl Landberg at Earl.Landberg@arb.ca.gov.
– Clean Off-Road Equipment Voucher Incentive Project (CORE)- this program is designed to accelerate the deployment of cleaner off-road technologies by providing a streamlined way for fleets ready to purchase specific zero-emission equipment to receive funding to offset the higher cost of such technologies. This project corresponds to the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project. Still, it will specifically target zero-emission off-road freight equipment that is currently in the early stages of commercial development. For more information or questions about CORE, please contact Todd Sterling at Todd.Sterling@arb.ca.gov or Matthew Diener at Matthew.Diener@arb.ca.gov
– Carl Moyer- this program provides grant funding for cleaner-than-required engines, equipment, and other sources of air pollution. The Carl Moyer Program is implemented as a partnership between CARB and California’s 35 local air districts. For more information or questions about the Carl Moyer Program, please contact Aaron Hilliard at Aaron.Hillard@arb.ca.gov or Anthony Poggi at Anthony.Poggi@arb.ca.gov.
– Additional funding opportunities, according to CARB, is the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust which provides about $423 million for California to mitigate the excess nitrogen oxide emissions caused by VW’s use of illegal emissions testing defeat devices in certain VW diesel vehicles.
– EPA DERA- The Diesel Emissions Reduction Act is a program that funds grants and rebates that protect human health and improve air quality by reducing harmful emissions from diesel engines.
– LCTOP- Low Carbon Transit Operations Program- this program was created to provide operating and capital assistance for transit agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve mobility, prioritizing saving disadvantaged communities.
– TIRCP- Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program will provide grants from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to fund transformative capital improvements that will modernize California’s intercity, commuter, and urban rail systems, and bus and ferry transit systems, to significantly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, vehicle miles traveled, and congestion.
– Prop 1B- The Goods Movement Emission Reduction Program is a $1 billion partnership between CARB and local agencies, air districts, and seaports to quickly reduce air pollution emissions and health risks from freight movement along California’s trade corridors.
Following the breakdown of funding options there was roughly an hour of answering questions that pertained only to funding and public comment.
CARB carried on by discussing its plan for the next step.
“Staff will continue outreach with operators, the review of public comments submitted, and consider feedback received today. and will return to the Board for a final vote and consideration in Spring 2022, “said Melissa Houchin, Air Resources Engineer for CARB. “The anticipated effective date of the proposal is Jan. 1, 2023.”
For more information or questions, please contact Melissa Houchin at Melissa.Houchin@arb.ca.gov or David Quiros at David.Quiors@arb.ca.gov. You can also visit the CARB Commercial Harbor Craft Website.
Following the discussion of the next steps, more general questioning took place until 7 p.m.
Significant takeaways for the meeting:
– CARB acknowledged data errors relevant to funding, technology, and expectations of CHC owners but did not acknowledge the need to update data showing commercial passengers’ boat’s actual contribution to emissions.
– Staff speakers on behalf of CARB confused the issue with the availability of Tier 4 engines for sportfishing vessels when answering the questions of concerned webinar participants. No Tier 4 engines have been approved for commercial passenger vessels yet.
– Webinar participants expressed extreme concern regarding the Carl Moyer Program and its high demand for funding that it is not possible to fund all vessels facing these cosmetic changes. In addition, local air quality districts control the Carl Moyer Program, and limited funding forces harbor crafts to compete with other transportation sectors for those limited funds.
– For the first time, the Coast Guard has submitted written comments on the proposed regulations; however, the letter is not publicly available like other comment letters. Many participants were under the impression that the Coast Guard had not been involved or informed on the matter. “We have met with the Coast Guard numerous times. The Coast Guard doesn’t always provide input on regulations directly, but they are always available to talk about safety and to educate us on what their safety procedures are,” said Bonnie Soriano of CARB. “We’ve met with the Coast Guard; I’m thinking at least ten times over this course of this regulatory development. The Coast Guard does inspect the vessels; they are involved in certain cases in reviewing designs of vessels.”
The petition “Don’t Sink Sportfishing,” created in retaliation to the proposed regulations has nearly 22,000 signatures and was presented to Gov. Newsom. In addition, 3,200 public comments were submitted during the webinar and nearly all stated concerns with the proposed regulations.
CARB will return to the Board for the final vote and consideration in Spring 2022; no specific date has been set yet, before the anticipated implementation of the regulation on Jan. 1, 2023.