Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Groups Want Senate Action On Ballast Water Controls

Aug 5: A number of major Great Lakes environmental and conservation organizations are calling on the U.S. Senate to quickly pass Federal legislation [The Coast Guard Authorization Act (H.R. 2830)] to address the serious and ongoing threat of invasive species. The groups indicate that the Great Lakes will remain vulnerable to aquatic invasive species if a weak EPA permit goes into effect. On April 24, by a vote of 395-7, the House of Representatives approved H.R. 2830 [See WIMS 4/28/08]; however, the Senate failed to act on the measure before leaving on its 5-week summer recess and will not return until September. Title V of the bill requires ships to begin installing ballast water treatment systems in 2009 to control the introduction of invasive species into U.S. ports and waterways. All ships would be required to have treatment systems installed by 2016.

EPA proposed its permit on June 17, following two court decisions finding that the agency has for more than 30 years illegally exempted ballast water discharges from its Clean Water Act discharge permit program [
See WIMS 7/24/08]. Under the proposed permit ocean vessels entering U.S. waters would have to exchange their ballast or perform a saltwater flush of empty ballast tanks in the open ocean for the next five years. This practice is already in place for vessels entering the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence River. The permit is set to go in to effect September 30.

Jennifer Nalbone, campaign director of navigation and invasive species for Great Lakes United said, “The EPA permit delays any serious solution to this problem for the foreseeable future. The quickest way to improve protections is by passing ballast water legislation currently stalled in the U.S. Senate. That legislation will require technology installation onboard vessels as early as next year.”

In written comments, the groups assert that the EPA needs to revise the permit to meet water quality standards. The groups also assert that the agency does not have the authority to issue a general permit. They say "EPA has delegated to the states the ability to administer Clean Water Act discharge permit program." While the groups maintain that the quickest way to gain new protections is through Congressional action, they nevertheless are pursuing all opportunities to put in place strong, national protections and want the EPA to revise the weak permit because the federal agency has not delegated authority to every state and a strong permit can serve as a model for state programs.

The groups include: Alliance for the Great Lakes; Great Lakes United; Indiana Wildlife Federation; League of Ohio Sportsmen; Michigan United Conservation Clubs; Minnesota Conservation Federation; National Wildlife Federation; Ohio Environmental Council; Prairie Rivers Network; Save The River; Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council; and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

Access a lengthy release from the Great Lakes groups (
click here). Access the groups' comments (click here). Access the EPA docket to review all comments and background information on the Commercial Vessels and Large Recreational Vessels (VGP) (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 2830 (click here).

Annual Meeting For The U.S. Areas of Concern

Aug 5: U.S. EPA's Great Lakes National Program Office; the Great Lakes Commission; and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have announced the annual meeting for the U.S. Areas of Concern (AOCs). The meeting will be held September 24-25, 2008, at Kensington Court, Ann Arbor, Michigan and will convene participants from the 30 U.S. AOCs to review recent developments affecting the sites of contamination.

The meeting will feature more than 40 presentations on activities underway in the U.S. Great Lakes Areas of Concern on the following major topics: Current status and future direction for the U.S. AOC program; Great Lakes Legacy Act and contaminated sediment cleanups in the AOCs; Progress in establishing restoration targets and delisting the AOCs; Fish and wildlife restoration efforts in the AOCs; Capacity building and sustainability for local RAP groups; and Communications and advocacy.

Access complete meeting details and registration information (
click here).