The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would establish a uniform standard for vessel ballast water treatment.
The 2011 Commercial Vessel Discharges Reform Act (H.R. 2840) was approved by voice vote.
The bill, introduced in the House by Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., amends the Clean Water Act to set a single nationwide performance standard, which conforms to the standard created by the International Maritime Organization, for the treatment of vessel ballast water.
The bill requires the Coast Guard to develop an implementation schedule requiring vessel owners to install treatment technology certified to meet the new standard.
The bill is aimed at preventing New York and California from implementing their own stricter ballast discharge standards. LoBiondo and others believe a patchwork approach doesn’t make sense and they point to scientific studies citing the lack of equipment to meet the state standards.
In addition, the House bill allows for a review of the performance standard every 10 years or upon petition from the states. The bill will remedy the current patchwork of varying and inconsistent ballast water regulations across states.
“The current system threatens international maritime trade,” LoBiondo said. “It is driving industry away from short sea shipping. It is undermining our attempts to revitalize the U.S. flagged fleet. It is destroying jobs. And it is hurting our economic recovery.”
LoBiondo explained, “Currently the Coast Guard and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) have developed separate regulations under two different federal laws to govern the discharge of ballast water from vessels.
“The EPA’s regulations under the Clean Water Act are especially burdensome, as they allow each individual state to impose additional requirements on top of the federal regulations. The result is 29 differing and often contradicting standards. It is unreasonable to require vessel owners to comply with two federal standards and as many as 29 different state and tribal standards,” he said.
“This bill is a common sense solution to the problem,” LoBiondo added. “It will immediately put in place a standard for ballast water treatment that is technologically achievable and verifiable. This approach is endorsed by the EPA, the Coast Guard, the National Academy of Sciences, the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, the U.S. flagged industry, maritime labor, manufacturers, farmers, energy producers and our largest and most strategic international trading partners.”