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EPA, Marine Industry Associations, States of New York and Vermont Announce Initiative for Cleaner Outboard Motorboat Engines

Release Date: 07/11/2002
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

BURLINGTON, VERMONT – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, the Empire State Marine Trade Association (ESMTA), the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and the Marine Retailers Association of America (MRRA) today announced a voluntary initiative to encourage the sale of low-polluting outboard motors and personal watercraft engines in Vermont and portions of New York.

The "Get On Board" initiative, modeled after a successful program by the state of New Hampshire and being expanded this year by EPA to the rest of New England and New York's Lake Champlain region, is designed to accelerate the sale of low-pollution two-and four-stroke marine engines which emit substantially less pollution than conventional marine engines. The conventional engines discharge up to 30 percent of their fuel directly into the water and air as pollution.

Under the initiative announced today, all groups, including retailers who are members of the marine trade associations, will work to achieve a goal of selling 75 percent clean engines this year across all of Vermont as well as the New York Lake Champlain region, 80 percent in 2003, and 95 percent by 2004. EPA regulations require that by 2006, all manufacturers' average emissions for new outboard and personal watercraft engines meet low-pollution standards.

"With more than 12,000 boats on Lake Champlain, most of them being outboards and personal watercraft, these clean engines represent a great opportunity for boaters to take a big collective bite out of pollution entering this pristine water body," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office, speaking at a news conference today at the Community Boathouse in Burlington, VT.

EPA New England announced a similar program earlier this year in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine.

"The Clean Marine Engine program is an ideal complement to our other efforts to protect and restore Lake Champlain," added Jane M. Kenny, regional administrator of EPA's Region 2 Office, which includes New York. "We believe that boaters will do the right thing now that they have a clear, clean choice and the opportunity to protect this North American treasure."

Small marine gasoline engines can have a big impact on Vermont and New York waters. Traditional small boat engines are two-stroke carbureted, with up to 30 percent of the fuel passing through the combustion chamber unburned or partially burned, thereby being released directly into the water and air as pollution. This produces airborne hydrocarbon emissions which contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone or smog. Gasoline discharged to the water elevates concentrations of benzene, MTBE and other toxics in lakes, ponds, and coastal waters.

Current low-pollution marine gasoline engines are either four-stroke or improved, fuel-injected two-stroke engines. Engines meeting EPA low-pollution requirements reduce air pollution by 75 percent or more, lower gasoline discharges to the water, improve fuel efficiency by 35-50 percent, and use up to 50 percent less oil. Other benefits include easier starting, better response, and less smoke and noise. While low-pollution engines cost more initially, EPA estimates that the savings from lower fuel use will more than repay the difference over the life of the engine.

"Vermonters care passionately about their waters and understand the link between human health, economic health and the environment. When opportunities that so obviously benefit our waters present themselves, like the Clean Marine Engine Program, we must act," said Scott Johnstone, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. "This program is an important step in ensuring that our waters meet Vermont's water quality standards."

Vermont has about 29,000 registered personal watercraft and boats with outboard motors.

"Outdoor recreation is an important component of life in the Lake Champlain region and this initiative will help to limit the environmental impact of motorized boats and watercraft," said Erin M. Crotty, commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. "New York state has worked closely with EPA, the state of Vermont and other partners to improve the health of Lake Champlain and, through programs like this, we are making significant progress toward improving water quality and protecting this treasured resource."

All parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding today at a ceremony at the Community Boat House in Burlington, VT. Under the agreement, participating retailers in Vermont and New York will encourage customers to buy low-polluting engines. ESMTA and MRAA will encourage member retailers to participate and collect yearly information from members on sales of low-polluting engines, providing sales totals to the Lake Champlain Basin Program and the Empire State Marine Trade Association.

"MRAA is proud and honored to be a co-signer of this MOU supporting the new cleaner-operating marine outboard engines," said Phil Keeter, president of the Marine Retailers Association of America. "We encourage our dealers to sell them and we are selling all we can get. They are good for the environment, good for boating and good for business."

The NMMA will work with manufacturers to help ensure a supply of low-polluting engines. EPA New England will be publicizing the campaign, including creating brochures and signs for display at retail locations; recognizing participating retailers; and monitoring the success of the program.

"Six years ago engine manufacturers thought they would never be able to build a four-stroke outboard engine over 100 horsepower that was light enough or small enough to fit on a standard boat," said Kelly Rote Bobek, director of federal government relations at the National Marine Manufacturers Association. "Today, as you know, we have four stroke outboard engines reaching 200 to 250 hp. We have also seen the development of cleaner running direct-injection two-stroke engines. Achieving this has been nothing short of incredible in such a short timetable."

The program in Vermont and New York is modeled after a very successful program by the state of New Hampshire, which has three dozen participating dealers, all of which reached 2001's goal of selling 75 percent clean engines.