Bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) and nine co-sponsors would establish a strong, nationally consistent standard for ballast water and other vessel discharges, bringing good news for the marine environment and for maritime commerce, the American Waterways Operators (AWO) announced.
S. 3332, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, would require the U.S. Coast Guard to implement the most environmentally protective ballast water discharge standard achievable by existing technology. In the process, it would end the overlapping patchwork of federal and state regulatory requirements for ballast water and other vessel discharges that has made compliance confusing and costly for commercial vessel operators and mariners, who regularly transit the waters of multiple states in a single voyage, and has put them at risk of unknowingly breaking the law. The bill is similar to bipartisan language contained in H.R. 2838, the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Authorization Act passed by the House of Representatives in November 2011.
Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency regulates ballast water and other vessel discharges under the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program; the Coast Guard regulates ballast water under the National Invasive Species Act; and some 26 states have established their own redundant and sometimes conflicting rules for vessel discharges. This untenable situation constrains the movement of economically critical maritime commerce and jeopardizes American jobs.
A single set of science-based national standards is urgently needed to promote compliance and protect the environment, while also easing regulatory burdens on American businesses and workers.
Commenting on the bill’s introduction, AWO President & CEO Tom Allegretti said, “AWO very much appreciates the leadership of Senator Begich and the bipartisan co-sponsors of S. 3332. Vessel owners, maritime labor unions, shippers, and port authorities have been united in calling on the Congress to enact legislation this year establishing a uniform national approach to the regulation of ballast water and other vessel discharges. AWO is very pleased that bipartisan leaders in both the Senate and the House of Representatives recognize this need and have taken action to protect our marine environment and keep essential maritime commerce flowing.”
Senator Begich, who is the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, was joined in his sponsorship of S. 3332 by nine Democratic and Republican friends of the U.S. maritime industry from states along the inland rivers and the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts. They include Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Chairman of the Commerce Committee; Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Ranking Member of the Coast Guard Subcommittee; Kelly Ayotte (R-NH); John Boozman (R-AR); Daniel Inouye (D-HI); Claire McCaskill (D-MO); Lisa Murkowski (R-AK); David Vitter (R-LA); and Roger Wicker (R-MS).