Jan 31, 2010

Maine Ballast Water Bill surfaces; will big shipping sink it (again)?

LD 1693 adds to Maine water pollution law. It  would  "prohibit ocean-going vessels from discharging ballast water that contains any detectable living organisms into the coastal waters of the State after January 1, 2021"

The bill proposes a two step affair:  Interim standards in effect from January 1, 2011 to January 1, 2021, requiring ocean-going vessels to obtain a permit from Maine DEP to discharge ballast water that contains 

A Any detectable living organisms greater than 50 micrometers in minimum dimension;
B More than 0.01% living organisms that are between 10 and 50 micrometers in minimum dimension;
C For living organisms that are less than 10 micrometers in minimum dimension:
(1) More than 1,000 bacteria per 100 milliliters;
(2) More than 10,000 viruses per 100 milliliters; and
(3) Concentrations of microbes that constitute more than 125 colony-forming units of Escherichia coli per 100 milliliters

After  January 1, 2021, discharges of ballast water from ocean going ships would be outright banned, with a fine of up to $10,000.

A good idea and thus it is unlikely to pass, for reasons lawsuits by corporatings over interference with   interstate and global  commerce. But if it does, then 1: bravo! the state will be gathering data on what's in the ballast water and anchor lockers of ships, a good thing; and 2: MDEP will get a new revenue stream; always a plus in the eyes of the agency.

But the deep pockets they would like to tap by licensing ballast water pollution are deep enough to be unruffled by a  mere $10,000  cost of doing business  fine.   Except inasmuch as the ballast-belching vessel could lose its license to do so in state waters

Again, though, one can't help looking back to the earlier struggle Maine and Washington state lost over requiring tankers to meet state operating standards while in state waters.  The deep pockets of the  shipping industry  won the day in that case 


Thom Cmar said...

A federal court in Michigan and a state court in New York have already held that states have the authority to enact their own ballast water regulations. See Fednav v. Chester, 547 F.3d 607 (6th Cir. 2008); Port of Oswego Authority v. Grannis, 881 N.Y.S.2d 283 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2009).

As long as the federal government fails to adopt requirements that vessels treat their ballast water before discharging, state laws like the one proposed in Maine are critical to protecting our waters from the introduction and spread of invasive species. In the U.S., we spend billions of dollars every year dealing with this problem -- it is long overdue for states and the federal government to put in place the protections we need to prevent further harm to our ecosystems and economies.

Ron Huber said...

That is great news! Thanks!