Friday, March 29, 2013

Environmental Groups Say EPA's Vessel Permit Is Too Weak

Mar 29: Major environmental organizations are saying that the U.S. EPA new General Discharge Permit to regulate ballast water discharges from commercial vessels in U.S. waters "falls far short of what is needed." The coalition of organizations had previously sued the Agency to win a tougher permit. EPA announced yesterday it had issued a final vessel general permit regulating discharges from commercial vessels, including ballast water. The final vessel general permit covers commercial vessels greater than 79 feet in length, excluding military and recreational vessels, and will replace the 2008 vessel general permit due to expire on December 19, 2013. EPA said the permit regulates 27 specific discharge categories, and will also provide improvements to the efficiency of the permit process, and clarify discharge requirements [See WIMS 3/28/13].

    The environmental groups indicated in a release that invasive species introduced and spread via ballast water discharge are already wreaking havoc on U.S. waters. For example, a litany of non-native invaders -- including zebra mussels, quagga mussels, spiny water fleas and round gobies -- have turned the Great Lakes ecosystem on its head, altering the food web and threatening the health of native fish and wildlife. Non-native ballast water invaders cost Great Lakes citizens, utilities, cities and businesses at least $1 billion every five years in damages and control costs, according to research by the University of Notre Dame. Invasive species exact similar significant economic costs throughout American waterways and on both coasts.

    They said despite the significant regional economic drain brought about by invasive species, the EPA permit fails to deliver strict enough standards to protect the nation's waters, choosing instead to adopt weak International Marine Organizations (IMO) standards. While there is no hard deadline for ships to install systems to clean ballast water, EPA "expects" that the process will take a half-decade to complete.

    Previously, the groups called for the new permit to include a discharge standard stringent enough to prevent invasive species and the most protective technology standards nationwide, develop standards for "lakers" (ships that ply the Great Lakes) and put more aggressive timelines to implement new technology standards into place. None of these actions were taken, leaving American waters at risk. Groups issuing the release included: the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); National Wildlife Federation's (NWF) Great Lakes office; Northwest Environmental Advocates; Great Lakes United; and the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

    Rebecca Riley, attorney for NRDC said, The Clean Water Act gives the EPA authority to stop invasive species from entering the Great Lakes in ballast water---they just chose not to use it. This failure threatens our economy and the single most important freshwater resource on the continent." Marc Smith, senior policy manager for NWF's Great Lakes office said, "The permit will not adequately protect the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters from ballast water invaders. The EPA's failure to protect water quality leaves the door open for future harm to our environment and economy."

    Access a release from the groups (click here). Access links to a 1-page fact sheet and the complete prepublication federal register notice, general permit and economic analysis (click here). Access EPA's overall Vessel Discharge website for more information(click here). [#Water, #GLakes]

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Obviously the policy of the Coast guard and EPA are influenced by president Obama who as the commander and chief desires to keep the status quo for the US economy to remain a nation dependent on retail sales of foreign goods brought into the country on these foreign ships. The Coast Guard's final rule says they do not want to cause any disruption in shipping.