Friday, November 4, 2011

November 4, 2011

Ballast standard up for vote

AP environmental writer

TRAVERSE CITY --Environmentalists tried to rally opposition Thursday to a proposed national policy for cleansing ship ballast water to kill invasive species, contending it is too weak and would pre-empt stronger state and federal rules.

The U.S. House was expected to vote as early as today on the measure, which comes as the Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to release its own regulations of ship ballast — a leading culprit in the spread of invaders such as zebra and quagga mussels in the Great Lakes and ocean coastal waters.

Sponsored by Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a New Jersey Republican, the bill would adopt a standard proposed by the International Maritime Organization limiting the number of live organisms that would be permitted in ballast water. Vessel operators would have to install technology to meet the standard.

The shipping industry has pushed for a single nationwide policy, saying the current patchwork of more than two dozen state and tribal regulatory systems is unworkable because vessels move constantly from one jurisdiction to another...

Environmental groups said the bill would prevent the EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard, which is also developing ballast rules, from imposing standards tough enough to make sure no more exotic species reach the Great Lakes.

About two-thirds of the 185 invasive species in the lakes are believed to have arrived in ballast water. They've done billions in damages and are implicated in a variety of ecological problems, from runaway algae blooms to a shortage of plankton crucial for the aquatic food web...

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