By Scott Slesinger, Natural Resources Defense Council
The Senate passed the Coast Guard authorization bill that included a title amending the law dealing with ballast water regulations. House passage is expected quickly.
The shipping industry has tried for many years to gut protections meant to ensure that the water in bottom of boats doesn’t carry invasive species into the Great Lakes, the coasts of Florida or other endangered water bodies. In April, Senators Charles Schumer, Debbie Stabenow, Gary Peters and their Great Lakes colleagues banded together to stop action on the Coast Guard bill because of the anti-environmental provisions that would have led to more invasive species in our waters. With that defeat, the Environment and Public Works Committee, led by Senator Tom Carper, negotiated significant improvements to the measure. Among those changes were:
- Keeping ballast water regulation within the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act.
- Preserving the right for citizens and governors to sue agencies for failing to follow the law on this matter.
- Removing the provisions that would have given shipowners a weaker standard for environmental compliance than every other industrial source of pollution.
Like all legislation, this measure is a compromise and is not perfect. It weakens the law, particularly regarding states’ authority over these vessels. Once this becomes law, Congress must follow up and make sure the Coast Guard and EPA quickly and effectively carry out its requirements, ensuring that our most treasured water bodies are not damaged by harmful intruders hitching a ride in the water sloshing around in the hulls of ships.