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GLIN==> EPA Threatened with Lawsuit for Ballast Dumping



Posted on behalf of Dan Thomas <glsfc@great-lakes.org>

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EPA Threatened with Lawsuit for Ballast Dumping
Suit Challenges Feds under 1972 Clean Water Act

Portland, OR.-- Calling upon the USEPA to reverse 28 years of failure to
comply with the Clean Water Act, a national coalition of environmental,
conservation and industry organizations is seeking controls on pollution
discharges from ships.  In a letter sent earlier this month, the coalition
demanded that EPA respond to a two-year old petition to regulate ships'
ballast water discharges under the Clean Water Act.  In the January 1999
petition, these groups asserted that under the Act, EPA must regulate ships'
ballast discharges in order to reduce the amount of exotic species invasions
these discharges have caused.  In their letter to EPA, the groups informed
EPA that legal action would be initiated if EPA did not issue a formal
response to the petition by January 31st.

The Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council a signatory to the petition.

"After impatiently waiting for EPA to respond to our petition,  we have
finally given up and sent them a letter which says in a nutshell that we are
going to sue them for inaction on our petition" stated lead petitioner
Northwest Environmental Advocates' Executive Director, Nina Bell to the
GLSFC.

Regionally, the GLSFC has been frustrated with lobbying activities by
members of the Lake Carriers Association  and other commercial shippers who
have worked overtime to hamper legislative efforts at the state level.  Many
Great Lakes Regional States have initiated legislation to control biological
pollution by commercial shippers only to have their efforts hampered by
these same shippers. Their response is the feds are better prepared to enact
legislation to regulate ballast water discharges under the Constitution's
Commerce clause, and the many individual laws enacted by the states would be
unworkable.  This position has been pursued by the shippers groups from the
top down, knowing USEPA has been reluctant to act under the Clean Water Act.

Leading the charge in opposition to regional legislative proposals  has been
George Ryan, president of the Lake Carriers Association and one of the most
vocal opponents to any state initiatives.  Ironically, Ryan is a
commissioner on the Great Lakes Commission representing Ohio, and has used
his position and that of the Commission's outreach efforts including their
monthly newsletter "Advisor" and their web sites to promote his lobbying
efforts.

Bell goes on to say "It is critical that EPA take legal action now to stop
the flood of exotic species which are threatening native fish and wildlife,
and costing government and private business millions of dollars each year to
control".  At issue are the discharges of ballast water from ships.  Used to
stabilize ships, ballast water is the largest source of non-native, or
"exotic," species in U.S. coastal waters.  Ballast water is discharged into
bays, estuaries, and the Great Lakes when cargo for export is loaded.

"Over 21 billion gallons of contaminated ballast water is released into U.S.
waters each year," said Linda Sheehan, Director of the Pacific Region Office
for the Center for Marine Conservation.  "Ballast water is the major source
of new species that are introduced into San Francisco Bay.  On average we're
seeing one new species in the Bay every 14 weeks."  Studies in the
Chesapeake and Mobile Bays have found cholera in ships' ballast water.
"Exotic species invasions are having a devastating impact on native species,
commercial fishing, and shellfishing, as well as clogging water intake pipes
for power plants and drinking water treatment facilities," she continued.

"EPA's exemption for ballast water discharges is plainly inconsistent with
the Clean Water Act, " said Craig Johnston, an attorney representing the
petitioners.  "Despite the serious economic and ecological threats exotic
species pose, EPA's exemption has left ballast water completely unregulated
throughout virtually all of the U.S.  Federal courts prohibit agencies from
dreaming up exemptions out of thin air," he added.

"A recent study of the federal government's existing, voluntary ballast
water requirements shows that they are essentially being ignored," concluded
Ms. Sheehan.  "More is needed to protect the health of our waters and the
people and economies that depend on them."

If EPA grants the petition, states would be required to issue Clean Water
Act discharge permits to ships.  Permits would prohibit pollution discharges
that could cause violations of water quality standards, including exotic
species, oil, and toxic contaminants.

*     *     *
Petitioners include:

Northwest Environmental Advocates
Center for Marine Conservation
Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council (IL)
Asso. of California Water Agencies (CA) (represents over 90% of California's
water suppliers)
San Francisco BayKeeper (CA)
Chippewa-Ottawa Treaty Fishery Management Authority (MI)
People for Puget Sound (WA)
Great Lakes United (NY)
Dogwood Alliance (SC)
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens Associations (CA)
Coastal Waters Project (ME)
Friends of the San Juans (WA)
Quoddy Spill Prevention Group (ME)
DeltaKeeper (Sacramento, CA)
Ted Lempert, California Assembly Member



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