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April 17th 2018

U.S. Senate Assault on Clean Water Act Will Leave Environment, Economy Vulnerable to Invasive Species

 

Exemption to shipping industry foists multi-million-dollar cost of ballast water invaders onto people, businesses, and communities.

 

People use the Great Lakes for swimming, boating, and wildlife watching. Our lakes would be threatened by the passage of the currently written Coast Guard Authorization Act. Credit: iStock photo.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 17, 2018)—The U.S. Senate is poised to vote as early as tomorrow on eliminating Clean Water Act protections that prevent aquatic invasive species from entering U.S. waters through the discharge of ballast water. Tucked into the Coast Guard authorization bill is the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act—a bill that exempts the shipping industry from complying with the Clean Water Act. The bill puts in place weaker, ineffective standards that will leave U.S. waters vulnerable to future aquatic invasive species that currently cost U.S. businesses, utilities, communities, and municipalities millions of dollars per year in damages and control costs.

 

Conservation groups are asking U.S. senators to oppose the Coast Guard bill unless the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act is removed.

 

Conservation groups oppose the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act because it:

  • Eliminates Clean Water Act protections over ship discharges including ballast water;
  • Establishes weaker, non-protective and ineffective ballast water standards;
  • Removes the U.S. EPA from its scientific role in deciding what standards are needed to protect U.S. rivers, lakes, and oceans from new invaders;
  • Prohibits states from putting in place more effective protections;
  • Abolishes the ability of citizens to take action to protect their waters from invasive species.

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April 17th 2018

Senate to Vote on Bill Exempting Ships from Clean Water Act

A freighter in the Muskegon channel. Ships like this would be exempt from oversight from the Clean Water Act if a bill in the Senate is passed. Credit NOAA.

The U.S. Senate is prepared to vote on a bill that will allow more invasive species into the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters. The vote could come as early as tomorrow, April 18.

The dangerous bill in question is the Coast Guard Authorization Act. Attached to the bill is the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, which exempts the shipping industry from complying with Clean Water Act standards that protect our waters. The Clean Water Act currently requires ships to treat their ballast water so that they don’t introduce biological pollution into U.S. waters. The Clean Water Act is the most effective tool to prevent more invasive species in the Great Lakes.

 

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition opposes passage of the Coast Guard bill unless the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act is removed, and we’ve asked Great Lakes Senators to oppose the bill as written.

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April 13th 2018

Action Alert: Tell Your Senator to Oppose Ballast Water Regulation Changes

Invasive species like zebra mussels are introduced from the ballast water of ships and have contributed to the breakdown of the Great Lakes food chain. Photo credit: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The Senate will vote on its Coast Guard bill next week, which currently includes the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA). This legislation significantly changes to how ballast water discharges are regulated nationwide, and would be bad for the Great Lakes.

Please call your Senators TODAY to urge them to oppose this bill if VIDA is included!

 

You may contact your Member of Congress via the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

 

VIDA moves us away from the responsible management of ballast water discharges by completely removing Clean Water Act authority over ship discharges. Under VIDA, the Clean Water Act would cease to apply to all ship incidental discharges—including ballast water, nutrient-laden greywater, and chemicals—from commercial vessels. In addition, VIDA would:

  • transfer regulatory authority from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—the agency with water pollution expertise—to the Coast Guard, whose top priority is homeland security;
  • eliminate the Clean Water Act’s protection of water quality clean enough to protect public health, native species, and the use of waters for municipal and industrial purposes; and
  • remove the Clean Water Act’s function of driving the development of improvements in treatment technology.

 

In addition to undermining federal regulation of ballast water discharges, VIDA would also preempt states’ rights to protect their waters.

VIDA also creates special exceptions for vessels that operate exclusively the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. It ignores clear scientific evidence that ships transfer and spread invasive species from one U.S. port to another by allowing the Coast Guard to wholly exempt such ships from any regulation.

Please call your Senators TODAY to urge them to oppose this bill if VIDA is included!

You may contact your Member of Congress via the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

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March 30th 2018

Trump Infrastructure Plan Misses the Mark

We’re surrounded by water in the Great Lakes region, but upgrades to infrastructure are necessary to ensure safe, affordable drinking water for all in the region. Photo courtesy of the Friends of the Detroit River.

Today President Trump is traveling to Richfield, Ohio (outside of Cleveland), to discuss his infrastructure plan. A top priority of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition is to increase federal investments in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in the region. More than $179 billion over the next 20 years is needed to meet clean water goals in the eight-state region of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.

 

Below is an on-the-record statement from Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

 

“The Trump Administration’s infrastructure plan misses the mark. It places the financial burden on state and local governments and jettisons clean water and other environmental protections. It puts up modest sums of federal money over 10 years—and asks others to do the real work of raising real dollars.  Incentives in the plan are geared toward the privatization of water infrastructure – where decisions can be made based on financial gain rather than public health. The administration’s plan is simply a non-starter.

 

“We look forward to working with the U.S. Congress to put in place an infrastructure plan that helps local communities meet their clean water goals, while making water affordable for everyone. This can include providing more grants, as opposed to loans, as well as helping utilities implement water affordability programs that help people afford for their water bills so that they are never in danger of having their water shut off. At the end of the day, we need a bi-partisan infrastructure package that works for people, communities, businesses, and the Great Lakes.”

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March 26th 2018

Groups to Congress: Maintain Great Lakes Funding

Restoration in the Great Lakes improves water quality and provides habitat for fish and wildlife. Photo: Colleen Brown

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (March 26, 2018) – Days after the passage of the fiscal year 2018 budget, which contained strong support for Great Lakes restoration programs in the budget for fiscal year 2019, 185 organizations urged the U.S. Congress to continue their support for restoration efforts. In letters to the U.S. House and Senate, organizations from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York urged public officials to maintain support for core Great Lakes programs that help protect the drinking water for more than 30 million people.

 

“The problems we face will only get worse and the price we pay will be much higher if the federal partnership with the region is scaled back,” the groups stated in the letters.

 

“The Great Lakes congressional delegation has delivered time and time again, and our message is straight forward: Keep it up,” said Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “We’ve made progress, but there’s more work to do. Strong support from members of congress in the next budget can keep us on the right track. Now is not the time to cut funding, since this restoration work will only get harder and more expensive the longer we wait.”

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  • 2018 Great Lakes Conference

    We are postponing the Great Lakes conference. It will not take place in Detroit next week on Oct. 17-18. The hotel workers are on strike and the Coalition has decided not to host the conference next week. We are re-scheduling it for some time in the spring of 2019. Learn more here.

  • Impact of President Trump’s Budget

    Cuts to key Great Lakes programs as proposed by President Trump will undermine the progress we've been making to restore the lakes. We will look to our congressional champions to restore funding. Learn more about what's at stake for the Great Lakes under the proposed budget. Click here.  

  • Washington Update: March 19, 2018

    Congress is still working on passing a budget for fiscal year 2018. But the budget process for fiscal year 2019 has now begun with the release of President Trump's proposed budget. Read the latest here.

  • Our Latest Success Story

    Check out our latest success story: Restoring the natural curves and riverbank of the Pike River in Wisconsin has reduced flooding and erosion, while increasing fish and wildlife habitat. Read more here. Click here for a full list of our success stories.

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