On March 28, 2013, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a new Clean Water Act Vessel General Permit (2013 VGP) that regulates discharges from commercial vessels greater than or equal to 79 feet in length, excluding military and recreational vessels. The current VGP was issued in December 2008 and expires on December 19, 2013. The new VGP will become effective on December 19, 2013. This alert describes the key features of the 2013 VGP, the main differences from the draft proposed in 2011, and some of the issues that it raises.
Background of the VGP
The current, and first, VGP was issued by EPA on December 18, 2008. A brief description of the Clean Water Act regulatory background and history of events that led to the creation of the VGP can be found in our prior alert, EPA Issues Final Clean Water Act Permit for Incidental Discharges From Vessels (Jan. 2009). In December 2011, the EPA released a draft of the 2013 VGP and submitted it to public comment. An analysis of the draft can be found in our alert, EPA Issues Draft of the Next Vessel General Permit for Public Review – Comments Due By February 21, 2012 (Dec. 2011). After receiving and responding to over 5,500 comments, the EPA released the 2013 VGP.
The 2013 VGP
Changes to definition of “new vessel."
One of the most significant changes from EPA’s draft VGP was the definition of “new vessel.” This change is significant because new build vessels are subject to the technology-based ballast water numeric limitations upon delivery. Although the EPA believed the technology was available at the time of the draft, the definition was changed based on comments received. The final rule delayed the date for which a vessel would be considered a new build vessel by 23 months -- from January 1, 2012, to December 1, 2013. EPA’s decision was based on concerns that there was not an adequate supply of approved ballast water management systems available.
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