U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-OH) today spoke in opposition to two amendments to a Coast Guard bill that he said would lead to the "destruction of jobs in the Great Lakes" and could devastate waterborne commerce on the Great Lakes.
The amendments to maintain a patchwork of Great Lakes ballast water standards were defeated today. One lost by a vote of 174-225 and the other was defeated by a vote of 161-237. H.R. 2838 authorizes spending for the Coast Guard. The House should vote on the bill later this month and then send the measure to the Senate for consideration.
"The failure of the amendments is a victory for Great Lakes jobs and waterborne commerce," LaTourette said.
LaTourette said the state of New York currently plans to impose ballast water standards for that state that greatly exceed a current international standard. Ships take in or discharge ballast water as they load or unload cargo to maintain the ship's stability. The congressman said there should be one national standard and the Coast Guard is working to finalize that standard. He vowed to work with New York lawmakers to resolve the issue.
LaTourette said the technology New York wants to impose on all commercial vessels traveling through the St. Lawrence Seaway does not currently exist. He said the EPA verified that in a July 2011 letter. LaTourette said the Great Lakes already has very tough ballast water standards that have been very effective in preventing the introduction of new invasive species into the Great Lakes through ballast water on ships.
"One study says there hasn't been an invasive species introduced into the Great Lakes since 2006 via ballast water," he said, adding that Asian Carp did not arrive in the U.S. that way.
LaTourette urged members to let the Coast Guard finish its work on establishing a federal standard rather than allow New York to impose a standard on eight Great Lakes states that would start at 100 times greater than the current international standard, and eventually be 1,000 times more stringent. He said one of the amendments could have prevented Ohio freighters from passing through the St. Lawrence Seaway, even if they didn't discharge any ballast water.
"It could shut down waterborne commerce," said LaTourette, a former co-chair of the Great Lakes Task Force and author of the National Invasive Species Act of 1996 with former U.S. Sen. John Glenn.
U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), who shepherded the Coast Guard bill through the House, said passage of the ballast water amendments "would make the current situation even worse."