Monday, June 02, 2003

NMMA Letter to EPA Re: Evaporative Emissions

June 2, 2003

Mr. Karl Simon, Deputy Director
US Environmental Protection Agency
Room 6401A
1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington DC 20460

Dear Karl:

On behalf of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, I thank you, Rich Ackerman and Bob Doyle for taking the time to discuss the EPA proposed evaporative emission regulation for boat fuel systems. Our members appreciate your efforts and the efforts of the Ann Arbor staff as we work together to develop a feasible standard that considers the unique concerns of small business recreational marine manufacturers.

As is often the case in EPA rulemakings, both industry and the Agency go through a learning curve as we have our discussions and investigate potential emission reduction technologies. This rulemaking has been no exception. In an effort to clearly state our position based on the meetings and discussions we have had with EPA, NMMA is offering the following information, which we consider to be a feasible approach to regulating evaporative emissions from boat fuel systems.

1. Diurnal Emissions EPA proposed an emission standard of 1.1 gms/gallon/day for diurnal emissions, which are the emissions that evaporate through the vent of boat fuel tanks. Based on tests performed by NMMA using the EPA test procedure and SHED method described in the proposed rule, the results reported that the test boat, a 17ft bow rider with a 32 gallon fuel tank,  meets the proposed EPA standard. General knowledge of physics and engineering would indicate that boats of similar design and boats with larger fuel tanks would also meet (or have lower emissions than) this standard. Recreational boats require the use of flotation foam, which acts as insulation. This use of insulation in the hull around the fuel tank is one of the differences between a recreational boat fuel system and the fuel systems found in automobiles and other products.  Also, the placement of the tanks in the area under the deck of the vessel provides inherent insulation that leads to much lower fuel temperature variation than is the case in an automobile fuel tank for comparable, ambient temperatures.  These factors are why recreational boats meet (or have lower emissions than) the EPA proposed standard.

EPA proposed and supported two primary technologies to reduce evaporative emissions. The first was insulation. The second was pressurization. From the outset, NMMA members have opposed pressurization and the US Coast Guard has raised concerns with the pressurization of boat fuel tanks. Boat fuel tanks have never been designed to be operated as pressure vessels. Rather, for safety, boat fuel systems have always been designed to operate under vacuum. Even in the one case, Mastercraft Boats, where the US Coast Guard has allowed for the fuel pump to be located in the fuel tank by approving the use of pressurized fuel lines, this case-by-case approval does not extend to pressurizing the fuel tank.

NMMA opposes the pressurization of boat fuel tanks. Neither the material nor design is meant to be used as a pressure vessel. When you consider that the tank is filled with fuel and placed in a confined space, hidden from the operator, next to a source of ignition, this only increases NMMA’s resolve to insure that pressurization is not required by EPA.

NMMA recognizes that EPA proposes standards and recommends technology that is feasible to meet this standard. In the case of diurnal emissions, NMMA recognizes that our products already meet the standard that EPA proposed due to inherent design features in boats. That is not to say that in the future, there may be transfer technology that could be feasible for even greater emission reductions. At this time NMMA recognizes that the technologies that may be available for application in automotive or other products are not designed or sufficiently tested for the unique conditions and safety concerns of the recreational marine industry.

NMMA has heard that EPA may be considering a technology that was not addressed in the proposal for diurnal control.  If EPA wants to pursue such a technology, NMMA, its members and the U.S. Coast Guard must have sufficient time to evaluate how any such technology would perform in a marine environment.  NMMA would expect EPA to re-open the public comment period after the period of evaluation, so that all issues associated with the technology can be made part of the record for this rulemaking, as is required under Section 307 of the Clean Air Act.

NMMA’s position is that EPA should recognize and document that a considerable diurnal emission reduction is already achieved by recreational boats.  The agency should allow states to take credit for these reductions in their state implementation plans.  Finally, EPA should make a technical determination to not require additional diurnal emissions reductions at this time based on safety and feasibility considerations.

2. Plastic Fuel Tank Permeation

EPA has proposed an emission standard of .08 gms/ gallon day for permeation emissions, which are emissions released through the walls of plastic fuel tanks. NMMA members recognize that meeting this standard will be a great challenge, but one that we are willing to undertake providing the mechanisms set forth below can be put in place. NMMA’s concern is twofold. First, the marine plastic tank manufacturers directly compete with the marine metal tank manufacturers. It is critical that an EPA requirement that would only burden plastic tank manufacturers does not put boat builders in a position where they are forced to choose metal tanks over plastic tanks.  Second, the plastic tank manufacturers are all small businesses with no in-house environmental technical resources available to them.

In addition, outboard manufacturers produce a small number of low horsepower portable engines with plastic “on engine” fuel tanks. These tanks are generally less than two liters. If EPA were to burden this small segment of the industry with an expensive permeation requirement, the unit cost would greatly increase and could potentially price these engines out of the market. Furthermore, most if not all of these types of engines do not store fuel in the tank, but rather the operator drains or runs out the existing fuel. For these reasons, NMMA requests that EPA exempt integrated fuel tanks less than two liters used on portable engines. 

