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Author: Jennifer Forman Orth

Invading your brain since 2002.


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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

 
Invader Activists

How often do you get an email from an environmentally-minded group telling you *not* to support a bill that sounds like it's going to protect the environment? That's what arrived in my Inbox this morning from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Seems some senators are trying to push the Ballast Water Management Act of 2005 (S 363) through to a quick approval. Funny, it doesn't seem like that long ago I was posting about NAISA, a much more comprehensive Act. The UCS thinks NAISA is in serious jeopardy if legislation specific to ballast is passed. Me, I think we need to stop dividing up invasive species management into compartments (aquatic vs. terrestrial, freshwater vs. marine, plants vs. animals) and realize that if everyone works together, we can avoid a lot of duplication of effort and maybe even learn things from each other.

Since I can't seem to find any trace of this issue on the UCS website, I am taking the liberty of pasting the whole email here. If one of your senators is on the Commerce committee and you feel strongly about this, I urge you to call before this Thursday to let your opinion be heard.

SSI alert: Urgent. Stop a bad ballast water bill

**************** EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ****************

ISSUE On Thursday, July 21, the Senate Commerce Committee - on which one of your Senators sits - is scheduled to vote on a bill to address invasive species in the ballast water of ships. Unfortunately, this bill is weaker and far narrower than the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act (NAISA) - which UCS supports. If passed, the bill would reduce NAISA's prospects sharply and delay enactment of stronger policy for years.

THE ACTION Call your Senator.

MAIN MESSAGES: Please do not pass Senate Bill 363 as it stands now. Instead, support S. 770, a means to provide stronger federal leadership in preventing further devastation by aquatic invasive species.

DEADLINE: ASAP. The Committee meets on Thursday morning.

************************************

*** THE ISSUE ***

The U.S. Congress is currently debating bills related to the introduction of aquatic invasive species. The most comprehensive of these bills, the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act (NAISA), was re-introduced into the current Congress (109th) by a bi-partisan group of members. If passed, NAISA would reauthorize and strengthen the National Invasive Species Act of 1996. It contains provisions to: regulate ballast discharge from commercial vessels; prevent invasive species introductions from other pathways; support state management plans; screen live aquatic organisms entering the United States for the first time commercially; authorize rapid response funds; create education and outreach programs; conduct research on invasion pathways, and prevention and control technologies; authorize funds for state and regional grants; and strengthen specific prevention efforts in the Great Lakes.

In contrast to the more comprehensive NAISA, Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), with strong support from Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) introduced a limited bill, the Ballast Management Act of 2005 (S 363). This bill addresses only invasive species in the ballast water of ships and so it does not provide the much-needed comprehensive solution to the national problem of invasive species moved by ships nor those introduced by other means. Even worse, its plan for managing ballast water would preempt stronger state laws, stretch out implementation to more than a decade, and usurp existing protections in the Clean Water Act. Unfortunately, Senator Inouye's industry-supported bill has gained momentum in the U.S. Senate

On Thursday, the Senate Commerce Committee is expected to ready the bill for a vote, or "mark-up" the bill. This mark-up is an opportunity for members of the committee, including one of your Senators, to not pass the Ballast Management Act (S. 363) and ask for comprehensive action on aquatic invaders by supporting NAISA (S. 770).

*** THE ACTION ***

Call your Senator (phone number below) to express your opposition to S. 363, the Ballast Management Act of 2005 and urge him or her to not support the bill when the Commerce Committee considers it later this week.

-- TIMING:

ASAP. The Committee meets on Thursday morning.

-- MAIN MESSAGE:

The Ballast Management Act of 2005 addresses only invasive species in the ballast water of ships. For example, it does not cover potentially invasive aquatic organisms that foul ships' hulls, nor does it address those that are intentionally introduced via aquaculture, the aquarium trade and other means not related to ships. Thus it does not provide the much-needed comprehensive solution to the national problem of aquatic invasive species. Even worse, its plan for managing ballast water would preempt stronger state laws, stretch out implementation of new standards to more than a decade, and usurp existing protections in the Clean Water Act. A more effective solution exists in Senate Bill 770, the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act (NAISA).

Please do not pass S.363 as it stands now. Instead, support S. 770, a means to provide stronger federal leadership in preventing further devastation from aquatic invasive species. Congressional staff can learn more about the bills from leading experts from around the country at two briefings.

