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Public Statements

Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GIBBS. I rise in strong support of H.R. 2838, the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011 and, in particular, title VII of the bill, the Commercial Vessels Discharge Reform Act of 2011.

Ballast water, while a necessity to maintain the stability of large vessels during water-borne navigation, has always been recognized as one of the ways invasive aquatic nuisance species are transported globally and introduced into coastal waters where they did not live before. Numerous invasive species have been introduced in U.S. waters through ballast water discharges. One of the most well-known is the zebra mussel in the Great Lakes, which has caused millions of dollars in damage in infrastructure.

Current efforts to reduce the risk of invasive species being introduced through ballast water discharges are haphazard, contradictory, and ineffective. The management of ballast water currently is governed differently by the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as an assortment of international, State, and territorial regulations.

As a result, vessels engaged in interstate and international commerce are required to meet several different standards for the management of ballast water, some of which are not technologically achievable or verifiable. Complying with this patchwork of regulations is burdensome and unacceptable. Commercial shippers are at the heart of our Nation's interstate and foreign commerce.

As we all know, interstate and foreign commerce involving navigation is the heart of the Federal jurisdiction under the commerce clause of the Constitution. If we subject vessels visiting ports in more than one State to different permit requirements in each State that they visit, they will be forced to either violate State laws or cease making port calls in those States with requirements that are inconsistent with the technology that the vessel has installed in response to an earlier enacted regulation from another State.

Vessels involved in interstate and foreign commerce are mobile and cannot be expected to comply with potentially scores of inconsistent State requirements as they navigate from one jurisdiction to the next. These inconsistent State requirements will impose serious economic burdens on interstate and foreign commerce. There simply is no reason to interfere with interstate and foreign commerce in such ways, particularly in more sensible, uniform, and environmentally protective approaches available under this bill.

Title VII of H.R. 2838 aims to address both the needs for standards to reduce the risk of introducing invasive species in our Nation's waters through discharges of ballast water, and the need for vessels that navigate from one jurisdiction to another to have a uniform set of requirements to comply with.

The bill establishes a commonsense approach for regulating ballast water, which will protect the environment, grow maritime jobs, and promote the flow of maritime commerce.

I urge passage of H.R. 2838.


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