Senators Portman, Stabenow Initiative to Protect Great Lakes Included in Senate-Passed Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill

November 14, 2018 | Press Releases

Portman, Stabenow Effort Creates New Approach for Regulating Ballast Water Discharge for Vessels                          

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), co-chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, today applauded passage of the Frank Lobiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act (S. 140), which includes language they negotiated to establish a rulemaking framework for ballast water discharge regulations to ensure the Great Lakes are protected against the spread of invasive species while creating regulatory certainty for the competitive shipping industry across the region.  Portman and Stabenow negotiated the language with Senator John Thune (R-SD), the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. 

“This bill will both protect the Great Lakes against the spread of invasive species and ensure that our shipping industry in Ohio and across the Great Lakes is competitive,” said Portman. “I want to thank Senator Stabenow for working with me to find a balanced legislative solution to ensure the regulations regarding vessel discharges will protect the ecosystem in the Great Lakes.” 

“I want to thank Senators Thune and Carper for working with me, Senator Portman, and members of the Senate Great Lakes delegation to develop a bipartisan compromise on legislation that will help protect the Great Lakes from invasive species. This is yet another example of what we can accomplish when we work across the aisle to protect our Great Lakes,” said Senator Stabenow.

NOTE: The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) establishes a framework for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Coast Guard to establish national ballast water and incidental discharge rules. Currently, discharges are regulated through different state permits under Section 402 of the Clean Water Act, creating a patchwork of state permit requirements in 26 states. Under the bill, the EPA will have the lead role in establishing national standards for discharges, while the Coast Guard will have the primary role for monitoring and enforcing these standards and ensuring vessel safety. These regulations will help prevent pollution and ensure that ballast water does not transport invasive species from one body of water to another along a vessel’s shipping route, while providing greater regulatory certainty for the shipping industry across the Great Lakes region. The bill also provides states with robust opportunities to participate in the standard setting process and to ensure compliance when the regulations are implemented.   

The bill also contains policies that Senators Portman and Stabenow and other Senators in the region secured specifically for the Great Lakes basin. This includes:

  • Allowing Great Lakes states to cooperatively establish unique and more stringent ballast water standards or best management practice (BMP) for vessels traveling in the Great Lakes.
  • Authorizing $50 million annually for a new Great Lakes monitoring program within the EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office.  This program will enable funding to be provided to monitor for and respond to outbreaks of aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes and to help develop new ballast control technologies for vessels in the Great Lakes.   
  • Authorizing $5 million per year for the Great Lakes Commission to be a convener on ballast water discharge regulations, of which all Great Lakes States and Canada are represented.