Challenge to N.Y. ballast water restrictions denied‏

Nick Rees Jun. 1, 2009, 6:00pm

Andrew Cuomo (D)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - A potential challenge to restrictions put on the dumping of ballast water by large commercial ships has been dismissed by the New York State Supreme Court, the state's attorney general said.

A coalition of large shipping interests claimed that restrictions added to the Environmental Protection Agency's nationwide discharge permit by New York were illegal.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's restrictions were added as a means of controlling ballast discharges of invasive species to the Great Lakes and other waterways.

"This decision is a critical win for New York's right and responsibility to protect our Great Lakes and resources," Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said.

"The Court's decision not only defends our state's actions, but affirms our right to take necessary measures to fight the plague of invasive species. Ensuring the continued health of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario is vital to our quality of life, our economic growth and our environment."

Ballast discharges are made when a vessel moves from one body of water to another and empties the water that the ship carries into the new body of water. The untreated releases can contain invasive species.

Untreated vessel ballast discharges have added over 180 aquatic invasive species to the Great Lakes, including the zebra mussel in the 1980s, viral hemorrhagic septicemia and Type E botulism.

The new species prey on native species, causing declines and harm to commercial and recreational fisheries. As a result, billions of dollars in damage have been inflicted on fisheries, recreation, and public infrastructure.

To combat the invasive species, Cuomo and five other attorney generals as well as several environmental groups won a July 2008 Federal Court decision stopping large vessels and other oceangoing freight ships from discharging pollutant-containing ballast water without a permit.

Earlier in 2008, an amicus brief was signed onto by New York to support a Michigan law aimed at controlling invasive species pollution by vessels. Federal Court upheld the Michigan law, defeating a legal challenge by various shipping companies.

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