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UPDATE: Council of Canadians supports New York state rules on ballast

The Montreal Gazette reports this hour, “The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (has) passed legislation that requires all seagoing vessels that transit through the U.S. portion of the Seaway to install ballast water treatment systems onboard that sterilize that water by 100 times the international norms by midnight on August 1, 2013 – and 1,000 times one year later. …Over the years, the water taken on as ballast has introduced invasive species that have disturbed the Great Lakes ecosystem…”

“(A) dispute (over this legislation) pits New York state against the marine industry, its own federal government, Transport Canada, the Quebec government, the US Coast Guard and the US Environmental Protection Agency…”

1. NY state government: “Emily DeSantis, a spokesperson for New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation…said in several emails that California and Europe have developed systems that achieve 10 times the international standards – and that some were promising to reach 1,000 times, or zero discharge. She added that California and Michigan have both adopted more severe measures than New York.”

2. Shipping industry: “The shipping industry (says the) upcoming New York state regulations they say will devastate their business. …Julia Fields, a spokesperson for Marine Delivers, an Ottawa-based firm that promotes the industry (says) ships that transit through the Seaway now must exchange their ballast water at sea, and the salinity of sea water ‘destroys 99.93 per cent of the zooplankton that can disturb the balance of the Great Lakes’, she said. …Gerry Carter, the chief executive of Montréal based CSL, (says) the net effect of the upcoming New York standards is an intrusion into Canadian sovereignty and inter-provincial commerce…”

3. Obama administration: “The dispute could become moot next month, however, if a ruling by the EPA decides to adopt a U.S. national standard for such discharges. States are allowed to set their own standards and regulations in the absence of a national set of regulations, but must adhere to them if passed into law.”

4. Harper government: A Global News report yesterday says, “‘Canada is concerned…that enforcement on transiting vessels would stop commercial shipping on the seaway,’ a spokesperson for Transport Minister Denis Lebel said Monday. ‘Canada has communicated its concerns to New York, asking the state to adopt compatible requirements, especially for transiting.’ …No new invasive species has been found in the Great Lakes since 2006, according to Lebel’s spokesperson.”

5. Environmental groups: 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…”

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow wrote this past February in the Globe and Mail, “The statement that the move by New York State to tighten up rules on ballast flushing in the St. Lawrence Seaway could make commercial shipping ‘disappear’ from the Great Lakes is alarmist and misleading. 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 Great Lakes are in serious trouble from over-extraction, toxic dumping, energy exploration, wetland loss, climate change and invasive species. New York State should be congratulated for setting the gold standard in ballast flushing rules.”

We will be issuing a media release on this later this morning.

Barlow’s letter to the editor can be read at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/letters-to-the-editor/feb-9-letters-to-the-editor/article1899650/page2/. The original article by John Ibbitson can be read at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/environmental-standoff-threatens-traffic-on-st-lawrence-seaway/article1896937/.