Wisconsin is the latest state to set its own ballast standard for ships working in the Great Lakes. Last week the state revealed their permit that will require the shipping industry to upgrade treatment systems to prevent more invasive species from entering the lakes. Since the Federal Government can’t get its act together to establish a national ballast standard the states have has no recourse but to set their own standards creating a patchwork of requirements that induces headaches for the shipping industry.
“Lacking a national ballast water treatment policy it is absolutely necessary for Wisconsin to challenge the status quo and develop stronger action to protect our natural resources,” Rep. Nick Milroy (D-Superior) stated.
Officials throughout the Great Lakes have been encouraging the federal government to develop a uniform standard so that state policies don’t conflict with each other and pose competitive advantages from one port over the other.
In the meantime, all the Great Lakes states have been beefing up their regulations to either meet or exceed the International Maritime Organization’s standard. Wisconsin’s new standard will be 100 times stricter than the IMO’s by 2014. Several years ago, Michigan established a ballast standard for its state and since then, New York, Minnesota and now Wisconsin have joined the effort.
The US Coast Guard has circulated draft standards that on paper look good, but they won’t be enforceable for way too long – maybe as long as 22 years. States simply can’t afford to bear the brunt of inaction any longer that is why their standards are stronger and swifter than what is being proposed by federal agencies. And having states lead the way may not be a bad thing, according to Jen Nalbone of Great Lakes United.
“State action is absolutely driving the strong final standard being proposed in the Coast Guard’s ballast discharge rulemaking. Ships are constantly in motion, traveling from state-to-state. Instead of establishing the floor for regulations for ships, the federal government has to trump the states in order to provide the uniformity that carriers crave. This dynamic definitely benefits the environment, and the state rule in setting that high bar is the critical piece,” Nalbone tells HOW.
Last winter, the Great Lakes Members of Congress promised HOW members they would deal with ballast this year. Well, here we are just weeks away from Congress’ Christmas break and the end of 2009 and so far the silence is deafening. Having said that, the carriers that Nalbone mentions tend to get what they want when they call our Great Lakes delegation. So, if state action is making the shipping industry uncomfortable – and now one more state is expecting carriers to meet another set of standards – perhaps we will see Washington act on ballast soon.