From: ENN
Published July 25, 2005 12:00 AM

Michigan Attorney General Opposes Federal Interference in Great Lake Protection

LANSING, Michigan — Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox announced today that he and five other Great Lakes Attorneys General have expressed to the United States Senate their strong opposition to pending legislation that would derail the states' efforts to protect the Great Lakes environment and economy from harmful aquatic invasive species.

"Working together in both the federal courts and in our own state legislatures, the Great Lakes states have made significant progress in protecting this region's greatest treasure," said Cox. "The legislation currently under review in the Senate would undermine those efforts."

In a letter dated July 20th, Attorneys General from Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin joined Cox in voicing their three-part criticism of Senate Bill 363, the "Ballast Water Management Act of 2005."

"The bill unacceptably removes the EPA's regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act to control pollutant discharges in ballast water; preempts states' ability to enact laws necessary to protect themselves from these harmful pollutants; and perpetuates an ineffectual regulatory regime and fails to replace it with any timely, environmentally protective standards," according to the letter.

The letter goes on to detail the extraordinary "economic, social, and ecological havoc" caused by the introduction of aquatic invasive species into the Great Lakes. When large oceangoing vessels enter the Great Lakes and load their cargo, they discharge water carried from other ports. This water may contain aquatic invasive species, such as the zebra mussel, sea lamprey, ruffe and goby, which reproduce rapidly in the absence of natural predators and harm their new environment.

The Michigan Attorney General's Office noted that aquatic invasive species also pose a significant threat to Michigan's economy. Commercial and recreational fishing, boating, beaches, tourism and facilities, such as power plants that use water from the Great Lakes, all suffer from the effects of these species. The Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that controlling zebra mussels and sea lampreys -- two of the most harmful aquatic nuisance species -- costs $45 million each year.

Cox and the other Great Lakes Attorneys General successfully sued in federal court to force the EPA to regulate ballast water discharge under the Clean Water Act. Complimenting the federal efforts, Cox advocated for passage of state legislation, Public Act 33 of 2005, that requires the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to regulate ballast water discharges into the Great Lakes starting January 1, 2007. The law also requires the Department to pursue formation of a cooperative coalition among the Great Lakes states.

Source: PRNewswire, Office of Michigan Attorney General

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