The American Waterways Operators (AWO) welcomes Senate passage of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) as part of the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, which passed the Senate on Wednesday by a bipartisan vote of 94-6.

VIDA is bipartisan legislation that will streamline a broken regulatory system in which commercial vessels moving vital maritime commerce on U.S. waterways are subject to inconsistent and duplicative vessel discharge regulations from 25 states and two federal agencies, an AWO statement said. Under VIDA, EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard will work together under the Clean Water Act to jointly set and implement standards for ballast water and incidental discharges, in consultation with the states.

The legislation will give vessel owners and mariners the certainty of a nationally consistent regulatory system, while ensuring high standards of environmental protection using the best technology economically achievable, the statement said.

The bipartisan compromise overwhelmingly passed by the Senate Wednesday is the product of thoughtful deliberation between the Senate Commerce Committee and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works over more than six months. VIDA was originally introduced by Senators Thune (R-SD), Carper (D-DE), Nelson (D-FL), Casey (D-PA), Sullivan (R-AK), and Wicker (R-MS).

"AWO is very pleased that this much needed legislation, which provides a common-sense solution to a disjointed collection of federal and state vessel discharge regulations, while ensuring the highest standards of marine environmental protection, is one step closer to becoming law. We thank Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY), Chairman Thune (R-SD) of the Senate Commerce Committee, Ranking Member Carper (D-DE) of the Senate EPW Committee, as well as Senators Wicker (R-MS), Sullivan (R-AK), Nelson (D-FL), and Casey (D-PA) for their leadership,” AWO president & CEO Tom Allegretti said in the statement. “We are optimistic that this important legislation for America's vessel owners and mariners — who every year transport over 760 million tons of vital commodities that power the nation's economy — will swiftly pass the House of Representatives and be signed into law by the President."

The American Waterways Operators is the national trade association representing the tugboat, towboat and barge industry, which operates on the rivers, the Great Lakes, and along the coasts and in the harbors of the U.S. Barge transportation serves the nation as the safest, most environmentally friendly and most economical mode of freight transportation.