There could be a new attack on the Clean Water Act as early as next week. Senate Republicans may try to bring the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017 (S. 1129) to the floor, with provisions that would weaken Clean Water Act protections and leave our waters more vulnerable to the threat of harmful aquatic invasive species. This bill currently contains the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), which strips the Environmental Protection Agency of its Clean Water Act authority to protect against ballast water pollution from ships. In doing so, it would transfer authority to the Coast Guard and preclude states from taking action as well as prevent citizens from challenging weak protections in court. This is a direct attack on the Clean Water Act, and if passed into law it would limit the Clean Water Act’s ability to protect aquatic ecosystems from invasive species.
We need you and your organization’s help TODAY to ensure that Senate Democrats oppose the Motion to Proceed to the bill and allow negotiators more time to protect the Clean Water Act. Read on for a description of the issue and details on how to engage.
Ships use ballast water to provide stability and balance while in transit and invasive species can hitch a ride to new locations as ships discharge ballast into new waters. Currently, the EPA and Coast Guard have integrated national standards that states may choose to make moreprotective under the Clean Water Act. The VIDA provision strips the Clean Water Act’s oversight authority over ballast water discharges from the EPA and prohibits states from enacting and enforcing their own ballast water rules. The EPA is the federal agency best equipped to set science-based water quality standards and stripping EPA of its legal authority to enforce protective standards is not only inconsistent with the Clean Water Act but also a step backward in the fight to safeguard our waters for drinking, fishing, and swimming.
This bill would expose our communities and water resources to future economic and ecological threats by weakening state and federal Clean Water Act protections that defend against harmful aquatic invasive species. Aquatic invasive species currently cost the United States billions of dollars per year in damages and control costs – and these costs are being borne by the communities, businesses, utilities, recreational boaters, and municipalities impacted by the damage. If this attack on the Clean Water Act succeeds, it will essentially leave the door open to future invasions. Once invaders establish themselves, it is impossible to eradicate them. Species will only spread. Zebra mussels are a case in point, establishing themselves in the Great Lakes and expanding across the country, all the way to California and Nevada.
The Clean Water Act is our nation’s strongest policy to prevent harmful aquatic invasive species from entering our waters. Indeed it is only because of the Clean Water Act that conservation groups were able to force the U.S. government (through litigation) to act on this serious threat. Let’s keep it that way.
Ways to Take Action This Week: