Mich. A.G. Fights to Protect Great Lakes

September 26, 2006

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox recently announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been ordered by the United States District Court, Northern District of California, to regulate ballast water discharges within two years.

Cox, along with five other Attorneys General from the Great Lakes region, has vigorously sought to protect Great Lakes waters from the introduction of further invasive species through ballast water discharges.

“The Great Lakes are Michigan’s greatest treasure, and aquatic nuisance species cause significant harm to this delicate ecosystem,” Cox said. “I joined this fight with the goal of helping to preserve this environmental and economic resource for future generations.”

At the urging of Cox and other attorneys general, the Court ruled in March 2005 that the EPA’s refusal to regulate ballast water discharges under the Clean Water Act was inconsistent with the law. Since July of last year, the Court has been considering arguments over appropriate remedies to impose against the EPA. The Court rejected the EPA’s request to simply defer to the agency’s internal rulemaking process, without the imposition of any deadline. Instead the order requires that the EPA regulate ballast water discharges, and that it do so by September 2008.

“I am pleased that the Court has made it clear that the Environmental Protection Agency is indeed obligated to regulate ballast water discharges, and that a deadline has been set for such action to occur,” Cox reacted. “The state of Michigan will ensure that this deadline is met, and would urge the EPA to implement regulation of ballast water discharges as soon as possible.”

Ballast water is discharged when large oceangoing vessels load cargo in the Great Lakes. This water may contain aquatic nuisance species, which can wreak havoc on the ecosystem and reproduce rapidly in the absence of natural predators and diseases in their new environment. Aquatic nuisance species such as the zebra mussel and sea lamprey not only threaten the Great Lakes ecosystem but also pose a significant economic threat to commercial industries that rely on the Great Lakes.

In addition to the lawsuit, Cox successfully advocated for the passage of legislation, requiring the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to regulate ballast water discharges for vessels operating in Michigan ports beginning in 2007. Cox has also opposed federal legislative efforts to weaken existing laws that protect the Great Lakes.

Source: Michigan Office of the Attorney General

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