NMMA’s President Thom Dammrich said it best when he told a crowd at MAATS: “This is the most threatening issue to our industry since the luxury tax!” I agree. But, I’m concerned. Is anyone listening and, most important, is anyone moved to action?
He was outlining the prospect that, beginning in Sept. 2008, all our customers will be forced to acquire a federal water pollution permit from the EPA. What’s at stake is ugly and two-fold.
First, existing boaters, faced with still another regulatory hassle, could easily say “that’s it” and get out of boating.
Second, getting such a permit clearly sets up still another barrier-to-entry for the prospective boating family, considering our sport. And let’s face it – we don’t need another barrier to boating.
Briefly, a U.S. District Court ruling primarily addressing ballast water from ships wiped out a 3-dacades-old EPA exemption for recreational boaters from provisions of the Clean Water Act. For example, we’re talking here about deck runoff (no more washing the boat) and gray water (or your hands) without a permit — activities incidental to the normal operation of a boat.
A bill, HR 2550, has been introduced in Congress to exempt recreational boats from the Clean Water Act. While the court ruling is being appealed on one front, without a legislative change by Congress on a second front, the EPA must meet the 2008 deadline. Here are the two practical problems that now should concern us:
1. Passing legislation through the maze in Congress usually takes years. (It took 3 years to repeal the luxury tax.) We don’t have years to get this one done!
2. Its so easy for all of us to assume NMMA or MRAA or our local marine trades associations will handle it. Admit it – we often think “that’s what we pay our dues for,” right? Sorry, all the king’s men can’t get this one done in a year.
The only possibility is to rally the boaters. It’s those constituents most effected that can get the attention of Congress to pass HR 2550 before the damage is done.
So, here’s the deal: We dealers must become involved now. We must inform our customers of the looming debacle now (they don’t know) and convince them to contact their Representative, now, to urge the speedy passage of HR 2550. If we don’t act now it won’t happen in time.
Will you act? And let me know that you are?