Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 17, 2018

Contact: Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121,

Senate to Vote on Eliminating Protections Against Aquatic Invasive Species

WASHINGTON— The Senate will vote Wednesday on a bill that includes a dangerous rider effectively eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate discharges from large ocean vessels, which often contain invasive aquatic organisms like zebra mussels from other parts of the world.

If approved, S. 1129 — the Coast Guard Authorization Act — would transfer all authority to regulate ballast water discharges to the U.S. Coast Guard. The change ignores the fact that the Coast Guard has never taken independent action to regulate ballast water and includes no meaningful requirement that the Coast Guard set stricter limits on discharges into fresh or saltwater bodies.

“Republicans are giving foreign shipping interests the green light to cause irreparable harm to some of our nation’s most beautiful waters,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The GOP is essentially sacrificing native wildlife and telling communities that rely on these bays and lakes to foot the bill for the cleanup, if that’s even possible.”

The legislation also completely strips away the ability of ordinary citizens to protect clean water by bringing citizen suits against polluters.

Non-native species from ballast water can inflict widespread and expensive damage to bays, rivers and lakes. For years the EPA has been tasked under the Clean Water Act with stemming the spread of non-native species arriving in ballast, and the shipping industry has aggressively fought standards requiring vessels to be retrofitted to address the problem.

Ballast water is water carried in a ship’s ballast tanks to improve its stability. When ships take on ballast water, the plants and organisms in that region also get picked up and re-released in other regions, where they become pests.

In 2008 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the EPA must regulate and address the spread of invasive species from ballast water under the Clean Water Act. In 2015 the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the 9th Circuit and held that the EPA needed to do even more under the Clean Water Act to require that the most effective technology be used to clean and remove aquatic organisms from shipping vessels' ballast water.

“Non-native aquatic species have already ravaged San Francisco Bay and the Great Lakes,” said Hartl. “Without question this legislation will make the problem exponentially worse. It’s a gift to big shipping companies and an insult to taxpayers, who already help support billions of dollars in restoration efforts just to keep current invasions from ballast water from getting worse.”

Approximately 52 million gallons of ballast water gets dumped into U.S. waters each year, and 55 percent to 70 percent of 180 known introductions of invasives to the Great Lakes were caused by ballast water.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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