Boaters get break from Congress over permits Click-2-Listen By HADAS GOLD Palm Beach Post Washington Bureau Tuesday, July 22, 2008 WASHINGTON Recreational boaters will not have to obtain special permits for non-harmful water-based discharges, as a result of two bills passed Tuesday by Congress. The bills would overturn a 2006 federal court ruling mandating the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a pollution permit for every vessel in the country by Sept. 30. The court's ruling reversed a 35-year-old exemption that applied to water-based, incidental discharges from all vessels, including recreational boats. Failure to obtain the permits could cost boaters up to $32,500 per incident per day. Hazardous pollutants and discharges are already regulated. "This was a matter of common sense," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who sponsored one of the bills. "Imagine: the federal government applying measures that cover big tankers to millions of little boats." One of the bills defines a recreational boat - no paying customers - and then exempts them from the permit requirements. The other bill would allow a two-year moratorium on permit requirements for vessels less than 79 feet long, and all fishing vessels regardless of length and includes a three-year, three-part framework to determine if any new management practices by the EPA and Coast Guard should be required. According to Nelson there are about 43,000 recreational boat owners in Palm Beach County, and 73 million nationwide. The bills need to be signed by the president before the September deadline in order to overturn the court ruling.