Perhaps under pressure from impending federal legislation (H.R. 2838, reported on by Canadian Sailings of January 30), the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) indicated New York State will pursue a uniform, national water ballast standard that will leave in place the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) current standards in New York for the remainder of EPA’s current Vessel General Permit through December 2013, effectively cancelling its new ballast water regulations which were scheduled to take effect in August of 2013. These rules would require cargo vessels to clean ballast water to a standard at least 100 times stricter than international standards. EPA’s recent proposal for the next four year term to December 2017 for its Vessel General Permit includes adopting a protocol that was set forth by the International Maritime Organization in 2004.

Because the technology to implement New York’s regulations was not commercially available, the regulations that were to be adopted as of August of 2013 would have shut down traffic through the St. Lawrence Seaway, and would have disrupted traffic at the Ports of New York and New Jersey. Industry experts reported that 72,000 jobs and a minimum of $11.5 billion in annual business revenues and tax revenues were at stake.

Despite having relented, New York State has not yet given up the battle. In his letter of February 21 to Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the U.S. EPA, DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens expressed his conviction that IMO D2 Discharge Standards do not “provide an effective or adequate standard to address the known risk of AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species), nor does it reflect best available control technology.” DEC intends to continue to work with other States and stakeholders to advocate that EPA and the Coast Guard adopt a more protective national approach to this widespread problem. Among others, Commissioner Martin proposed adopting a national standard containing a voluntary discharge standard of 10 times IMO by June 2014, and a 100 times IMO discharge standard by June 2016.

Marine industry groups expressed relief at the news. Steve Fisher, executive director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association, said “They’ve made a decision that is responsive to the economic climate and to protecting jobs.” In Canada, Chamber of Marine Commerce President Raymond Johnston stated “We applaud New York’s decision to pursue a uniform, national ballast water standard. However, we are hopeful that all levels of government in the U.S. will agree on a technically feasible standard that is consistent with incoming Canadian and international standards set out by the International Maritime Organization.”