Thursday, December 01, 2011

EPA Issues Two Proposed Vessel General Discharge Permits

Nov 30: U.S. EPA announced that it is issuing two draft vessel general permits that would regulate discharges from commercial vessels -- excluding military and recreational vessels. EPA said the proposed permits would help protect the nation's waters from ship-borne pollutants and reduce the risk of introduction of invasive species from ballast water discharges.

    The draft Vessel General Permit, which covers commercial vessels greater than 79 feet in length, would replace the current 2008 Vessel General Permit, when it expires in December 2013. Under the Clean Water Act, permits are issued for a five-year period after which time EPA generally issues revised permits based on updated information and requirements. The new draft Small Vessel General Permit would cover vessels smaller than 79 feet in length and would provide such vessels with the Clean Water Act permit coverage they will be required to have as of December 2013.

    Both permits will be subject to a 75-day public comment period, which will allow a broad array of stakeholders, including industry and communities, to provide feedback. That information will help inform EPA's decision on the final permits, which are expected to go into effect in 2013. EPA intends to issue the final permits in November 2012, a full year in advance, to allow vessel owners and operators time to prepare for new permit requirements.

    Information on the draft Vessel General Permit: EPA said the updated permit would reduce the administrative burden for vessel owners and operators, eliminating duplicative reporting requirements, clarifying that electronic recordkeeping may be used instead of paper records, and streamlining self-inspection requirements for vessels that are out of service for extended periods. The permit would continue to regulate the 26 specific discharge categories that were contained in the 2008 permit and, for the first time, manage the discharge of fish hold effluent.

    A key new provision of the permit is a proposed "numeric standard" to control the release of non-indigenous invasive species in ballast water discharges. The new ballast water discharge standard addressing invasive species is based upon results from independent EPA Science Advisory Board and National Research Council National Academy of Sciences studies. These limits are generally consistent with those contained in the International Maritime Organization's 2004 Ballast Water Convention.
   EPA said the new standard is expected to substantially reduce the risk of introduction and establishment of non-indigenous invasive species in U.S. waters. The draft Vessel General Permit also contains updated conditions for mechanical systems that may leak lubricants into the water and exhaust gas scrubber washwater, which would reduce the amount of oil and other pollutants that enter U.S. waters. EPA will take comment on potentially more stringent requirements for bilgewater discharges.

    Information on the draft Small Vessel General Permit: EPA indicates that this permit would be the first under the Clean Water Act to address discharges incidental to the normal operation of commercial vessels less than 79 feet in length. Recognizing that small commercial vessels are substantially different in how they operate than their larger counterparts, the draft Small Vessel General Permit is shorter and simpler. The draft permit specifies best management practices for several broad discharge management categories including fuel management, engine and oil control, solid and liquid maintenance, graywater management, fish hold effluent management and ballast water management, which consists of common sense management measures to reduce the risk of spreading invasive species. The permit would go into effect at the conclusion of a current moratorium enacted by Congress that exempts all incidental discharges from such vessels, with the exception of ballast water, from having to obtain a permit until December 18, 2013. 

    A number of Great Lakes oriented environmental organization reacted immediately to EPA's proposals and said, "Unfortunately, EPA's new limits are pegged to standards established by the International Maritime Organization [IMO], which while supported by the shipping industry, are not strict enough to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive organisms which currently cost the eight Great Lakes states over $1 billion every five years. Thom Cmar, attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said, "It is hard to see the movement of invasive species until it is too late. Unfortunately, out of sight, out of mind has meant that we have not dealt with the problem of 'living pollution' as aggressively as other environmental threats like oil spills or toxic releases. The new proposed ballast water permit is par for that course --- it is a start, but nowhere near what is needed to stop these uninvited critters from sapping our most valuable water resources."

