Two-stroke pact falls apart
A proposed deal that would have extended the phaseout of two-stroke engines from Lake Tahoe for an additional boating season may have come apart Wednesday.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency had considered giving marine engine manufacturers a third boating season before banning the engines in exchange for a promise by the industry not to sue over the prohibition.
But Steve Wynn, the TRPA board member who advocated the phaseout, said production of cleaner engine technology by one manufacturer makes additional delays unnecessary.
Wynn, during Wednesday’s TRPA legal committee meeting, said Bombadier’s 110 hp GTX would satisfy the TRPA’s phaseout of two-cycle engines that rely on carburetors.
Carburetors discharge a fourth of their fuel unburned. The new Bombadier engine relies on direct fuel injection, which improves the “trapping efficiency” of two-strokes. Fuel injected engines are considered capable of achieving all of the 75-percent emissions reductions that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the industry to accomplish by 2006.
“The concessionaires can have them by next summer, let alone by 2000,” Wynn said. “One thing is clear: we don’t need to give them a third year.”
John Fagan, a Tahoe City attorney who represents the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said he was not ready to submit a draft agreement that would tie the industry’s hands in challenging the TRPA regulation. Fagan said he had expected to first see the specific language the agency’s staff had prepared for a three-year phaseout.
“If we’re going to waive our right to sue on some pretty significant Constitutional issues, it’s only fair that we see the proposed amendment first,” Fagan said. “The problem has to do with the exact nature of the ban. … Let’s revise the ordinance to more clearly define the technology you’re trying to eliminate.”
In a letter to the agency, Fagan noted that individual manufacturers were unwilling to disclose trade secrets and announce when they will be ready to market the cleaner engines required by the TRPA’s regulation.
TRPA’s board last month had suggested the deal extending the ban until after the 2000 boating season. Legal representatives of the marine engine industry and Tahoe rental concessionaires were directed to work out details.
These talks came after the TRPA board extended the agency’s controversial ban from June 1, 1999 to March 1, 2000, giving manufacturers an extra summer to come up with cleaner engine technology.
Chances of the second extension, however, appeared to fade Wednesday as Wynn declared a kind of victory over the industry.
“There isn’t a reason in the world to go to three” boating seasons, Wynn said. “I think we’ve done a job coercing people to do the right thing. We don’t have to have these things in our lake.”
TRPA officials are expected to resume discussions on the proposed deal and related issues next month.
Wynn added that TRPA still needs to decide whether smaller two-stroke engines will be exempted from the phaseout, but pointed out that the agency has another two years before it must make that decision.
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