BWT: Good News / Bad News

Joseph Keefe
Friday, February 24, 2012

Good news from New york on their local ballast water standard is tempered by more of nothing from Washington.

On the same day that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) issued a press release stating that it will pursue a uniform national ballast water standard by  leaving in place the EPA’s current standards in New York for the remainder of EPA’s current Vessel General Permit through December 2013, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) declared that its review of the US Coast Guard draft interim final rule on standards for living organisms in ships’ ballast water discharged in US waters had been extended. No guidance was given on how much longer industry will have to wait for the extended review to be completed.

New York’s decision to (at least temporarily) release its hold on a standard that is unattainable and one which no technology yet exists to measure its efficacy, is very good news. The move also gives hope that a national standard can be achieved at some point in the future. Both the American Great Lakes Ports Association and Transport Canada applauded the decision.

Steve Fisher, Executive Director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association, said, "New York's decision effectively eliminates the unworkable ballast water rules put in place during the Paterson Administration. We applaud Governor Cuomo for protecting jobs and supporting the thousands of Americans who make their living in the maritime industry."

From Ottawa, Parliamentary Secretary Pierre Poilievre said in a prepared statement, “Canada applauds New York State for withdrawing its unattainable ballast water requirements and agrees that uniform standards are the best way to protect the marine environment. We welcome this action as enforcement of the rules on transiting ships would have stopped commercial shipping on the Seaway. This could have affected almost $11 billion in business revenue and up to 72,000 jobs in Canada and the United States.”

Elsewhere, and as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) nears ratification of its declared standard, U.S. federal efforts to do the same are once again stalled indefinitely. Last fall, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made good on its promise to issue a revised Vessel General Permit (VGP) in November, but the Department of Homeland Security – hamstrung apparently by the regulatory bureaucracy in Washington – could not do the same.


New York’s decision to relinquish its unattainable standard is a reasonable decision, prompted by pressure from surrounding states and provinces in Canada, all worried about the effect of a balkanized statute on billions of dollars in international commerce. They cannot, hover, be expected to wait forever for a federal standard that does not seem to be any closer to enactment than it was as many as ten years ago.

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