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NEWS: Canada and US considering new ballast regulations for the Great Lakes

The Sarnia Observer reports, “Canadian and U.S. governments consider new rules for ballast water and air emissions.” The pro-shipping industry article continues, “Federal governments on both sides of the border are considering new ballast water regulations but Canadian shipping companies worry they could be required by Ottawa to install treatment systems in an effort to keep invasive species out of the lakes. …The Canadian government has released a discussion paper on potential ballast water regulations ‘that is saying some things we definitely don’t like and don’t agree with,’ Greg Wight, president and CEO of Algoma Central, said. …Washington’s proposal is, ‘let’s study it more and let’s not regulate them right now,’ he said. …Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce president Rory Ring said the Chamber is working through its provincial and national organizations to lobby for ‘a harmonization of policy’ on bi-national issues like ballast water rules, ‘so, that we’re not put at an unfair disadvantage’.”

It wouldn’t seem that the industry has that much to worry about. In late-February 2012, the Harper government welcomed New York State’s decision not to proceed with tough new ballast water rules that had been aimed at preventing foreign species from invading the Great Lakes. At that time, parliamentary secretary for transport Pierre Poilievre said, “Canada applauds New York state for withdrawing its unattainable ballast water requirements and agrees that uniform standards are the best way to protect the marine environment. We welcome this action as enforcement of the rules on transiting ships would have stopped commercial shipping on the seaway.”

Earlier that month, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow wrote in the Globe and Mail, “Since the seaway was opened in 1959, over 185 invasive species have entered the lake in ballast from ocean-going vessels, many doing great damage to both native species and commercial activity. Canada has taken a weak position on fighting invasive species, putting commercial interests above the safety and integrity of the Great Lakes.” The Toronto Star reported in 2007 that, “a group of more than 90 U.S. environmental organizations want ocean-going tankers banned from entering the Great Lakes.” A Globe and Mail article on the 50th anniversary of the seaway notes, “the seaway has wreaked so much havoc on the world’s greatest supply of fresh water that some critics now propose that it be abandoned as a route for saltwater ships…”

It is also notable that the Sarnia Observer article mentions new rules for air emissions. Again, there is likely little for business to be concerned about here from the Harper government. In October 2009, the Globe and Mail reported, “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed tough new measures to reduce the health toll from air pollution around the Great Lakes by forcing lake freighters to stop burning dirty bunker fuel (a thick, gooey asphalt-like material laced with impurities such as sulphur) by 2015. …(But) the Canadian embassy in Washington has quietly asked the EPA to weaken the measures, arguing that they could harm trade. It wants ships to be allowed to continue using the high-polluting fuel and to instead install smokestack scrubbers that would clean up their emissions. …The Canadian recommendation, if accepted, could delay the clean-air measure for years, because the technology for the scrubbers does not yet exist.”

The Sarnia Observer article that seems to focus on business concerns that the federal governments may be considering ballast systems for ships that only travel the Great Lakes (and are not ocean-going), can be read at http://www.theobserver.ca/2013/02/08/ottawa-urged-to-follow-us-approach. For more on the Council of Canadians campaign to protect the Great Lakes, please see http://canadians.org/greatlakes. A previous campaign blog on ballast can be read at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13756. The blog from 2009 on bunker fuel is at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=1836.