California Air Resources Board unfazed by thousands of public comments

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THE FURY out of Dana Wharf Sportfishing. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS
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BY MERIT McCREA

SACRAMENTO – The California Air Resources Board (CARB) considered proposed amendments to their Commercial Harbor Craft Regulation (CHC) package. The 12-member, governoR appointed board chose to charge ahead with their public access killing plan to curb vessel emissions despite many thousands of voices pushing for amendments to preserve public access to our state and federal waters. As currently drafted, these regulations press forward with such a high bar for compliance they would make all but shore-based recreational fishing infeasible for the average angler, including the most under-served constituencies in the state.

Our party boat fleet would be cut drastically and ticket prices aboard the few remaining vessels would be forced to increase astronomically. Whale watching, ferry boat services and even tug and pilot boat operations would be heavily impacted to the point of potentially isolating our offshore islands from the general populace, including Catalina Island and the five managed as Channel Islands National Park.

Yet, this board has a history of virtue-signaling decisions at major cost to the entire nation. The decision to force similar regulations onto the trucking industry have combined with Prop 5 impediments to private contracting by owner-operator truck drivers

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to create a backlog of hundreds of container ships waiting to unload off SoCal – some anchored, others drifting – all continuing to belch engine exhaust in excess of the savings generated by the truck exhaust restrictions.

With the line continuing to grow, even if the pace transporting shipping containers out of jammed storage facilities at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles were to magically meet the rate of new arrivals, we’d still be stuck with the extended line and layovers offshore indefinitely. This will be remembered nationally as the Christmas season California’s environmental elitism ruined for the entire U.S.

There were some 3,264 written comments submitted to the process, of which this writer found only one in favor of the regulations moving forward as proposed. While it had some 468 citizen signatories, another form letter in opposition to the fishing access killing timeline, submitted by Carpenter Sievers in support of the Sportfishing Association of California and Golden Gate Sportfishers, had 20,659.

An additional 15 written comments were received during the meeting and there were more than 100 oral comments under that, the final agenda item of the day Friday. Again, the vast majority – nearly all, actually – spoke against the regulations moving forward as proposed.

Yet at day’s end, the CARB chose to decline offering any amendment providing any relief under the coastal economy killing plan. Instead, the current proposed regulations were moved forward wholesale for further discussion and possible adoption in early 2022.

A CARB private boater process to ultimately restrict recreational powerboats is currently just getting started with a data-gathering effort.

WON interviewed Coastal Conservation Association of California (CCA-CAL) Executive Director Wayne Kotow. He indicated while there were many recreational fishing interests addressing the CHC proposed regulations, most missed the opportunity to also comment under an earlier agenda item regarding funding opportunities.

He felt a greater bid for a piece of the funding pie should have been made, looking for funds from their money pot to mitigate the massive costs of their proposed regulatory package to industry and the marine user public.

In particular, he pointed out that there is no proof the proposed CARB regulations can be met while remaining in compliance with existing USCG and other agency safety regulations. There should be funding provided for a pilot project to develop, install and prove such a design.

Such a retrofitted vessel or new construction should be shown to successfully stand the test of time in the marine environment before compelling compliance among the fleet.

He also posted the following online: “Outcome from yesterday’s long but disappointing meeting ending at 7:30 p.m. Their statistical and economic analysis is flawed and admitted to be inaccurate, yet they continue to push the lies onto the public to justify their goal. They even admitted that any gains made and the pain they have put the trucking and port through in San Pedro has been undone by the amount of NOX and particulate matter being expelled by the hundreds of container ships and tankers off our coastline. Yet they blame all output on the harbor craft sector. Thanks to all who hung in there and especially those who were able to comment.”

The State Fish and Game Commission (Commission) submitted a powerful comment. Within it they offered, “Your agency’s efforts to meet air quality standards have focused in the past on the most egregious sources of emissions, where costs to implement regulation changes are outweighed by the long-term benefits. We are concerned that the subject regulations proposed by CARB place excessive burden on the commercial passenger fishing vessel (CPFV) fleet, a segment of vessels that may not contribute as greatly to reducing emissions as estimated nor in a cost-effective manner, but whose regulation as proposed would likely reduce equitable access to the marine environment and cause economic harm to coastal fishing communities.“

The DFG Commission commented in support of amending the CARB proposal to follow long-standing state policy and precedent in regulation. CPFVs ARE commercial fishing vessels which carry passengers who access the state’s rich fishery resources themselves directly in that way.

The Commission additionally offered the following 11 key points concerning flaws within CARB staff’s economic analyses. “CARB staff have also made a number of assumptions about the CPFV fleet and existing emis-

sions that appear problematic: (1) Optimistic vessel replacement costs that are not supported by recent price quotes, even for smaller vessels;

(2) the ability to sell existing vessels out of state to recoup some capital when attempted sales of these vessels have not been successful to date;

(3) an elastic demand that can absorb additional costs through increased ticket prices when, based on industry experience, small price changes have led to significantly reduced ticket sales, pointing to a highly inelastic demand;

(4) that CPFVs can pass along the increased costs to customers but commercial vessels cannot, without data to show that commercial fishing vessels cannot otherwise absorb the costs;

(5) the availability of financing for new vessel construction when such financing is difficult to obtain just for 60% of value for an existing vessel, much less 80% or more of the value for a new vessel;

(6) using the Automatic Identification System for calculating what portion of CPFV activity occurs within 24 nautical miles of the California coast when the majority of the fleet is not re- quired to use the system and spends most of its time outside those bounds;

(7) using a baseline number of inspected CPFVs that appears to overestimate the actual number compared to uninspected “six- pack” charter boats, which have a very different fuel burn rate;

(8) using acknowledged faulty data on the estimated time spent in regulated waters with a four- to five-fold error range and, hence, potentially far less air quality and health benefits than estimated;

(9) that CPFV vessels are used solely for passengers when many are used in the off season for commercial fishing, and providing no indication of how such vessels will be regulated under the proposed amendments;

(10) potential underestimation of the number of associated jobs and businesses that will fail with a reduction in the CPFV fleet; and

(11) that there will be no loss in license sales revenues to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife when the staff analysis makes clear that some vessels will be removed from service, even if temporarily.”

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