Bill could limit state rules on exotic
ENVIRONMENT:The proposed legislation is an effort to coordinate
ballast regulation under one federal rule.
By John Myers
Duluth News Tribune
Posted July 20, 2005
Legislation proposed in the U.S. Senate would override
states' efforts to stop exotic species from invading the
Great Lakes, critics said Tuesday.
Senate bill 363, called the Ballast Water Management
Act of 2005, has been introduced to coordinate ballast
regulation under a single federal rule.
Supporters, including chief sponsor Sen. Daniel Inouye,
D-Hawaii, have said the legislation is an effort to stop
invasive species from entering the Great Lakes and other
U.S. waterways by regulating ballast discharge.
Critics counter that it's an effort to weaken broader
efforts to control exotic species such as zebra mussels,
ruffe, goby, spiny water fleas and others that hitchhike
from foreign ports to North America on ocean freighters.
Environmental groups panned Inouye's bill Tuesday, saying
it would exempt action on the 90 percent of oceangoing
vessels that enter the Great Lakes, those classified as
"No Ballast on Board." Despite the nickname,
those ships still carry some foreign water in their ballast
tanks and could be transporting exotic species. Regulations
have been proposed to require treatment of even NoBoB
vessels, led by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
Critics say the bill stops states from passing their
own, tougher legislation to stop ships from bringing exotic
species, and that the federal proposal will actually delay
and diminish efforts to control ballast on ships.
"We think Michigan is on the right track with our
legislation to control ballast water. We don't think it's
right at all for the federal government to say we don't
have an interest in protecting Great Lakes waters,"
Bob McCann, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Environmental
Quality, told the News Tribune Tuesday.
Last month, a new Michigan law went into effect requiring
ballast water treatment of all Great Lakes ships entering
Michigan ports. State officials say ships can be fitted
to treat ballast water for as little as $100,000 to $200,000
"Great Lakes states are spending something like$5
billion annually battling invasive species, so the cost
to treat ballast water is small in comparison," McCann
Shipping industry officials, in opposing the Michigan
law and tougher federal laws, say the cost will be much
higher and that the technology is not proven. They're
asking for more time, and more federal research money,
to resolve the problem.
The Inouye bill also would exempt ballast discharge from
regulation under the Clean Water Act. Critics say that
would overturn a recent U.S. District Court ruling ordering
the EPA to regulate ballast water as pollution under the
act. Attorneys general for all Great Lakes states have
intervened to support the ruling.
"This would be a bad bill for the Great Lakes. It's
not going to stop invaders, it preempts state action to
protect their public waters and it sets the dangerous
precedent of rolling back Clean Water Act authority,"
said Jennifer Nalbone, habitat and biodiversity coordinator
for Great Lakes United. "We need federal legislation
that improves upon the efforts of the states, not bind
and gags them."
Inouye's spokesman did not return News Tribune requests
for comment Tuesday.
JOHN MYERS covers the environment, natural resources and
general news. He can be reached at (218) 723-5344 or at