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New York State has recently backed away from its plan to unilaterally impose stringent ballast water standards for ships transiting New York waters. These rules would have required ships to treat their ballast water to a degree 100 times greater than current International Maritime Organization (IMO) standards. Furthermore, any vessels built after January 1, 2012 would have needed the ability to treat their ballast water to a level 1,000 times greater than IMO standards.
New York State backs down from unfeasible regulations
On February 21, 2012 Commissioner Joe Martens of the New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that New York would not unilaterally adopt new ballast water standards. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and others have argued that not only were these standards unfeasible but a patchwork system of regulations would cause significant economic harm. The adoption of a harmonized set of national standards for ballast water is critical to the economic health of the Great Lakes region. These standards must be based on science and be both technologically and economically feasible.
What does this mean?
The technology required to meet the standards originally proposed by New York State does not currently exist. If New York had proceeded with these regulations, shipping on the Great Lakes would have effectively been shut down. It has been estimated that Canada would have lost approximately $11 billion worth of economic activity while up to 72,000 jobs on both sides of the border would have been lost.
Commissioner Martens’ announcement is an important acknowledgment of the need for uniform standards and effectively removes the unworkable ballast water regulations first suggested by New York State.
The current standards on the Great Lakes are among the most stringent in the world with no new invasive species having been found since 2006.