April 11, 2005

Discharge permits needed for ballast water?

Environmentalists say that a ruling by a federal court in San Francisco means that "ships arriving in all United States ports will need to obtain discharge permits before dumping their ballast water or be in violation of the law."

The ruling--you can read it

here

-- was made by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in response to a suit brought by the Ocean Conservancy, Northwest Environmental Advocates, and Waterkeepers Northern California.

The groups first petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate ships' ballast water discharges over six years ago.

The San Francisco court has now ruled that EPA lacks authority to exempt ballast water discharges from the requirements of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. The FWPCA, with limited exemptions, prohibits discharges of any pollutant from a point source (such as a ship) into navigable waters of the United States, except in accordance with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).

"This ruling reverses a dangerous exemption from the Clean Water Act for ballast water discharge and is a solid step forward in responsible, ecosystem-based management," said Roger Rufe, retired U.S. Coast Guard vice admiral and president of The Ocean Conservancy. "Our nation's fisheries and coastal communities will benefit from this important decision."

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