A federal judge in San Francisco ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lacks authority to exempt ballast water discharges from
requirements of the Federal Water Pollution Control
Act (FWPCA). With limited exemptions, the FWPCA prohibits discharges of any pollutant from a point source (such as a ship) into navigable waters of the United States, except in accordance with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Since 1973, the EPA has exempted ballast water discharges from the NPDES requirements. In 1999, various environmental advocacy groups petitioned the EPA to revoke the exemption. The EPA declined and this litigation ensued. It is too early to determine how this matter will be resolved, but ship owners and operators should pay close attention. Northwest Environmental Advocates v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, No. C 03-05760 SI (N.D. Calif., March 30, 2005).