July 24, 2008

Appeals Court Rules That EPA Must Regulate Ballast Water

By Dan Egan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Jul. 24--The fight to keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes picked up some steam Wednesday.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a coalition of environment groups, backed by some Great Lakes states, that sued the federal government to begin regulating ballast water like any other pollutant under the Clean Water Act.

The decision followed a lower court's ruling three years ago that the Environmental Protection Agency had been illegally exempting the shipping industry from Clean Water Act requirements.

The decision gives the EPA until the end of September to come up with a new set of regulations to protect all the nation's waters from the next unwanted species delivered by oceangoing vessels.

The EPA's plan to meet the requirements of the lawsuit is to mandate that ships entering U.S. waters first flush their ballast tanks with saltwater. That is already required for ships entering the Great Lakes, and the plaintiffs say they intend to petition the EPA to require ships take it a step further and install ballast treatment systems.

The EPA moved forward with the ballast regulations while it appealed the lawsuit.

The comment period for those regulations closes at the end of the month.

"We're writing comments on EPA's draft proposed rule, and we're hopeful that when EPA sees that they have to meet legal requirements (of the Clean Water Act), that they are going to profoundly adjust the requirements of this permit," said Nina Bell of the Northwest Environmental Advocates.


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