EPA's Focus on Boatyards and Marinas Continues

by Pierce Atwood LLP

Earlier this year, EPA Region 1 identified shipyards/boatyards and marinas as the continuing focus of the Agency’s Clean Air Act regulatory compliance and enforcement efforts.  Storm water compliance is also a continuing focus under EPA enforcement policies.  As has been reported, EPA has followed through on its statements – many New England shipyards/boatyards and marinas have been on the receiving end of EPA compliance reviews with a number resulting in enforcement actions and payment of large penalties.  Are you ready for an EPA knock on your door?

Clean Air Act

Contrary to common sense, the key to compliance is not the amount of pollutants that your facility actually emits from its painting and surface coating activities, instead it is your facility’s calculated potential to emit pollutants (PTE); i.e., how much could your facility emit operating 24 hrs/day and 365 days/yr at maximum production.  Certain physical or operational design limitations might qualify to limit the PTE.  For example, if you have 3 spray guns that can apply 1.3 gallon/hour each, that is a total of 34,164 gallons/year.  If the paint applied contains a maximum of 3.5 lbs of VOC per gallon, the PTE of your facility would be almost 60 tons/year of VOCs unless there are qualifying physical or operational limitations.  Such a facility could be a “major source” for air permitting and regulatory purposes unless the facility has qualifying physical and/or operational limitations that are effective to limit the PTE.  The key lesson:  even if a facility actually emits only a few tons of VOC per year from painting, its PTE could land it in hot water.  Many shipyards/boatyards in New England have found themselves in such hot water and having to pay tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of dollars in penalties. 

Storm Water

Most shipyards/boatyards and marinas need to have a storm water permit.  It is the rare case that such a facility manages to avoid storm water permit requirements.  Even if your facility has applied for coverage under the State Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP), you can’t rest easy.  There are many compliance obligations imposed on facilities covered by MSGPs.  Obtaining coverage under the State MSGP is the easy part.  Developing storm water plans with the level of detail required by EPA enforcement personnel is the hard part.  Dozens of New England shipyards/boatyards and marinas have been visited by EPA.  Several had to pay over $100,000 to settle EPA’s noncompliance claims.  Those that may escape EPA review are still at risk of citizen suits. 

So what can you do?  First, be prepared and review your programs or equipment.  Do you meet all applicable legal requirements?  A new set of eyes reviewing your management practices and recordkeeping helps.  Second, carefully consider responses to EPA information requests before submittal.  Third, know your rights, the law and precedent if EPA asserts a violation.  We know well the processes and regulatory requirements targeted by EPA.  We’ve assisted numerous shipyards/boatyards and marinas ensure compliance, respond to EPA information requests and minimize penalties.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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