U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-OH) today announced that an amendment he offered to help Great Lakes shippers was approved and is now in the House spending bill that funds the EPA and Great Lakes programs.
The LaTourette amendment prohibits states from receiving EPA funding if they have adopted ballast water requirements that are more stringent than federal requirements. The amendment was adopted by voice vote, meaning no recorded vote was necessary. Ships take in or discharge ballast water as they load or unload cargo to maintain the ship's stability.
LaTourette said a hodgepodge of state ballast water standards would cripple Great Lakes waterborne commerce, and was very pleased that his amendment was successful.
LaTourette added a provision to the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill prohibiting the EPA from sending any federal funds to states that enact ballast water management regulations that exceed existing International Maritime Organization (IMO) guidelines and soon-to-be-announced U.S. Coast Guard standards. The full House could vote on the measure as early as next week.
The state of New York set up its own ballast water regulations for existing ships that are 100 times more stringent than current standards, and new ships will face standards 1,000 times more strict, LaTourette said. The New York standard has been delayed until 2013 because there is no technology currently available to comply with the standards.
Great Lakes-Seaway News called the Congressman's efforts "a stunning legislative and policy victory" and called New York's ballast water regulations "scientifically unsupportable."
LaTourette said New York has concerns that invasive species will be introduced by carriers traveling through the St. Lawrence Seaway, which extends from Montreal to Lake Erie and provides a link from the Atlantic Ocean to all the Great Lakes. The discharge of ballast water from ships is already regulated by the Coast Guard and EPA under federal law, and is intended to limit the introduction of invasive species in the Great Lakes.
"If Great Lakes states have to comply with the New York standard, ships would effectively be barred from using the St. Lawrence Seaway and the economic impact would be crippling," LaTourette said. "If you've got a load of ore coming from the East Coast and want to unload it at one of Ohio's many ports, you have to travel through New York waters."
LaTourette, whose district includes working ports in Ashtabula, Conneaut and Fairport Harbor, said his amendment protects the economy of all Great Lakes states. Other Lake Erie ports in Ohio include Cleveland, Lorain, Huron, Sandusky and Toledo.
The International Longshoremen's Association, which supported LaTourette's efforts, believes there should be one standard, saying varying state regulations would cause "catastrophic" economic damage and could effectively "cut the United States off from international and even domestic commerce, threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs for American families."
LaTourette said the inconsistent, arbitrary state requirements are "jeopardizing the transportation of more than 100 million tons of steel, grain, coal, limestone, and other materials across the Great Lakes, and the transportation of more than one billion dollars of consumer goods into Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway ports."
"This cargo drives our region's electric power, steel, automotive manufacturing, and construction industries. These misguided state regulations are threatening to bring these industries and our treaties with Canada to their knees," he said.
The LaTourette provision says that states that adjoin the Great Lakes cannot get EPA funds if they set ballast water standards that exceed current federal or ISO rules. He said one standard should apply to all states. Michigan and New York have set up ballast water rules that exceed current standards.
"We should not reward states like New York with federal money when they're jeopardizing the entire Great Lakes economy," LaTourette said.