US Court Rejects Challenge to the EPA Ballast Permit

Published Jul 25, 2011 6:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

A US federal court has rejected a challenge by the shipping industry to the Environmental Protection Agency’s VGP (Vessel General Permit), which is designed to halt the inhabitation and breeding of invasive species in US waters by enacting a uniform regulatory regime for vessel discharge.

The permit released by the EPA regulates the ballast discharge and other substances ejected from vessels into US water, especially the Great Lakes region.  In recent years, many species have invaded the Great Lakes that originated from other countries in ballast water dumping incidents, including zebra and quagga mussels. 

The EPA-issued permit outlined rules and regulations for ship discharge and allowed for more than 100 state- and water body-specific conditions required by individual states to add provisions to protect their own water.

Shipping groups like AWO, the Lake Carriers’ Association and the Canadian Shipowners Association had requested to the US Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. to deny state requirements additions, as they believed the EPA had violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

On Friday the federal court refused the request in that the petitioners failed to establish that the EPA can alter or reject state certification additions.

The AWO is urging Congress to move rapidly to eliminate the confusing and contradictory regulatory regime for vessel discharges and are in the economic and environmental interests of the industry. 

The federal court had suggested that Congress amend the Clean Water Act in order to provide the maritime industry with a permanent solution to this problem.