    The groups -- National Wildlife Federation, NRDC Great Lakes United, Alliance for the Great Lakes, and Healing Our Waters Coalition -- indicated that the permit update comes on the heels of a long legal battle to force EPA to regulate ballast water under the Clean Water Act. They said protective limits on invasive species in vessels' ballast discharges are necessary to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species carried in the ballast tanks from overseas ports. Species like the zebra and quagga mussels, spiny water fleas, and round gobies have all arrived to the Great Lakes via the unregulated discharge of contaminated ballast water.
    In a release the groups said, "While the new permit represents an improvement over previous versions, conservation groups and scientists are concerned that the weak international standards are not strict enough to prevent the next major invasive species threat. International Maritime Organization ballast water standards are not scientifically based and offer only a marginal improvement over the current practice of flushing ballast tanks with saltwater."
    They said the federal Clean Water Act requires EPA to give states an opportunity to add requirements to the proposed permit if the states find that more stringent provisions are necessary to protect against vessels' pollution. The states of New York and California have already adopted far more stringent standards, based on their own scientific determinations that anything less protective would leave their waters vulnerable to new species invasions. As part of EPA's permit update, all of the states will have the opportunity to decide whether they will adopt their own more stringent ballast water standards. In addition, the Coast Guard has finally sent its final rulemaking to set standards for living organisms in Ships' ballast water to the Office of Budget and Management. By contrast, recent legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would also adopt the weak International Maritime Organization ballast water standards, but it would do so while also eliminating EPA's authority to require more protections under the Clean Water Act, as well as states' authority to create more stringent requirements under tougher state laws. 

    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access complete details including the two proposed permits, fact sheets, scheduled meetings, commenting procedures and economic analyses (click here). Access complete background and information on Vessel Discharges (click here). Access a lengthy release from the environmental groups with further comments (click here). [#Water, #Wildlife, #GLakes]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ballast water and the general public's awareness!
Now the EPA plan wants to basically follow the international economic interest of the IMO for creating US environmental policy and still no National news coverage.
Many important issue's that the American voters need to know are never mentioned and are covered up by the US network media. If it is political and has to do with hurting economic globalization they will never inform the American people.---- an example of a media lie by omission, (you can find this on the web) is the major international health problems and economic problems ballast water is creating.
It is now Dec2011 and again another Coast Guard rummer ed deadline for their ballast water plan has passed. Currently this is causing Canada and the Great Lakes States health, environmental and economic concern, as New York and California's Senator Boxer's use of state rights has thwarted the introduction of strong reasonable national legislation. It appears the goal will now be to wait and allow an international organization of diverse governments and business's (the IMO) to decide the amount of human virus and bacteria they dump in our waters delivering foreign made products. These politician who are pushing for regulation reportedly 100 times greater than what the weak IMO goal, know that the strict standards they are looking for will never be agreed to in congress and, although the IMO regulations are far from adequate watch and see if they do not relinquish their demands to the IMO or a Coast Guard plan which follows the IMO lead. Louise Slaughter rep from NY, who voted for the strong legislation passed in the House during 2008 has already ask for the weaker Coast Guards regulations. Sadly this problem could have been solved, but NY decided to develop their own regulations in 2008 and did not push for the strong legislation H.R.2830 passed bi partisan in the House (395-7), while Senator Boxer killed the legislation allegedly over her states right to stronger legislation. She never did introduce an alternative after killing h.r.2830, which most environmentalist and many in the shipping industry reportedly supported. Now we have nothing adequate that environmentalist or the shipping industry support. Had they acted while their party had controlled of the Senate, House and presidency the IMO would already be following much stronger goals to protect American waters, than what our Coast Guard has rummer ed they would someday present. Rumor now has it the IMO ballast water convention will be ratified coincidentally around the time New York delayed implementation of their regulations is to take affect . ( 2013)
The Republicans are at least honest about it and have recently introduced bad ballast water legislation admitting they want foreign economic influence to determine America's environmental policy, regardless of the International Maritime Organization lousy track record. This is despite the majority of those reelected at mid terms voting for the stronger legislation in 2008.
The travesty is that strong national ballast water legislation would not only protect America's health and environment, but it would hurt the cheap price of foreign made goods. The following excerpt is from a report prepared for Congress in 2009 detailing the cost for ballast water technology:
"Most of this expense will be borne by
foreign shipping companies, as the U.S. flag fleet is a small percentage of the global fleet,16 and
likely passed along to consumers of products imported on these ships.”
Products are manufactured were labor cost are lowest and the cost to deliver product to market are insignificant .
The current ballast water policy's of our politicians will preserve America's economic dependence on the global economy to deliver cheap foreign made goods to our largest employers.