U.S. Water News Online
LANSING, Mich. -- A federal judge has granted the state's
motion to intervene in a lawsuit over whether ships without a permit
can dump any ballast water containing nonnative species.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco granted motions
by Michigan, New York, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and
Pennsylvania to intervene in a case against the Environmental
Protection Agency. In March, Illston ordered the EPA to repeal
regulations exempting ship operators from having to obtain such
The states sought to intervene so they can become more involved in
determining a proper remedy, which will impact how the federal
government adopts ballast water discharge regulations.
"The judge clearly realized that a real-world remedy is needed
urgently to protect our greatest natural resource," Michigan Attorney
General Mike Cox said in a statement.
In 1999, the Ocean Conservancy and four other environmental groups
petitioned the EPA to repeal the ballast-water exemption. They
claimed the Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants,
including biological materials -- such as invasive species -- into
U.S. waters without a permit.
The EPA denied the petition and the conservation groups filed a
lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco in 2003.
Invasive species are known to cause significant economic and
environmental damage. Marine species such as mollusks often are
inadvertently transported in the ballast water of ships and
discharged at ports far from their origins.
The zebra mussel was found in the Great Lakes in 1988 after
apparently being carried in a trans-Atlantic ship's ballast water,
which was emptied in the lakes. It caused millions of dollars in
damage and since then has clogged water pipes, ships and docks.
A bill on Gov. Jennifer Granholm's desk would require that
oceangoing ships get a permit to enter Michigan ports starting in
2007. Ships couldn't discharge aquatic nuisance species. They would
have to treat any ballast water before releasing it.
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