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July 25, 2005

Senate to consider ballast water measure

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has voted unanimously to approve the "Ballast Water Management Act of 2005" (S. 363), introduced by Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and co-sponsored by Senators Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Paul Sarbanes (D-Maryland), and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii).

The bill now moves to the full Senate for its consideration.

The legislation would amend the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990 to establish a new, national approach to addressing invasive species in ballast water.

Under an approved by the committee, the Coast Guard is authorized to direct $20 million annually, in fiscal years 2006 through 2010, toward invasive species mitigation. An additional $5 million per year is provided for the Federal Ballast Water Demonstration Project, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The bill includes the following key provisions:

Ballast Water Exchange: S. 363 requires the exchange of ballast water containing invasive species with ocean water to reduce the number of such species. Certain exemptions, such as for safety of crew, passengers and vessels, are included. Vessels are also allowed to use ballast water treatment that is at least as effective as exchange, until more rigorous treatment standards come into force.

Ballast Water Treatment: S. 363 includes environmentally protective performance standards for ballast water treatment to be phased-in over time for all classes of vessels that use ballast water. Prior to the standards coming into effect, the Coast Guard is to conduct a feasibility review to evaluate whether they can be met, and can either accelerate or delay implementation based on such review. If feasibile technology exists that can perform better than the standards in the bill, the Coast Guard will adjust the standards accordingly.

Technology: For vessels participating in a pilot program approved by the Coast Guard, S. 363 allows them to conduct ship-board testing of ballast water treatment technologies likely to achieve or exceed the performance standards, and to use such technology for 10 years.

Preemption, Relation to other Federal Laws: S. 363 would preempt state and local laws with respect to ballast water exchange and ballast water treatment requirements, to the extent that such laws were inconsistent with those requirements. Under this provision, state or local measures, such as greater penalties or fees for violations, would be permitted.

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