To Protect Great Lakes From Ballast Water Invaders National Wildlife Federation Asks For Restraining Order

NWF Files a Motion to Get Greater Regulations Against Ballast Water Discharge

05-02-2013 // Jordan Lubetkin
Lake Michigan

The National Wildlife Federation is asking a federal judge to stop the EPA from implementing a rule that would prohibit the State of New York from strengthening protections against non-native species introduced by ballast water discharges.

The motion was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“The people, businesses and communities that have paid a steep price from aquatic invasive species deserve strong protections that shut the door on ballast water invaders once and for all,” said Marc Smith, senior policy manager at the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. “Our action today seeks to stop the EPA from blocking efforts to get the State of New York to do enough to prevent the introduction of more aquatic invasive species.”

The stakes are high in the effort to protect the Great Lakes. Ballast water invaders have altered the Great Lakes ecosystem from top to bottom and cause at least $200 million per year in damages and control costs.

Despite the damage from aquatic invasive species, the federal government failed for decades to put in place protections from non-native hitchhikers stowed away in ballast tanks of foreign ships. The lack of protections have been devastating, as non-native invaders such as the zebra mussel, round goby and spiny water flea have colonized Great Lakes waters—and spread as far west as California.

Conservation groups successfully sued the U.S. EPA, mandating the agency protect U.S. waters from ballast water invaders. The EPA issued a permit that the National Wildlife Federation and other conservation groups argued was insufficient to protect U.S. waters from non-native invaders.

As the EPA was revising its permit, states had the opportunity to strengthen the permit. The State of New York improved protections—but did not go far enough to protect its waters. The National Wildlife Federation sued the State of New York to strengthen ballast water protections.

Before that lawsuit was concluded, the EPA finalized its permit on April 26. The National Wildlife Federation’s action yesterday seeks to ensure that New York can nevertheless add measures necessary to protect its waters once the New York lawsuit is resolved.

The outcome of the New York case is important because New York, in effect, is a gatekeeper for the Great Lakes, as all foreign ships entering the Lakes must journey up the St. Lawrence Seaway and through New York waters.

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