Monday, July 18, 2011

Great Lakes' environment gets knocked around again

I'm not so sure this is a good idea.

In fact, I think what my U.S. representative has done legislatively is a bad idea; and I almost always agree with Steve laTourette.

However, his latest activity in the House has me concerned, and as expressed in an emailed press release.

The release starts out like this:

"U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-OH) today announced that an amendment he offered to help Great Lakes shippers was approved and is now in the House spending bill that funds the EPA and Great Lakes programs.

The LaTourette amendment prohibits states from receiving EPA funding if they have adopted ballast water requirements that are more stringent than federal requirements. The amendment was adopted by voice vote, meaning no recorded vote was necessary. Ships take in or discharge ballast water as they load or unload cargo to maintain the ship's stability.

LaTourette said a hodgepodge of state ballast water standards would cripple Great Lakes waterborne commerce, and was very pleased that his amendment was successful.

LaTourette added a provision to the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill prohibiting the EPA from sending any federal funds to states that enact ballast water management regulations that exceed existing International Maritime Organization (IMO) guidelines and soon-to-be-announced U.S. Coast Guard standards. The full House could vote on the measure as early as next week.

The state of New York set up its own ballast water regulations for existing ships that are 100 times more stringent than current standards, and new ships will face standards 1,000 times more strict, LaTourette said. The New York standard has been delayed until 2013 because there is no technology currently available to comply with the standards."

Well, yeah, New York and Michigan have set their own standards because the federal government - at the coaxing and coaching of the maritime shipping industry - has pulled everything out but the eye teeth to weaken proposals to safeguard against the appearance of any more invasive species.

You know, tiny critters like the spiny water flea, the round goby and the zebra mussel. To name but three creatures that have not exactly been friendly to the Great Lakes but all of which have (likely) hitched a ride on an ocean-going vessel.

Just as the threat from Asian carp lies with Illinois refusal to do much to prevent their very possible likely entry into the Great Lakes, the threat imposed by liberal and lax ballast water rules also threatens the resource.

Alas, no where in LaTourette's 14 paragraph long release does it even bother to touch on the importance of the Great Lakes' ecosystem and environment as well as economic vitality beyond transporting more televisions from China and cars from Korea; only what may or may not cause problems to the shipping industry.

And that is just plain very, very wrong.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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