Carper on EPA’s Proposal to Weaken Pollution Standards for Vessels

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, underscored the damage posed by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s proposed rule that would significantly relax pollution control standards for large industrial ships under the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act.

“When large ships arrive at ports, they often need to discharge ballast water in order to load new cargo. That ballast water frequently contains harmful pollutants and aquatic invasive species. That’s why I worked hard to see the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) become law— to ensure commercial shipping vessels adhere to basic pollution control standards in order to better mitigate the spread of invasive species and protect our nation’s waterways.

“One of the key principles of VIDA was ensuring that the new pollution control standards set forth by EPA would be at least as stringent as existing standards.  In fact, the law explicitly and unambiguously forbids EPA from weakening any existing ballast water standard. But, after four years, it should surprise no one that the Trump EPA is simply ignoring the law. In clear defiance to the rule of the law and a 94-6 bipartisan vote in the Senate, EPA is instead proposing to weaken existing ballast water standards.

“No doubt, President Trump’s EPA will be remembered for its unrelenting torrent of environmental rollbacks that cater to specific industries with special interests. This proposed rule is no exception. In addition to weakening pollution control standards, EPA has determined that U.S. vessels operating exclusively in the Great Lakes system are not required to meet any discharge standard whatsoever. According to EPA, these vessels do not have to install ballast water management systems. I worked closely with my Senate colleagues from the Great Lakes States and, once again, EPA’s interpretation of the law could not be further from our clear, unambiguous, legislative intent.

“It should also surprise no one that the Trump EPA arrived at these conclusions—asserting incorrectly that there is no new and reasonably accessible technology to reduce these ballast water threats—based on outdated and incomplete information. Perhaps another legacy of this Environmental Protection Agency will be its uncanny ability to disregard science and to selectively overlook information it deems inconvenient. 

“This proposal represents yet another departure from responsible governing. During the final days of the Trump administration, this proposal exemplifies what the Trump EPA does best—touts a deeply irresponsible and legally fraught rollback as some kind of framework for regulatory certainty. It’s why the American people are ready for an EPA that actually does its job and heeds its mission.”