Yesterday, the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a hearing on the impact of vessel discharge regulations. The hearing focused on existing regulations governing ballast water discharge and other discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels.

Current state and federal vessel discharge regulations are inconsistent and sometimes are scientifically and technologically impossible to meet. Inland and coastal waterway operators are pushing for nationally uniform and environmentally sound standards to simplify the complicated patchwork of state and federal regulations that currently govern the management of discharges.

Jim Farley, president of Kirby Offshore Marine, Houston, testified on behalf of the American Waterways Operators and Kirby at the hearing, and pushed for the passage of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act. Farley told senators that the existing state and federal regulatory patchwork makes compliance complicated, confusing, and costly for vessel operators and mariners. Farley urged Congress to act swiftly to fix the broken regulatory regime. 

“The only way to fix this broken regulatory regime is for Congress to act, and act soon,” Farley testified. “Although the Coast Guard, EPA, and state regulators are currently in agreement about achievable standards for ballast water treatment, the way that they administer and enforce that standard is at best duplicative, and at worst incompatible. The strong bipartisan support for the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act introduced last Congress demonstrates that the problem, and the urgent need for a solution, is well understood.”

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the subcommittee chairman, said he would reintroduce his VIDA bill.