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Thursday, September 20, 2018

BALLAST WATER ISSUES CONTINUE TO BE ACTIVE IN THE US

A recent lawsuit by environmental interests in Oakland, California, has alleged that a port and channel expansion project should not go forward because of the failure of the US Army Corps of Engineers to give adequate consideration to the environmental consequences of increased ballast water discharges in the improved port.

On 2 April, another environmental suit was filed against the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its failure to rule on a petition requesting that ship ballast water discharges be made subject to the permit provisions of the Federal Clean Water Act.  This latter action does not seek the entry of any particular result, but instead is focused on the fact that EPA has not acted either to grant or deny the environmentalists' petition, a petition that was filed more than two years ago.

INTERTANKO supports EPA's earlier determination to exempt vessel discharges from the Clean Water Act's permitting requirements and opposes any effort to submit vessels operating in international trade to these requirements.  On the immediate question of whether EPA is required to rule definitively on the petition, however, INTERTANKO assess that there is little point in industry taking a position.  EPA will either elect to defend its inaction or will agree to issue a ruling within a specified time.  INTERTANKO will work to preserve the ballast water exemption.

In a related matter, INTERTANKO has joined with several other maritime interest groups in the US in urging the US Coast Guard to move decisively to mandate federal ballast water control standards that are operationally feasible, that are compatible with international efforts on this issue, and that minimise the potential for disparate state and local actions.  The US Coast Guard is required by U.S. law to report to Congress by January of 2002 on the results of the voluntary at-sea ballast water exchange programme that it administers.  As previously reported, it is INTERTANKO’s understanding that the US Coast Guard will accelerate that report to be submitted in August or September. 

In the meantime, INTERTANKO’s representatives are active at EPA, US Coast Guard and other relevant departments of federal and state government in the US to promote ballast water policies that are consistent with INTERTANKO’s efforts at the IMO.