Outboard emissions standards in 'first half of 2016'

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"I am delighted with the progress towards establishing a National Clean Air Agreement." - Greg Hunt, Minister for the Environment.
"I am delighted with the progress towards establishing a National Clean Air Agreement." - Greg Hunt, Minister for the Environment.

MEETING of Federal and State environment ministers agrees to draw up standards to regulate polluting two-stroke engines in 2016.

The long-running saga of emission standards for outboard engines in Australia edged further onwards last week when a meeting between Greg Hunt, Federal Minister for the Environment, and State and Territory environment ministers agreed 'in principle' to establish pollution standards for new non-road spark ignition engines as part of the National Clean Air agreement. This includes marine outboard engines as well as garden equipment such as chain saws and lawn mowers.

A working group will now be set up to draft the standards by the end of this year with “the aim of implementing framework legislation in the first half of 2016”.

The working party will be led Bruce Edwards from the Commonwealth Department of the Environment with representatives from every state and territory, industry and the community.

According to the Ministers' statement the intention of the proposed standards is to “bring Australia into line with existing international standards, particularly those in place in North America”.

It's likely that the current US Environmental Protection Agency standard will form the basis of any legislation in Australia, as it has elsewhere in the world.

Nearly all higher-powered outboard engines already comply with these standards but it is a different story with smaller outboards up to 25hp where traditional two-stroke technology is more widespread.

A key issue for the working party will be to determine how to phase in the introduction of the standards and what provisions are made for selling existing stock of two-stroke engines.

Lindsay Grenfell, Executive Officer at the Outboard Engine Distributors Association (OEDA) which represents Yamaha, Mercury and Tohatsu, said the association welcomed the ministers' agreement but had some reservations.

“OEDA has been working closely with the Department and Minister for many years offering all assistance possible before their decision on reducing emissions on outboard engines.

“OEDA is happy with the ministers’ decision to endorse the National Clean Air agreement and stands ready to participate in the working group to finalise the introduction of emission standards for new non-road spark ignition engines.

“Much will depend on how the standards from overseas are to be implemented into Australia. There appears to be some cherry picking of the American standards. OEDA strongly believes there needs to be a phased-in approach in the introduction of the standards, particularly in the lower horse power where new technology hasn’t caught up regarding weight and power ratio.

“OEDA believes there needs to be consideration not only of the environment but also regarding the survival of the industry and the needs of the public/users when determining when and how the standards are implemented.”

The timing of any legislation may also be complicated by 2016 being a Federal election year with the prospect of draft proposals being caught in limbo if Parliament is dissolved and there is a change of government.

What are your views on the proposed standards? Leave your comments below and let us know what you think the impact will be.

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