California Lawmakers Protest Harbor Craft Emissions Rule

A group of California legislators warned Gov. Gavin Newsom in a March 26 letter that the Commercial Harbor Craft rule being promulgated by the California Air Resources Board will have severe impacts to the state’s economy, and have asked him to postpone its current effective deadline of December 31.

“Moving forward with this rule and requiring towing vessels to undergo substantial retrofitting by the beginning of 2025 threatens mariner safety, property loss and the environment surrounding California’s heavily trafficked ports,” wrote the lawmakers. Maritime advocates have warned that the rule could force tugboats crucial to California’s port economy off the waters and force them to move to other states.

Fishing boats are exempt from the rule.Rep. Michelle Steel of California’s 45th congressional district was joined by Reps. John Duarte (Calif.-13), Ken Calvert (Calif.-41), Jay Obernolte (Calif.-23) and Young Kim (Calif.-39) in signing the letter.

The CHC rule will require towing vessels operating in the state to install diesel particulate filters (DPFs). These DPFs have been linked to fires in diesel engine trucks. Maritime industry sources estimate that compliance will cost each vessel owner approximately $5 million. DPFs designed for marine diesel engines have not been tested and vetted for safety. The U.S. Coast Guard, responsible for vessel regulation and safety, has refused to enforce the rule or to certify marine DPFs.

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“If the CHC emissions rule takes effect as is, it could create unnecessary economic strain and impact over 50,000 jobs in the tugboat, towboat and barge industry,” the letter continued. “California’s ports depend on this multibillion-dollar industry to move nearly 665 million tons of domestic cargo each year. CARB regulations already burden our supply chains; this will only magnify the problem.”

The lawmakers concluded, “CARB’s continued disregard for key stakeholder input requires swift action before the eagerness of some to fulfill a regulatory agenda risks Californians’ safety and economic well-being. These risks can be mitigated, and I urge you to take prompt administrative action to delay the Commercial Harbor Craft rule beyond its December 31, 2024, effective date.”