Mich. attorney general demands timely ballast water regulations

Attorney General Mike Cox announced today that he and five other Great Lakes Attorneys General have filed a brief in federal court proposing several remedies to better regulate ballast water discharges under the Clean Water Act. In March 2005, the court ruled that the EPA must regulate these discharges...

LANSING, MI, Sept. 6, 2005 (PRNewswire) -- Attorney General Mike Cox announced today that he and five other Great Lakes Attorneys General have filed a brief in federal court proposing several remedies to better regulate ballast water discharges under the Clean Water Act. In March 2005, the court ruled that the EPA must regulate these discharges.

"In this brief, there are proposed permit structures, regulations, and prompt, timely deadlines to comply with the court's order to better regulate the discharge of ballast water into our Great Lakes," said Cox. "The Great Lakes are Michigan's most valuable natural resource, and I will continue to fight for the State and region's ability to safeguard these waters."

In March of 2005, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco declared that the EPA must begin regulating ballast water discharges. In the brief filed today, Michigan, New York, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania ask the court to order the EPA to do the following:
• Promptly repeal the rule, 40 CFR Section 122.3(a), that exempts Aquatic Nuisance Species from regulation under the Clean Water Act;
• Establish interim regulatory controls by April 1, 2006, which marks the start of the next shipping season on the Great Lakes;
• Establish final regulatory controls by October 1, 2007 that include strict standards for vessel ballast water discharges.

Today's filing is the latest action taken by Cox to curtail the economic, social and ecological havoc caused by the introduction of aquatic invasive species through ballast water discharges. In July, the six Great Lakes states sent a letter to the U.S. Senate opposing Senate Bill 363, the "Ballast Water Management Act of 2005," which would place sole responsibility for regulating ballast water discharges on the Coast Guard, rather than the EPA.

According to the July 20 letter, "the bill unacceptably: removes the EPA's regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act to control pollutant discharges in ballast water; preempts states' ability to enact laws necessary to protect themselves from these harmful pollutants; and perpetuates an ineffectual regulatory regime and fails to replace it with any timely, environmentally protective standards."

When large oceangoing vessels enter the Great Lakes and load their cargo, they discharge ballast water carried from other ports. This water may contain aquatic nuisance species, such as the zebra mussel, sea lamprey, ruffe and goby, which reproduce rapidly in the absence of natural predators and harm their new environment.

Aquatic nuisance species also pose a significant threat to Michigan's economy. Commercial and recreational fishing, boating, beaches, tourism and facilities, such as power plants that use water from the Great Lakes, all suffer from the effects of these species. The Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that controlling zebra mussels and sea lampreys -- two of the most harmful aquatic nuisance species -- costs $45 million each year.

Complementing the federal court action, Cox also backed passage of state legislation, Public Act 33 of 2005, which requires the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to regulate ballast water discharges into the Great Lakes starting Jan. 1, 2007. The law also requires the Department to pursue formation of a cooperative coalition among the Great Lakes states.

For more information, see:
-- Michigan Attorney General's office: www.michigan.gov/ag
-- "Judge tells EPA to regulate ballast water aboard ships," San Francisco Chronicle: www.sfgate.com
-- Invasive Non-Native Species, EPA Watershed Academy: www.epa.gov/watertrain/invasive.html
-- Invasive Species, EPA: www.epa.gov/owow/invasive_species/
-- Gulf of Mexico Ballast Water Profile, EPA: www.epa.gov/gmpo/species/ballast.html

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