Monday, September 29, 2008

Great Lakes Interim Final Rule On Discharge Of Dry Cargo Residue

Sep 29: The U.S. Coast Guard announced in the Federal Register [73 FR 56492-56501] that it is amending its regulations to allow the discharge of bulk dry cargo residue (DCR) in limited areas of the Great Lakes by self-propelled vessels and by any barge that is part of an integrated tug and barge unit. DCR is the residue of non-toxic and non-hazardous bulk dry cargo like limestone, iron ore, and coal. The regulations also add new recordkeeping and reporting requirements and encourage carriers to adopt voluntary control measures for reducing discharges. Discharges are now prohibited in certain protected and sensitive areas where, previously, they were allowed. The Coast Guard also requests public comments on the need for and feasibility of additional conditions that might be imposed on discharges in the future, such as mandatory use of control measures, or further adjustments to the areas where discharges are allowed or prohibited.

The interim final rule takes effect September 29, 2008. Initial reports under amended 33 CFR 151.66(c)(4) are due January 15, 2009. Comments and related material submitted in response to the request for comments must be received before January 15, 2009. The action follows a May 23, 2008, notice of the rulemaking and of the availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The Coast Guard says it received written comments on the proposed rule from 55 sources, and heard from 3 commenters at two public meetings in Duluth, MN, and Cleveland, OH, An additional notice of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and the Record of Decision (ROD)was announced on August 22, 2008.

In response to public comments, the Coast Guard extended the areas where DCR discharges are prohibited to include waters within three miles of shore at the following sites: Indiana Dunes and Sleeping Bear National Lakeshores on Lake Michigan and Grand Portage National Monument and Apostle Islands and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshores on Lake Superior.

Access the FR notice (click here). Access the docket for this rulemaking for background information and to review and submit comments (click here).

Legacy Act Passes; White House Cuts Funding

Sep 29: The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) issued a release applauding Congressional leaders for securing reauthorizing of the Great Lakes Legacy Act (H.R 6460). The House of Representatives re-approved an amended version of H.R. 6460 on September 28, which extends the Legacy Act for two years at level funding of $54 million per year. The bill now goes to President Bush for signing.

According to a release from Michigan Lt. Governor and Great Lakes Commission (GLC) Chairman John Cherry, "While this is a positive step forward, the Great Lakes Commission is disappointed that despite the best efforts of our region’s Congressional leaders, no additional funding was provided. HR 6460 first passed the House of Representatives on September 18 at $150M. At the 11th hour, the Bush Administration weighed in with a letter to House and Senate leaders in opposition to the bill, because of the proposed funding increase. To gain approval in the Senate, the bill was amended and the funding kept level with legislation approved in 2002."

House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chair, Representative James Oberstar (D-MN) explained further in a Floor statement saying, "Regrettably, when this measure got over to the Senate, as so often happens in the other body, one person can shut down the Senate and can shut down the country. In this case one objection held up Senate action on the bill until funding for the program was cut. I'm just so disappointed and so anguished over the failure of the Senate to provide the funding. They didn't change anything else in the bill, just implementing it, just funding it. That is cutting out the heart. . . We will come back next year. There will be a different spirit in the White House, a different spirit in the Congress. We will fix that."

Access a release from the GLC (
click here). Access legislative details for H.R 6460 including links to Floor statements (click here).