Groups to Sue Shipping Companies To Stop Invasive Species 2

‘The threat is urgent, the solution is clear, and the law is straight-forward.’ Ann Arbor, MI (June 21)—Conservation groups led by the National Wildlife Federation today announced their intent to file a citizen suit against several shipping companies that operate in the Great Lakes, demanding compliance with the Clean Water Act. The lawsuit aims to shut the door on aquatic invasive species. “We’re initiating legal action today because invasive species are killing the Great Lakes,” said Andy Buchsbaum, center director for NWF’s Great Lakes office. “The threat is urgent, the solution is clear, and the law is straight-forward. We’re heading to court to force ocean-going ships to comply with U.S. law to stop invasive species introductions, because every day we wait the problem gets worse and the solutions more costly. Enough is enough.” The Clean Water Act prohibits vessels from discharging pollutants, including biological materials, into U.S. waters without a permit. The legal action charges that the shipping companies named have discharged ballast water containing non-native species into the Great Lakes, which threatens those waters since such species have the potential to spread rapidly to other areas and increase vastly in number. “These ships are discharging untreated ballast water into the Great Lakes in violation of the Clean Water Act,” said Buchsbaum. “The law is straightforward: discharges are prohibited unless you have a permit. To come into compliance, these ships either need to stop discharging ballast water or install treatment and obtain a discharge permit from the EPA or the state in which the discharges occur.” There currently are at least four effective, commercially-available treatments available for ballast water, as identified by the state of Michigan. One of the chlorine-based treatments is similar to how municipal water supply facilities sterilize drinking water. “We have well-known solutions to fight invasive species, protect our fish and wildlife, and ensure that people have abundant fishing opportunities now and for generations to come,” said Joel Brammeier, associate director for policy for the Alliance for the Great Lakes, which is a party to the litigation. “There is absolutely no reason why ships cannot treat ballast water.” NWF and its conservation partners have long advocated for comprehensive federal legislation to stop the introduction of invasive species. However, legislation sits dormant in Congress and has failed to pass for four years. “We have our champions in Congress, but the opposition has stopped protective laws from being passed. Waiting even six months will allow more aquatic invaders to enter our waters, so we are pursuing every measure possible,” Buchsbaum said. “After the 60 day waiting period expires, we expect to file complaints in federal court against the most egregious of these illegal dischargers.” Although the Clean Water Act itself prohibits ballast water discharges without a permit, for years the shipping industry took advantage of an EPA exemption to the law. But in 1999, conservation groups petitioned the EPA to withdraw the exemption because it violated the Clean Water Act, and in 2005 a federal court agreed. “The shipping industry has been on notice since 1999 that it would need Clean Water Act discharge permits, but instead of obtaining those it fought to retain its illegal loophole,” Buchsbaum said. “The shippers’ free pass has cost the nation billions. We can’t afford to wait any longer for this industry to clean up its act. It’s time for these ships to comply with the law.” Aquatic and terrestrial invasive species cost the nation more than $120 billion annually in damage and control costs. These costs are likely to rise. Scientists believe that the Great Lakes and other freshwater systems are increasingly vulnerable to invasive species because of global warming. The lawsuit names Fednav Limited, Lake Superior Inc., Lake Huron Inc., Anglo-Eastern Ship Management Ltd., Isadora Shipping Ltd., Isolda Shipping Ltd., Ziemia Two Ltd., Ziemia Three Ltd., Polsteam, Pot Scheepvaart B.V., Victoriaborg B.V., C.V. Scheepvaatondernerning Virginiaborg, and Wagenborg Shipping B.V. Partners with the National Wildlife Federation and Alliance for the Great Lakes include: Indiana Wildlife Federation, League of Ohio Sportsmen, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Minnesota Conservation Federation, Prairie Rivers Network and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.