The EPA has recommended two technologies to meet its proposed standard. These are barrier treatment, which are sulfonation or fluorination, and alternate material, which have yet to be developed. When NMMA considers the capital and operating cost and workplace safety concerns of requiring barrier treatment technology for plastic boat fuel tank manufacturers, we can not support the proposal in its current form. The operating costs alone would cause market disruption and threaten these small businesses. This would be unacceptable. Even if a plastic tank manufacturer were to move forward with barrier treatment and make the capital investment, it would be a potentially disastrous gamble if a cheaper alternative material were to be developed after the investment was made.  If one also considers the insurance and banking hurdles for these businesses (which EPA must do as part of a SBREFA analysis), financing this type of investment would be most challenging.

NMMA plastic tank manufacturers have performed a thorough investigation of the cost and durability of barrier treatments and we have shared this information with EPA staff.  NMMA recognizes that EPA intends to reduce permeation emissions from boat fuel tanks and NMMA is confident that we can work with staff to insure that the final rule is feasible. To achieve our mutual goals, NMMA proposes that EPA finalize a design-based standard for plastic tank permeation, which includes a technology review.   

NMMA proposes that design based permeation standard be required for small business tank manufacturers (<1000 employees) with a technology review in 2008. NMMA proposes that the standard be effective three years following a feasible determination in the technology review. The additional time for these small businesses is consistent with the EPA proposed flexibility discussed during the SBREFA process. The technology review in 2008 should allow for sufficient time to develop new materials. At a minimum, the 2008 technology review will allow these small businesses the protection they need in the event that feasible economical technology has not been developed. NMMA proposes the following parameters for a plastic fuel tank permeation technology review. 

1.  Barrier Treated Tank Testing - EPA shall evaluate the permeation performance of a variety of tank configurations in vessels between 2005-2008.  The vessels will be used in actual on-water operating conditions.  The conditions should assure the tanks are subject to stresses found during the normal operation of vessels.  The tanks should be barrier treated; some with sulfonation, others with fluorination.  EPA, in conjunction with the Coast Guard, tank manufacturers and NMMA will conduct emission testing at the beginning of the program and at appropriate times during the test program to determine the performance of these tanks.

2.  Alternative Material / Barrier Availability - EPA, the Coast Guard and tank manufacturers shall conduct an evaluation of materials or barriers (if any) that can be used as an alternative or in conjunction with cross-linked polyethylene in marine fuel tanks.  Such materials must have an inherently low permeation rate, as compared with cross-linked polyethylene.  Any material evaluated must be capable of being rotationally molded and must have the capability of being used in existing molds.  This evaluation does not exclude the investigation and potential qualification of yet to be determined non-rotational molded technologies, but the purpose of this review is to focus on the specific considerations and needs of the small business rotational molders. This evaluation should be completed by October 1, 2008.

3.  Analysis and Subsequent Determinations - Based on the evaluations in items 1 and 2 above, EPA, in conjunction with the Coast Guard, will determine whether (a) barrier treated tanks are capable of meeting permeation standards in the final rule without undue risk of damage to the structural integrity of these tanks, and
(b) whether any inherently low permeation materials will be available by 2010, whether any such materials will be capable of meeting the permeation standards without further barrier treatment or any other process and whether such materials will not degrade vessel safety.  Determinations under 3(a) and (b) shall be available for public comment for at least 60 days and EPA shall consider comments received before making any final determination.

4.  Timing for Compliance - EPA shall not require compliance with permeation standards any earlier than three (3) years after positive determinations in either 3(a) and (b) have been made.  EPA may also establish useful life and emission warranty periods if positive determinations under either 3(a) or (b) are made.  Such periods shall be proposed by EPA and shall be available for public comment for not less than 45 days.  If no positive determination under either 3(a) or (b) can be made, EPA must re-evaluate the permeation standard.

3. Fuel and Fill Hoses

EPA has proposed an emission standard of 5 gms/m2/day for permeation emissions, which are released through the walls of boat system’s rubber fuel distribution and fill hoses. Based on subsequent discussions with EPA staff, NMMA understands that EPA plans to harmonize the boat system’s fuel hose standard with the 15gms/m2/day standard finalized in the snowmobile and ATV rule. NMMA supports a 15gms/m2/day fuel and fill hose standard. The NMMA and Industry Members also understand that this requirement does not apply to on engines (inboard or outboard) fuel system hoses.

4. Certification and Compliance Issues

While NMMA and EPA have spent a considerable amount of time discussing certification and compliance requirements for marine hose and tank manufacturers, it is equally important that the certification and compliance provisions be streamlined for boat builders. There are about 2000 US based boat builders that manufacturer boats with integrated fuel systems. NMMA has approximately 350 boat builder members, which manufacture over 80% of the boats sold in the US. The point is that there are potentially 1500 boat builders that would need to design, build, and certify that their boats meet this new EPA standard. The fact that many of these companies operate out of garages and small buildings and may start up and shut down in any given year makes for a logistical nightmare. These 1500 + boatbuilders, that are not NMMA members, do have one thing in common. They buy their fuel and fill hoses and plastic tanks from marine suppliers. NMMA recommends that the EPA program staff work with OECA and NMMA to develop a standard postcard certification so that boat builders can have a streamlined method to certify that their boat models are equipped with EPA compliant fill and fuel hoses and plastic fuel tanks.        

Thank you again for meeting with NMMA. NMMA does appreciate the efforts of everyone at EPA and we are confident that together we will develop a technically and economically feasible standard that provides a benefit to the environment.


John McKnight, Director
Environmental and Safety Compliance

Cc: Glenn Passavant, USEPA
      Michael Samulski, USEPA 

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