A federal court has rejected a shipping industry challenge to a government permitting system designed to prevent the spread of invasive species that have disrupted ecosystems and cost billions in the Great Lakes and elsewhere.Last March, the EPA created the permit system as part of a settlement with conservation organizations:
A settlement announced today between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and conservation organizations will curtail Invasive species that have been wreaking havoc on American waters for decades. The agreement requires EPA to issue a new permit regulating ballast water discharges from commercial vessels in settlement of lawsuits brought by a dozen conservation groups challenging the legality of EPA’s existing permit.Ballast water is the number one source for a rogue’s gallery of aquatic nuisances such as the so-called “fish Ebola,” the spiny water flea, and zebra and quagga mussels. These and other invasive species now sap the American economy of billions of dollars annually. After a long battle over how living pollution should be dealt with under the Clean Water Act, the settlement requires EPA to complete scientific reviews of the steps that ships should take to protect human health and the economy of communities on American coasts and in the Great Lakes.
Under the settlement, EPA has agreed to publish a draft of a new Vessel General Permit by November 2011 and to issue a new permit by November 2012 that would not go into effect until the current permit expires in December 2013. By allowing over two years from the time the permit is proposed to the time the new standards would go into effect, ship owners will have more time to comply with treatment requirements than they would otherwise receive. The settlement also requires EPA to encourage states to develop regionally consistent approaches to setting ballast water standards.