U.S. Senate passes long-awaited ballast water legislation

The 2018 U.S. Coast Guard Authorization Act, which includes the Vessel Incident Discharge Act (VIDA), passed the U.S. Senate November 14 by a vote of 94-6.

VIDA is bipartisan legislation that will streamline the regulatory system, which has had inconsistent and duplicative vessel discharge regulations from 25 states and two federal agencies. Under VIDA, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Coast Guard will work together under the Clean Water Act to jointly set and implement standards for ballast water and incidental discharges, in consultation with the states. The legislation will give vessel owners and mariners the certainty of a nationally consistent regulatory system, while ensuring high standards of environmental protection using the best technology economically achievable.

The Coast Guard will be responsible to lead implementation and enforcement of the vessel discharge standards. The EPA will help develop those new discharge standards.

VIDA is the result of many stakeholders coming to the table to craft this final version, according to the Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA).

“VIDA is a good balance, achieving protection of both the economy and the environment,” said Lake Carriers’ Association in a statement. “Importantly, it includes Great Lakes-specific provisions that provide the flexibility to establish uniform practices and standards more protective of our Great Lakes. Over the next few years, LCA looks forward to engaging with our government and regional partners to develop practical and implementable regulations to meet the letter and spirit of the bill.”

The American Waterways Organization (AWO) refers to the legislation as a common-sense solution to a disjointed collection of federal and state vessel discharge regulations, while ensuring the highest standards of marine environmental protection.

“We are optimistic that this important legislation for America’s vessel owners and mariners—who every year transport over 760 million tons of vital commodities that power the nation’s economy—will swiftly pass the House of Representatives and be signed into law by the president,” said AWO President & CEO Tom Allegretti.

Maritime Editorial