Andrew Wheeler, the EPA Administrator, speaks about the rollback of the 2016 methane emissions rules to undo Obama-era rules designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas fields and pipelines at the Energy Innovation Center Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, in Pittsburgh. Credit: Keith Srakocic | AP

The administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is giving lobster boat owners a few more years to meet low emissions standards, he said Thursday.

Administrator Andrew Wheeler is expected to make the formal announcement during a visit to Maine on Thursday, he told WGAN Radio. The emissions standards became part of the national marine diesel program in 2008, and by 2017 large lobster boats were expected to begin using new, cleaner engines that conformed to low particulate, low nitrogen oxide emissions standards. Reality hasn’t conformed to lawmakers’ expectations, Wheeler said.

“Technology hasn’t kept up with the regulation, and right now the engine manufacturers cannot build a [regulation-compliant] engine that will fit into a lobster boat,” Wheeler told WGAN, “so what we’re doing now is providing much needed relief because the lobster men are very concerned about the fact that they’re required to purchase these new engines and nobody’s actually producing the new engines.”

It wasn’t clear how long the delay would continue. The Portland Press Herald reported that the extension will last two to four years, but Wheeler told WGAN that lobstermen would get three more years to buy the new boat engines. The EPA will build a clause into the regulation that will help speed an extension should one be required ― if, for example, the engines still aren’t available in three years.

“It’s sort of a Catch-22 for them,” Wheeler said of the lobstermen, adding that “it’s not the lobstermen’s fault that the engines are not being manufactured.”