Copper Paint Ban Reprieve Is Temporary

Many boaters are celebrating the fact that Senate Bill 623 — a measure to limit the use of copper in antifouling hull paint statewide — was officially “shelved” this month. However, the proposed law has not been abandoned: It will, instead, become a “two-year bill,” to be considered again by legislators in 2012.

According to the author of the bill, Sen. Christine Kehoe of San Diego, the “time out” was designed to give boaters, local governments, state agencies and businesses that would be affected by a ban on certain kinds of copper-based paint to provide input into the process and participate in discussions about the proposed regulations.

Already, Recreational Boaters of California has been hard at work lobbying to ensure that the legislation does not place “undue financial burdens or unreasonable deadlines” on boaters throughout the state.

The bill was eventually modified, so that instead of banning all copper-based recreational boat paint by 2015, it would permit the continued use of low-leaching, low-copper antifouling paints. However, it would impose a ban on those paints, too, in 2020 if current California water quality objectives are not met by January 2019.

Many boaters who have expressed reservations about the bill — even in its amended form — have cited its focus on banning copper-based paint only on recreational boats, saying that it imposes paint use regulations unfairly and unequally.

The bill would not regulate the use of copper-based paints on commercial vessels, container ships, cruise ships or Navy vessels — which most boaters believe are responsible for putting far more copper into California harbors than recreational boats.

So, when you hear people talk about how glad they are that SB 623 was “shelved,” just remember: It’s coming back next year.

And when it does, it’s important for us to let our state government representatives — our state senators, our assembly representatives and our governor — know that any regulation of copper-based paint must be fair to all vessel users; and that viable, affordable and effective antifouling alternatives for boat hulls must be provided before the currently available antifouling paints are banned.

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