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Michigan governor vetoes ballast water legislation

By DAVID EGGERTJune 29, 2018

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday vetoed the proposed weakening of a state law that keeps oceangoing cargo ships from releasing untreated ballast water in Michigan waters, saying the bill potentially could have increased the risk for introducing new aquatic invasive species into the Great Lakes.

The legislation would have revised a 2005 law requiring saltwater vessels to use state-approved cleansing technology before discharging ballast water, which provides stability in rough seas. Scientists believe dozens of the invasive species that have reached the Great Lakes in recent decades arrived in ballast water.

The bill would have allowed compliance with U.S. Coast Guard ballast water regulations as a standard for issuing state permits to oceangoing vessels engaged in Michigan port operations.

The Republican governor said the measure was ambiguous “at best,” on whether the state Department of Environmental Quality would have been required to issue discharge permits to certain vessels using ballast water management systems approved by foreign administrations.

“I am of the mindset that there can be no ambiguity when it comes to the safety of our Great Lakes,” he wrote in a letter to the House. “These ‘alternative management systems’ are not fully vetted by the USCG or the DEQ, meaning they may not be as protective as USCG or DEQ methods.”

The bill sponsor, Republican Rep. Dan Lauwers of St. Clair County’s Brockway Township, said bringing the state’s stringent regulations more in line with federal rules would have led to a return of shipping jobs that went to surrounding states.

“Time has shown that we’re an outlier with this level of regulation, not trailblazer,” he said in a statement. “We can keep hoping states follow suit with a similar plan, but that’s not reality. The reality is jobs have been taken away from the state in a vital industry — one that Michigan can benefit from by utilizing its deepwater ports.”

The bill initiatively won legislative approval in November, but leaders of the GOP-controlled Legislature delayed sending it to Snyder due to a veto threat. The legislation was changed weeks ago and approved on mostly party-line 56-52 and 26-10 votes in the House and Senate on the last day before a lengthy summer break.

Environmentalists welcomed the veto, while House Minority Leader Sam Singh, an East Lansing Democrat, said he was thankful Snyder nixed “harmful legislation which would have put the Lakes and our economic security at risk.”

Supporters of the measure said ballast water standards would have still remained robust and current regulations result in Michigan goods being transported by truck to ports outside the state — damaging Michigan’s already deteriorating roads.

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Online:

House Bill 5095: http://bit.ly/2lGYcND

Veto letter: http://bit.ly/2Kls4Os

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Follow David Eggert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/David%20Eggert

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