Court Upholds Michigan Ballast Water Law
U.S. District Court Judge John Feikens has granted Michigan’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the state’s ballast water law that is designed to stop exotic invasive species from reaching the Great Lakes.
A coalition of nine U.S. and Canadian shipping companies and associations had sued to block the law in U.S. District Court in Detroit, claiming it is unworkable and unconstitutional.
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Steven Chester praised the decision. “Judge Feikens’ ruling is a victory for the Great Lakes,” said Chester. “Invasive species have already caused horrendous damage to Michigan’s ecology, as well as our economy, and we must make every effort to stop these invaders before more reach our waters.”
“The state is facing a serious threat to its environment (from invasive species), has determined the likely avenues by which those species are being introduced, and has taken measures to stop this introduction,” Judge Feikens wrote.
The 2005 law, which took effect this year, is aimed at controlling the spread of exotic invasive species such as the zebra mussel, which has spread rapidly throughout the Great Lakes region and in the large navigable rivers of the eastern Mississippi drainage since they were introduced in the 1980s.
Zebra mussels are native to freshwater rivers and lakes in Eastern Europe and western Asia and are believed to have come to the United States in ballast water taken on and dumped by cargo ships as they stabilize their loads.
Michigan’s law requires all ocean-going vessels to seek a permit from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) that either certifies they will not discharge ballast water while in Michigan’s ports or they have technology onboard that will treat the ballast water before it is released to prevent the introduction of invasive species to Michigan waters.
Judge Feikens’ ruling came on the same day as lawmakers in Ohio introduced legislation that would follow Michigan’s lead in requiring that shippers treat any ballast water before it is discharged in Ohio’s Lake Erie ports. The bill would require the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to develop a permitting and ship inspection system.
The shipping companies claim they are developing the required technology but they need more time. Environmental groups say the problem is too urgent to accommodate delay.