PDF _ RL34640 - Regulating Ballast Water Discharges: Current Legislative Issues
15-Jan-2009; Claudie Copeland; 14 p.

Update: Previous Editions:
September 8, 2008

Abstract: Today there is wide agreement on the need for stronger measures to control ballast water discharges from vessels which are a major pathway for introduction of invasive species into U.S. waters, but there are differing views on how best to do that. Current federal authority to manage ballast water, in the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990, as amended (NANPCA), has been criticized as inadequate. Several states (notably Michigan, California, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington) have passed or are considering their own ballast water laws, creating concern that separate state programs could create a patchwork of inconsistent regulatory requirements.

This concern is part of the rationale for Title V of H.R. 2830, the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 2007, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on April 24, 2008. It would establish a strengthened national ballast water management program administered by the Coast Guard. This legislative approach is supported by many in the maritime industry and by a number of environmental advocacy groups, such as the National Wildlife Foundation. They argue, in essence, that a nationally uniform program providing certainty to the regulated community, requiring standards more stringent than existing Coast Guard or international rules, and specifying compliance deadlines is the best legislative approach.

However, H.R. 2830 is opposed by other advocacy groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and several of the states that have moved forward with their own ballast water programs. They contend that the legislation largely preempts state efforts and provides a slower and less effective approach to controlling ballast water discharges than that of the Clean Water Act.

Evaluating these differing views is complicated by a recent Environmental Protection Agency proposal that would control ballast water and other discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels through the mechanism of Clean Water Act permits.

At issue is whether the standard-setting, permit, and enforcement authorities of the Clean Water Act (CWA) are better tools for managing ballast water discharges than the approach in H.R. 2830. That legislation contains statutory performance standards to be implemented by the Coast Guard which would preempt state regulatory programs that are inconsistent or in conflict with the federal law. These issues are reviewed in this report.

 [read report]

Topics: Water, Legislative

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