in Natural Resources Policy
The 112th Congress
may consider legislation to amend and reauthorize the Nonindigenous Aquatic
Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990 to further study vessel ballast
water management standards and modify how ballast water is handled.
In recent years, people have become increasingly aware that the globalization
of trade, the increased speed of travel, the massive volume of cargo
shipments, and rising tourism have combined to increase the chance of
accidental introductions of foreign species into the United States.
Aquatic species arrive through a variety of mechanisms—unintentionally when
attached to vessel hulls or carried in vessel ballast water and
intentionally when imported for aquaria display, as live seafood for human
consumption, or as a transplant to increase sport fishing opportunities.
The arrival of zebra mussels in the Great Lakes and their subsequent damage to
city water supplies and electric utilities focused significant attention
on ballast water discharge by cargo ships as a high-risk mechanism for
species invasion. New management efforts attempt to address this concern.
On March 23, 2012, the U.S. Coast Guard published a final rule establishing
quantitative standards for ballast water treatment. The new standards
initially follow standards developed by the International Maritime
Organization (IMO). In a subsequent phase, the quantitative standards would
become much more stringent, given sufficient technological development to
support achievement of the higher standards. The Coast Guard standards do
not preempt existing state ballast water management standards.
In response to litigation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published
regulations on December 28, 2008, to regulate ballast water discharge
under the Clean Water Act through vessel general permits (VGPs).
Environmental groups expressed concern over the effectiveness of the EPA
regulations and filed a court challenge. In a March 2011 settlement, EPA was
required to revise its VGP program to require numeric limits on organisms
in ballast water discharges as well as additional monitoring and reporting
of vessel discharges. Under the terms of this settlement, EPA proposed two
new VGP programs on November 30, 2011. Meanwhile, P.L. 110-299 provided a
two-year moratorium from the VGP program for commercial fishing vessels and
nonrecreational vessels less than 79 feet in length, and the 111th Congress
enacted legislation (P.L. 111-215) to further extend this moratorium
through December 18, 2013. EPA expects to take final action on the draft
permits by November 30, 2012.
In addition to federal programs and sometimes in response to perceived
deficiencies in federal regulation, several states have chosen to regulate
aspects of ballast water management. Concerns have arisen over
particularly stringent state ballast water regulations as to whether the
technology exists to meet their standards. In the 112th Congress, Section
459 of H.R. 2584, as reported by the House Committee on Appropriations,
would prohibit EPA from providing funds to any Great Lakes state that has
a more stringent performance or ballast water exchange standard than either a revised
Coast Guard standard or the IMO standard.
This report provides background on various approaches to ballast water
management and reviews current ballast water management laws and programs.
This report will be updated as this issue evolves.
Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny
Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American
Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card.
Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred
and receive priority processing.