Gov. Scott Walker and several other governors are joining the federal government and Canada in demanding New York reconsider shipping regulations that protect waters from invasive species but could damage Wisconsin’s economy.
In a letter sent to New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week, Walker joined forces with the Republican governors John Kasick of Ohio and Mitch Daniels of Indiana to argue that unless the New York Department of Environmental Conservation regulations are amended, the regulations could require the St. Lawrence Seaway to close down, resulting in thousands of martime-related job losses in the Great Lakes states and in Canada.
New York’s regulations deal with ballast discharge. When cargo ships are not fully loaded, they have to take on water to maintain their stability. This water is stored in ballast tanks, and it may contain aquatic organisms.
When ships discharge this water in harbors, they may also discharge these organisms that could become invasive, Steven Fisher, executive director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association, said.
The New York regulations require boats to install ballast cleaning technology that will clean ballast water to a certain quality standard. The regulations also create a water quality standard 100 times stronger than the current standards given by the International Maritime Organization, which coordinates international shipping policy.
According to Walker’s letter, the regulations require that ships built after 2013 meet requirements 1,000 times stronger.
The New York regulations affect Wisconsin, since most of the ships that go through the Great Lakes pass through New York waters and ports, where the regulations will be enforced, Fisher said.
These regulations apply to all ships passing through New York harbors, whether leaving the Great Lakes or entering them.
“Today, there is no technology approved by the United States Coast Guard to meet New York’s regulatory requirements,” the letter said. “In fact, the USCG has yet to establish a ballast water treatment technology approval process. Ship owners will not install ballast water treatment systems unless USCG approved, because they are unable to obtain insurance otherwise.”
According to the letter, Wisconsin considered establishing requirements similar to the ones in New York in Feb. 2010. Later that year, the Department of National Resources, in collaboration with scientists, naval architects and other experts, including NYDEC staff, determined the technology does not exist to meet the standards.
Walker and the other governors are not the first to argue against New York’s regulations. Besides the shipping industry, the federal government, along with the provinces of Quebec and Ontario and the Canadian government, have also complained against the regulations, Fisher said.
“We are quite pleased that Gov. Walker has added his voice to the existing chorus that are pointing out that these regulations are technically unworkable,” Fisher said. “We hope that it’s going to have an impact on these regulations.”
While New York has not announced any changes to its regulations, the NYDEC is working with the Environmental Protection Agency to find a national standard, NYDEC spokesperson Emily DeSantis said in an email to The Badger Herald.
“We are working with other states and encouraging EPA to adopt a standard by Nov. 2011 that is achievable and protects the state’s coastal waters from invasive species” DeSantis said. “We plan to re-examine our requirements following the release of EPA’s proposal this November.”