Sep 26, 2007

Bill strips Maine of power to fend off marine invader species.

Dear Friends,

In the cause of environmental justice, please urge Senator Olympia Snowe to vote against a bill -- S 1578--the so-called "Ballast Water Management Act of 2007" The bill is coming up before the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow.

Please call the capital switchboard (202) 224-3121) ask for Olympia Snowe. NOTE THE COMMITTEE VOTE IS TOMORROW. Snowe's staffers are totting up how much interest there is, so please call!

Under the Clean Water Act, Maine Department of Environmental Protection can impose strict conditions on ballast water discharges into state waters and even bar it entirely.

This water, required to be pumped out of the ballast holds of oceangoing cargo ships to accomodate the weight of onloaded cargo and to pass through shallow areas, is typically found to be rich with exotic marine life, pathogens and pollutants from distant waters and ports around the globe.

With actual andf attempted increases in cargo and tanker ships and barges picking up and delivering cargo at ports in Casco, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Bays, the state needs to retain its powers to protect its vital lobster industry and other coastal fisheries from ecological disasters from marine invader species introduction --granted it under the Clean Water Act-- more than ever.

The new bill S 1578--the "Ballast Water Management Act of 2007" would declare the Coast Guard to be "the sole Federal authority" to limit species' introduction by vessels. This would invalidate Maine and other states' ability to use the powers given to states under the Clean Water Act to restrict such discharges.

Pushing this mandate of marine biological management onto an ill-equipped and already-overburdened US Coast Guard takes the agency into a regulatory area it lacks both expertise and time to perform successfully.

Even worse, under the bill the Coast Guard could postpone indefinitely the date at which whatever standards it finally comes up with are enacted. In the politicized morass of the present administration that can mean "never".

As a letter sent to the Commerce Committee today by fortyfour environmental and conservation groups notes:

"Individually and in combination, the proposed provisions precluding States from taking their own actions, exempting ballast water discharges from the Clean Water Act, and curtailing the federal agencies’ actions, result in a bill that we fear will perpetuate the economic and environmental harm of invasive species for many years to come."

Senator Snowe needs to know that this bill is bad news for Maine's lobsters and lobster industry. Maine is much better positioned to identify and prevent discharges of marine invader species into its waters that could put its fisheries and public health at risk.

Please call Snowe's office and urge her vote against this a fast-moving industry bill. With increases in cargo and tanker ships and barges picking up and delivering cargo at ports in Casco, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Bays, the state needs its powers to prevent ecological disasters from marine invader species --granted it under the Clean Water Act-- more than ever.

Call Senator Snow via the capital switchboard (202) 224-3121, and let her know you care about marine Maine.

Ron Huber
Penobscot BayWatch




No comments: