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Bill would let Coast Guard set ballast discharge regulations

Apr 16, 2018

Quagga mussels in fish trawl in Lake Michigan
Credit Greg Marks / NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

The U.S. Senate is expected to soon take up an authorization bill for the Coast Guard that includes the "Vessel Incidental Discharge Act."  

Environmental groups think the Discharge Act would be really bad for the Great Lakes.

The Discharge Act gives the U.S. Coast Guard sole authority in setting regulations for ballast water discharges into the lakes. 

The National Wildlife Federation says it would exempt the shipping industry from the oversight of the Clean Water Act, so no one could sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for stricter regulations than what the Coast Guard might impose.

"The shipping industry has introduced zebra mussels and dozens of other non-native invaders into the Great Lakes -- invaders that are costing at least $200 million per year in damage," says the Federation in a press release urging U.S. senators, especially those in the Great Lakes, to vote no on the authorization -- unless the Discharge Act is removed.

The Lake Carriers' Association, though, says the Coast Guard is the only federal agency with maritime expertise, and it has a long history of environmental and safety regulation.

The association says the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act would be highly protective of the Great Lakes and end a "multi-jurisdictional morass."