EPA Declines AWO Request For Tier 4 Extension

On August 19, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized its rule to delay the implementation of Tier 4 engine emissions requirements for high-speed commercial vessels such as lobster boats and pilot boats. The rule, which will be published in the Federal Register, does not extend regulatory relief from the Tier 4 requirements to lower-horsepower inland towing vessels, as had been requested by the American Waterways Operators in a November 2019 letter. But that may not be the end of the story.

In an August 24 newsletter to AWO members, Caitlyn Stewart, senior director of regulatory affairs at AWO, shared details of EPA’s response. The EPA wrote, “We did not propose to make any changes to the Tier 4 standards or implementation schedule for river pushboats and are therefore not in a position to adopt relief provisions for those vessels in this rule.” But the agency said it would continue to separately assess the AWO’s concerns.

“[S]ome operators of river boats continue to be concerned about complying with Tier 4 requirements. These concerns are very different than those that apply to installing Tier 4 engines in high-speed vessels. Rather, boat builders and operators will need time to work out design, installation and operational issues with newly configured engines in a river environment. We will continue to monitor progress toward compliance for river pushboats that are subject to Tier 4 requirements. We will also learn, along with the industry, how Tier 4 compliance requirements are affecting the ability of operators to safely and effectively deliver products on the inland waterway system.”

The changes required for Tier 4 engines mean that any newbuilds intending to use Tier 4 engines will have to build their boat around them and their emissions control systems, including tanks for a reductant called DEF that is injected into the exhaust system, where it converts NOx into benign nitrogen and water vapor. Costs and design challenges can be proportionately greater for smaller towboats with lower-horsepower engines.

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AWO wrote in October, “The implementation of Tier 4 standards for towing vessels is resulting in significant increases in the cost of their design and construction, far above and beyond those EPA projected in the economic analysis that accompanied EPA’s 2008 final rule establishing the standards.”

Tony Odak, chief operating officer for John W. Stone Oil Distributor, recently told The Waterways Journal that Caterpillar, EMD, Cummins and Mitsubishi all currently manufacture Tier 4 engines with SCR (selective catalytic reduction) systems (WJ, July 7). “When it comes down to it, SCR doesn’t add that much to the cost of the vessel, and in some cases, you’re just not going to have a choice,” he said. The SCR system kicks in when engines are operating at or above 40 percent power.