Congress has introduced legislation that would impose a national policy for regulating discharges of ballast water to prevent the introduction of invasive species.
The bill, H.R. 2840, also aims to regulate incidental “gray water” discharges from ships ranging from oily water separator effluent and refrigeration and air condensate effluent.
Reps. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., John Mica, R-Fla., and Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, introduced the bill last week. It would amend the Clean Water Act to set a single nationwide performance standard uniform with the International Maritime Organization.
LoBiondo’s office, which provided a summary of the legislation, said it would create a ballast water standard that would be “technologically achievable and verifiable.” The Coast Guard would set an implementation schedule based on vessel class, size or type.
New York and California have proposed standards that are 100 to 1,000 times more stringent than the IMO standard. But at a congressional hearing LoBiondo chaired in July, Deborah Swackhamer, chair of an Environmental Protection Agency’s science advisory board, told Congress her panel “concluded that none of the existing ballast water management systems can meet a standard that is 100 or 1,000 times more stringent” than what the IMO is proposing.
Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, R-Ohio, said if the New York legislation is allowed to stand it would “bring waterborne commerce in the Great Lakes to a screeching halt.”
That opinion is shared by Collister Johnson Jr., administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., who told American Shipper that if the New York laws, “are implemented according to the timeline of the standards that they have right now, it would shut down the seaway.”
Joseph C. Curto, president of the New York Shipping Association, Maritime Association Of New York-New Jersey Inc., and Edward Kelly, executive director of the Maritime Association of the Port of New York and New Jersey, said the New York law would also play havoc with shipping in the Port of New York and New Jersey, as ships must pass through New York waters to get to terminals in either state.
The New York law is seen as particularly troubling as it requires all ships to have sophisticated system regardless of whether they actually discharge ballast water. The California law does not apply to the 85 percent of ships that do not discharge ballast water.
Separately, LaTourette has sponsored an amendment to the fiscal year 2012 Department of Interior appropriations bill that would deny EPA funding to states adjacent to the Great Lakes if they impose a ballast water requirements more stringent than those of the Coast Guard or IMO.
LoBiondo’s bill would allow for review of the performance standard every 10 years or upon petition from the states, but technology would have to exist to meet the new standard.
The bill would expressly prohibits states from passing laws or otherwise regulating ballast water discharge from commercial vessels, said LoBiondo’s office. Under the Clean Water Act, states can set up more stringent regulations.
His office said his legislation would also allow ships to continue to operate their installed ballast water treatment technology for the service life of the technology or until the vessel goes out of service regardless of a change in the performance standard.
Such systems could cost more than $1 million to install, shipping executives say. It would also provide an alternative compliance program for small vessels and exempt vessels on geographically limited routes or that offload at shore based reception facilities.
The bill would also require the EPA to conduct a study of the effects of incidental discharges on water quality and report back to Congress within three years, keep EPA regulation in place for large vessels, and prohibit states from regulating any incidental discharge upon enactment of the bill. — Chris Dupin