U.S. House passes new rules for ballast water

Washington – The U.S. House of Representatives on April 25
passed legislation that ensures no living species will be
discharged from ballast water tanks of ocean-going vessels.

The bill passed with an overwhelming 395-7 vote.

The legislation, part of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of
2008 (H.R. 2830), requires installation of technology meeting
current International Maritime Organization ballast discharge
standards by as early as next year. Ships would then be required to
begin installing treatment equipment in 2012 to meet a more
rigorous standard that is one hundred times more stringent than the
international standard.

“These standards and timeline are both aggressive and
achievable, and this is exactly the type of strong legislation the
environmental community has championed for years,” said Corry
Westbrook, legislative director for the National Wildlife
Federation.

Citing the lack of clarification on how the ballast water title
applies to recreational vessels among its concerns, the Bush
administration has threatened to veto the bill. The
administration’s main objection however, was not in Title V, but
particular to Coast Guard requirements to protect liquefied natural
gas terminals and vessels.

“The House has already promised to address the White House’s
concerns regarding recreational boaters separately,” said Phyllis
Windle, senior scientist and director of invasive species for the
Union of Concerned Scientists. “This strong demonstration of
support in the House bodes well for withstanding the threat of a
potential veto.”

On Lake Erie in particular, ballast water discharges from
ocean-going ships have been blamed for the lake’s round goby and
zebra mussel populations.

The National Environmental Coalition of Invasive Species has
said that its endorsing groups will continue to push for strong
support in the Senate to further strengthen ballast water
legislation.

“We hope this decisive action in the House sends the right
signals to the Senate that this is a bill deserving quick action
and passage before the elections consume our attention,” said Mike
Daulton, director of conservation policy for the National Audubon
Society.

Strong bipartisan support for the legislation followed the
adoption of two essential amendments. The first, a manager’s
amendment, improves transparency by requiring that regulated ships
submit records of their actions to the Secretary of Transportation
on a monthly basis, and ensures that ships claiming no ballast
water on board are subject to treatment requirements when the bill
comes into effect.

A second amendment by Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) gives the Coast
Guard the authority to take emergency response measures if vessels
operating exclusively within the Great Lakes present the risk of
spreading invasive species or infectious diseases.

“The United States is moving to set global precedent in
protecting the Great Lakes and waters nationwide from crippling
biological pollution” said Jennifer Nalbone, campaign director of
Great Lakes United. “Let’s keep up the momentum.”

H.R. 2830 also includes several key provisions championed by the
National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species in recent
months, including an enhanced role for the Environmental Protection
Agency to review and improve discharge standards, the addition of a
provision allowing for citizens to petition the government, and the
closure of a loophole that could have resulted in long-term delays
in implementing onboard treatment. Additionally, the bill allows
states to retain their ability to complement and strengthen the
federal program.

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