LANSING – Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that Michigan has joined New York before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in filing an amicus brief this week to defend state regulations intended to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species transported in the ballast water of oceangoing vessels.
“We must aggressively defend the Great Lakes against invasive species to protect our treasured waters and Michigan jobs,” said Schuette. “From Asian carp in Chicago to zebra mussels in ballast water, these invasive species pose an imminent threat to our ecology and economy. They must be stopped.”
Schuette’s brief was filed in the case, Lake Carriers’ Association, et al. v Environmental Protection Agency, et al. The case involves three shipping industry associations, Lake Carriers Association, the Canadian Shipowners Association and the American Waterways Operators, challenging the Vessel General Permit (VGP) issued by the EPA in December 2008, which regulates ballast water discharges from vessels into U.S. waters under the Clean Water Act. The permit went into effect after Michigan and other Great Lakes states sued the EPA, demanding rigorous standards requiring treatment of ballast water discharges to protect the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes states prevailed in Fednav v Chester, resulting in the EPA instituting new ballast water regulations in 2008.
The new Vessel General Permit authorized Michigan and other Great Lakes states to include supplemental requirements that further prevent the introduction of invasives into the Great Lakes. The trade associations are challenging the states’ right to require specific ballast water treatment methods above and beyond the federally-mandated salt-water flushing at least 200 miles from shore. Michigan and other Great Lakes states contend salt-water flushing is ineffective and did little to prevent the spread of invasive species like zebra mussels and sea lampreys to Great Lakes waterways. Schuette noted Michigan law requires oceangoing vessels to treat ballast water in order to kill invasive species before being dumped in state waters.
The biological pollution of invasive species is self-replicating, Schuette added, so the problem worsens over time, eventually pushing native species to extinction and damaging commercial and recreational fisheries. Contaminated vessel ballast water is the principal way aquatic invasives are introduced to the Great Lakes, which now contain more than 180 non-native species that have radically altered the native ecosystem. Invasive species threaten Great Lakes fisheries, which are estimated to be worth $7 billion.
The case is scheduled for oral argument on May 9, 2011 before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
The brief filed today in is the second major effort undertaken by Schuette’s office this year to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species. Just a week after taking office, Schuette renewed efforts to protect Michigan’s environment and economy by continuing Michigan’s lawsuit aimed at stopping the invasion of Asian carp into the Great Lakes. He met with leaders of Michigan’s environmental and sportsmen’s communities to form a united front in the fight to stop Asian carp from corrupting our waters.