This morning, I reported that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation is blasting Federal officials for proposing new ballast water treatment rules that DEC commissioner Joe Martens describes as neither adequate nor effective.
I also reported that DEC is also moving to implement its own standards, which are roughly 100 times more stringent.
Turns out I only had the story half right.
It’s true that Martens sent the letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson offering a laundry list of complaints about the proposed new rules and calling for them to be toughtened.
But in a separate press release issued Wednesday, which I hadn’t seen, the commissioner also announced that he’s shelving New York state’s tough rules, which were scheduled to go into effect next year.
“A technically feasible national standard which recognizes the critical economic role played by our waterways is the only viable way to address the spread of destructive aquatic invaders through ballast water,” Martens said.
Martens suggests that New York state plans to negotiate to try to toughen Federal rules, bringing them closer to the guidelines originally proposed by the DEC.
But in unilaterally shelving the proposed DEC rules, state officials in Albany have already effectively given up their biggest bargaining chip.
“New York remains concerned about the introduction and spread of invasive species in the state’s waterways and we hope that a strong national solution can be achieved,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said.
“At the same time, shipping and maritime activity is critical to New York state and international commerce. A technically feasible national standard which recognizes the critical economic role played by our waterways is the only viable way to address the spread of destructive aquatic invaders through ballast water.”
New York’s decision to shelve its ballast regs drew quick raves from opponents of the ballast water rules. Industry groups and the Canadian government both praised the decision.
“New York’s decision effectively eliminates the unworkable ballast water rules put in place during the Paterson Administration. We applaud Governor Cuomo for protecting jobs and supporting the thousands of Americans who make their living in the maritime industry,” said Steve Fisher, Executive Director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association, in a statemente.
“Canada applauds New York State for withdrawing its unattainable ballast water requirements and agrees that uniform standards are the best way to protect the marine environment,” said Parliamentary Secretary Poilievre, who handles transportation issues for Canada.
“We welcome this action as enforcement of the rules on transiting ships would have stopped commercial shipping on the Seaway. This could have affected almost $11 billion in business revenue and up to 72,000 jobs in Canada and the United States.”
Meanwhile, the DEC’s decision is a setback for environmental groups, who had hoped that New York state’s tough rules would serve as leverage to elevate national standards. This from Reuters:
“The EPA’s new proposed permit isn’t tough enough to prevent the next harmful invader from slipping into our waters,” said Thom Cmar of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Several technologies exist to treat ballast water, which Cmar said are similar to municipal wastewater treatment that cleans water with chemicals, ultraviolet light, or filtration systems. He said it would cost less than $1 million to outfit a typical cargo vessel.
More on this story Monday during The Eight O’clock Hour.