Frequently Asked Questions About ARB's New Clean Vessel Regs

Editor's Note: The California Air Resources Board's new regulations requiring manufacturers to reduce emissions from new outboard and personal watercraft engines will become effective in three stages--2001, 2004 and 2008. ARB believes that by 2010, the regulations will achieve a 30-ton-per-day reduction of hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen over the current U.S. EPA standards, and 44 tons per day by 2020. ARB estimates that carbureted two-stroke engines discharge up to 20-30 percent of their fuel unburned into the air and water.

ARB will also require that each new engine be provided with a label to certify that the engine complies with the new regulations. The label will feature from one to three stars, depending on the emission level, with three stars indicating the lowest level of exhaust emissions.

New Standards for Cleaner Watercraft

Q: Is the Air Resources Board banning two-stroke engines used for boats?

A: No, the Air Resources Board has developed standards based on actual emission levels, regardless of engine type, for new outboard and personal watercraft engines. These standards do not ban two-stroke engines. The ARB's emission standards reflect currently available clean-burning engine technology.

Q: What types of watercraft are affected by ARB's regulations?

A: The regulations apply to gasoline-powered outboard engines, personal watercraft (for example, Jet Skis, and Wave Runners) and jetboats only. Sterndrive and inboard engines are not included in ARB's regulations at this time, but are being studied for future emission reduction programs.

Q: Will I have to buy a new boat engine?

A: No. The regulations adopted by the ARB set exhaust emission standards for engines sold in California starting in 2001. the regulations do not require the retrofitting of pre-2001 model year engines, or require the purchase of new engines.

Q: Will I be able to sell my pre-2001 model year engine in California?

A: Yes, there are no restrictions on the sale of pre-2001 model year engines. In addition, dealers may continue to sell trade-in engines and pre-2001 model year engines.

Q: Can I still use my boat on my favorite lake or river?

A: Several water agencies have recently restricted access to their lakes or reservoirs in order to protect or improve water quality. Specifically, Lake Tahoe, the East Bay Municipal Utility District and the Santa Clara Valley Water District have each adopted restrictions for their waterways because of concerns about gasoline constituents found in their waters. These actions have been taken on a lake-by-lake basis and have been local rather than statewide.

Q: What engines will be available that meet the new requirements?

A: Manufacturers have already introduced a variety of engines between 2 and 225 horsepower that comply with the new regulations. Several two-stroke direct injection engines have been available on the market. These engines offer consumers improved fuel economy, lower oil consumption, and improved idle performance while significantly reducing pollution and maintaining the performance characteristics of traditional two-strokes. Four-stroke engines are also available that comply with the new regulations. These have been available to consumers for many years and also offer improved fuel and oil economy. The ARB offers the following related "New Standards for Cleaner Watercraft" and "Watercraft Labeling." Call 1-(800) END-SMOG to order.

Q: What about the label program?

A: The marine engine regulations require manufacturers to apply an environmental label to new outboard engines and personal watercraft. These labels clearly identify the emissions performance of new engines meeting the regulations. The intent of these labels is to help consumers choose clean technology engines when making a purchase decision.