Congress considers limiting states’ ability to regulate ballast water

By Carlee Schepeler, Great Lakes Echo

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering legislation to discourage states from regulating ballast water more strongly than federal rules.

Freighter just through locks at Sault Ste Marie. Photo: Odalaigh via Flickr.

Debate this week came after the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a budget bill amendment that would withhold Environmental Protection Agency funding from any state that did so.

The amendment, proposed by Steven C. LaTourette (R-Ohio), would particularly affect New York, as it is the only state that currently exceeds EPA’s standards, said Marc Smith, senior policy manager at the National Wildlife Federation, Great Lakes office.

The other seven Great Lakes states have adopted the federal Vessel General Permit, which requires ballast water to be swapped before entering the Great Lakes – but it’s not 100 percent effective, Smith said.

Ballast is water used to stabilize ships. It has a history of introducing invasive species into the Great Lakes.

The restriction on EPA funding is a powerful disincentive.

“The Great Lakes are obviously in tremendous need of restoration money … [The amendment] would take away the state’s ability to protect its own water from invasive species,” Smith said.

Hal Rogers, the House Appropriations chairman, disagrees and said a number of amendments on the Interior Appropriations bill are to encourage economic recovery.

“This legislation is a great example of the hard but necessary work the Appropriations Committee is doing to get our fiscal house in order by cutting extraneous, duplicative and unnecessary spending,” Rogers said in a press release.

The House debated the bill Wednesday; floor action is expected the week of July 25.

© 2011, Great Lakes Echo, Michigan State University Knight Center for Environmental Journalism.

0 replies
  1. ballast pathogen
    ballast pathogen says:

    Senator Boxer should be all over this bill to hurt a states economy for exercizing a state right to regulate pathogens in their waters. I wonder if this will lead to economic punishment for states rights to regulate the levels of pathogens released into the atmoshere.

  2. Chuck
    Chuck says:

    This should get the “States’ Rights” folks riled up. Are you gonna tolerate the feds coming in and telling states what they can or cannot do with OUR water?

    What say you, Justin Amash – gonna stand up for the Constitution (at least as some of your closest allies see it)???


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