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Feb 2, 2009

AWO moves to block three states' VGP regs

AWO, the national trade association for the U.S. tugboat, towboat and barge industry, is going to court to challenge state regulations that could bring commercial waterways operations to a halt.

On January 30, the AWO Board of Directors voted 41-2, with seven members not voting, to authorize AWO to take legal action to prevent implementation of unreasonable and unworkable requirements added by the states of Illinois and California to EPA's Vessel General Permit (VGP) for Discharges Incidental to Normal Vessel Operations. The Board also authorized AWO to take legal action against other states to bar implementation of problematic VGP conditions if necessary, subject to the future approval of the Executive Committee.

This morning, the Executive Committee voted to authorize AWO to proceed with litigation against the state of New Jersey since that state has thus far not removed a graywater discharge prohibition that would bring most tug and barge traffic in New Jersey waters to a halt on February 6.

Based on these Board and Executive Committee votes, AWO will file today a complaint in Illinois state court arguing that Illinois' prohibition on the discharge of graywater is unlawful and requesting an injunction so that vessels can continue to operate in Illinois waters after February 6, the date the VGP comes into effect.

AWO will also file today a complaint against the state of New Jersey. Tomorrow, AWO will file a motion in federal court seeking an emergency stay of the Illinois and New Jersey requirements, which are now part of the federally-issued VGP.

While AWO received word today that Illinois and New Jersey may take action shortly to remove their prohibitions on the discharge of graywater, it plans to move forward with legal action to protect AWO members and avoid an unacceptable cessation of vessel traffic in the event that the prohibitions are not removed by February 6.

AWO is also working with counsel to prepare for legal action this week against the state of California. On Friday, the state Water Resources Board refused to remove the state's extremely complicated and burdensome sampling and testing requirements, with which AWO members cannot comply. AWO expects that it will be necessary to file a lawsuit seeking relief from these provisions within the next several days.

The cost of these legal actions will be shared by all AWO carrier members.


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