-- LET US KNOW: Please send us an email message that tells us what action you took. Send to: ssi@ucsusa.org

*** SUPPORTING MESSAGES ***

Since 1990, the United States has searched for effective means to protect marine and other aquatic resources from invasive species, especially those carried in the ballast water of ships. In both federal legislation and regulation, the trend has been toward more stringent and comprehensive national approaches, based on growing scientific understanding. Where states and regions have judged federal law and enforcement inadequate, they have put stronger programs in place. When federal agencies limited the application of the Clean Water Act to ships' ballast water, citizens' groups have sued - and won.

In contrast, the legislation in S.363 represents a step backward.

Specifically, S.363 would:

  • Preempt stronger state laws that require ballast water treatment for over a decade while the bill's standards are implemented;
  • Supercede the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) authority under the Clean Water Act, creating a dangerous loophole for at least invasive species and potentially other pollutants discharged in ballast water;
  • Delay implementation of ballast water management for an unacceptably long time, relying for over a decade on outdated ballast water exchange - which research has shown to be ineffective;
  • Lock-in current Coast Guard regulatory exemptions for the 90% of ships that enter the Great Lakes under a loophole by being classified as having "No Ballast On Board," just when the Coast Guard has committed to tightening regulations for these ships;
  • Force a treatment standard for ballast water this is weaker than that which EPA and the Coast Guard decided was needed and, thus, recommended while negotiating the International Maritime Organization's Ballast Water Convention in 2004;
  • Exempt additional types of shipping traffic and voyages that contribute to the spread of invasive species.

A more effective solution exists in S.770, the National Invasive Species Act (NAISA). This bill has had input from scientists and the environmental community since 2002 and it was clarified further before re-introduction in early 2005. It contains provisions for research; the nation's first mandatory screening program for certain intentional introductions, and help for states. UCS considers NAISA's passage critical for further progress on national invasive species policy.

Congressional staff can learn more about these issues at two briefings next week. State officials, regional experts, and leading scientists from across the United States will speak and answer questions in the U.S. Capitol building. Briefings are scheduled for:

Tuesday, July 26, 3:00-4:30 pm, SC-6
Thursday, July 28, 1:00-2:30 pm, HC-8

*** SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION ***

Shipping is considered the most important vector of aquatic invasive species and the discharge of ships' ballast water is the major means of introducing such species to the Great Lakes, the Columbia River Basin, San Francisco Bay, and other aquatic ecosystems throughout the United States.

It is widely accepted that this process is exacting increasing and substantial costs on the economy, environment, and human health. Aquatic invasive species affect industries, like water and power utilities, commercial and recreational fishing and agriculture. For example, maintaining pipes clogged by just one invader - the zebra mussel - costs the power industry up to $60 million per year. Invaders transported by ballast water affect inland waters as well as coastal ones - as midwestern states affected by zebra mussels in their rivers can attest. Also, ballast water often contains human pathogens, creating threats to those in contact with it.

PLEASE CALL OR EMAIL THE FOLLOWING SENATE OFFICES TO URGE SENATORS TO OPPOSE S. 363. Feel free to pass along this message to others in your state.

*** SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEE MEMBERS ***

  • AR: Mark Pryor, 202.224.2353
  • AZ: John McCain, 202.224.2235
  • CA: Barbara Boxer, 202.224.3553
  • FL: Bill Nelson, 202.224.6551
  • MA: John Kerry, 202.224.2742
  • ME: Olympia Snowe, 202.224.5344
  • ND: Byron Dorgan, 202.224.2551
  • NE: Ben Nelson, 202.224.6551
  • NH: John E. Sununu, 202.224.2841
  • NJ: * Frank Lautenberg, 202.224.3224
  • NV: John Ensign, 202.224.6244
  • OR: Gordon Smith, 202.224.3753
  • VA: George Allen, 202.224.4024
  • WV: John D. Rockefeller, 202.224.6472

    * Current sponsor of S. 363

UCS overview of NAISA

Library of Congress web site (to read the bills search on S363 and S 770)

National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species (NECIS)

*****************************************

NOTE: Please send us an email message that tells us what action you took. Send to: ssi@ucsusa.org or UCS, 2 Brattle Square, Cambridge, MA 02238-9105 (attn. Jason Mathers).

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