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EPA agrees to strengthen ship ballast rules

Cargo ship

The federal government has agreed to develop more stringent national regulations governing the discharge of ship ballast water, which has been a major source of troublesome invasive species in California and other states.

Under a settlement filed Tuesday in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Environmental Protection Agency will rewrite a permit system challenged by a coalition of environmental groups in a long-standing legal battle.

Large commercial ships use ballast water to maintain stability on long voyages, taking it on and  discharging it in coastal ports.

“This settlement represents the first time in 35 years that EPA has agreed to control discharges of ballast water from ships in the same way that other industries are controlled when they discharge pollution to the nation’s waters,” said Nina Bell, executive director of Northwest Environmental Advocates.

Her group was one of the organizations that took EPA to court a decade ago to force the agency to regulate ballast dumping. When the agency adopted permit requirements in 2008, environmental groups sued again, challenging them as too weak.

Today's settlement lays out a timetable for the EPA to devise numeric limits for discharges of such things as plankton and microbes, which can establish populations of exotic species in port waters. “Whole ecosystems are transported from one part of the world to another,” said Thom Cmar, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, also involved in the case.

The agency must issue a new permit by late next year, although it would not take effect until the current one expires in December 2013. The lag time is intended to give the maritime industry time to develop systems to treat the ballast before releasing it overboard.

California's Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has suffered from an onslaught of invasives that have moved into every level of the aquatic food chain, hurting native species and adding to the delta's myriad environmental problems. Many of those species got their delta start from ballast water dumped into nearby San Francisco Bay.

In 2006, the California legislature adopted what are considered the toughest ballast standards in the country. They take effect in phases, applying first to newly built vessels and to all existing vessels by 2016.

Before each stage takes effect, the state will assess whether the technology is available to meet the limits. Maurya Falkner, a program manager for the State Lands Commission, said her agency is evaluating a number of different treatment methods, including filtration with ultraviolet radiation, chlorination and deoxygenation.

-- Bettina Boxall

Credit: A cargo ship off the Port of Long Beach. Credit: Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times

 

 

 

 
Comments () | Archives (3)

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We are still without a national comprehensive ballast water policy, law,or regulation to address all the dangers of ballast water discharges.
One can only wonder if this administration is AS concerned about nuclear contaminated water from the Pacific in ballast water, as they were while watching ballast systems for tar balls entering Lake Pontchartrain. They were warned about both. The administration is obviously following an international approach relying on the IMO for direction and enforcement. This is obvious by the failure of this administration to coordinate Federal agencies with a Coast Guard plan, which sadly only follows the IMO. The Federal government under this administration through the EPA continues the delay with more and more study until after the election in 2013.
Regardless of IMO regulations, international law or treaties, each IMO foreign sea captain works for a different economic interest and performs under independent governance while controlling the ships functions to create profit. Currently we are protected by only foreign sea captains integrity to perform costly, often dangerous, ineffective ocean flush's. Standards that require mandatory technological hardware to clean ballast water from all substances are needed. We needed a President who will direct Congress to address the issue with legislation authorizing the Coast Guard to protect our waters from ballast water as the national security issue it is, or at least direct the Coast Guard to establish a fast strong comprehensive plan to protect America's waters now. (not after the next presidential election cycle)

BALLAST WATER and EPA
Coast Guard interest, as a mission, for enforcement is needed for any Federal agency regulations to matter. The Coast Guard was supposed to be releasing new standard in April 2011, which they confirmed in a statement, again announcing delay as Dec 2010 was the original scheduled for an announcement.
After Senator Boxer killed ballast water legislation passed by the House 395-7 the President as commander and chief has ignored the call from the house for legislation in favor of the alternative military plan for more study, delaying any meaningful action from being carried out for the last three years. NY backed off on their instituted regulations set for implementation in the election year 2012, as a results of foreign shipping pressure. California has been reported to have backed off from Senator Boxer's frivolous call for stronger Regulations. Now the EPA is talking 2013.
Environmentalist who believe that meaningful regulations are this administrations goal after the presidential elections in 2012, should be aware of the trend of action: Asian Carp, inadequet action to stop spread. Illinois economic interest considered in favor of all Great Lakes states, misleading information issued on Gulf spill, with environmental damage from experimental dispersant used to hide oil (by those calling the shots). Even disinterest to enforce the Clean Water Act, by the Coast Guard preventing ship movement of tar balls to Lake Pontchartrain, this history of deceit and inaction should be the indicators of why ballast water is again being addressed with rhetorical promises prior to the presidential election of 2012.

NEVER interfere with some low-life making a FAST buck; it's the AMERICAN Way!


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