U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-OH) today said he's pleased the EPA is seeking to establish a national ballast water standard consistent with one already in place from the UN's International Maritime Organization (IMO). LaTourette said adoption of the IMO standard will not devastate waterborne commerce on the Great Lakes, as another proposal could.
"Eight states are guardians of the magnificent Great Lakes, and we need to be on the same page when it comes to issues like ballast water. We need to focus on saving jobs, not putting them and waterborne commerce at risk," said LaTourette, 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.
LaTourette has been a leader in the effort to oppose a hodgepodge of Great Lakes ballast water standards and adopt a national standard in line with the IMO standard. His position has at times put him at odds with the state of New York, which wants a much higher standard than the IMO, making it virtually impossible for Great Lakes freighters and carriers to enter the Great Lakes through New York's St. Lawrence Seaway.
LaTourette said the NY standard is technologically unattainable now, and would be a crushing blow to Great Lakes commerce. He was pleased when amendments favoring the New York standard failed in the House last month, and said he's been awaiting the EPA's thoughts on a national ballast water standard, which was released late yesterday afternoon.
Ships take in or discharge ballast water as they load or unload cargo to maintain the ship's stability. LaTourette said the Great Lakes already have 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 said even the EPA has acknowledged that the standard sought in New York cannot be met at this time because the technology doesn't exist to meet it. He said the NY standard is 100 times greater than the current international standard and eventually would be 1,000 times greater.
The Coast Guard is also working on developing a national ballast water standard, and the one proposed by the EPA would only apply to commercial ships longer than 79 feet. It would not apply to recreational boats or military vessels.
The EPA will accept comments on the proposed ballast water/vessel general permit for 75 days, and is expected to issue its final plan in November 2012. You can post anonymous comments on www.regulations.gov by using the Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0141. You can also email comments -- but not anonymously -- to firstname.lastname@example.org. With the latter option, you should indicate it's for Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW- 2011-0141.
In its announcement about a national ballast water standard, the EPA said the new ballast water standard is "generally consistent with those contained in the International Maritime Organization's 2004 Ballast Water Convention" and "is expected to substantially reduce the risk of introduction and establishment of non-indigenous invasive species in U.S. waters."