Limits to ballast rules fail in court; lawmakers debate similar action

By Rachael Gleason, Great Lakes Echo

Attempts to limit state authority over ballast water rules fell flat last Friday, but the legal tug-of-war continues this week as lawmakers consider the nation’s environmental spending.

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

Last week’s decision by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit supported states in regulating water used in balancing shipping vessels more strongly than federal rules.

This week the U.S. House of Representatives votes on a spending bill that includes an amendment penalizing states with stronger protections by withholding Environmental Protection Agency funding of any kind.

That means states like New York, which have strong ballast water rules, would lose Great Lakes restoration funding, according the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Ballast water containing invasive species has had devastating impacts on the Great Lakes and inland waterway systems, said Thom Cmar, an attorney with the council’s Chicago office.

“Here, states have stepped up… to fill a void and create additional measures their scientists say are necessary to protect against invasive species,” he said.

The bill would “unjustly rob the Great Lakes states of essential funding,” he said on his blog.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the amendment earlier this month in an effort to cut down on government spending and encourage economic recovery.

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

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