Good morning, Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. It is a pleasure to appear before you today to provide our views on Senate Bill 525 (S. 525), to amend the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990 and to reauthorize and improve that Act.
The Coast Guard is a leader in ensuring America's marine environment is protected, and we take great pride in providing valuable services to the American people that make our nation cleaner, safer, more mobile, and more secure.
Today, the spread of non-native aquatic species throughout our waterways remains a serious and growing national problem. We know all too well that once introduced, many of these species are capable of disrupting native ecosystems, resulting in lost natural resources, and significant mitigation costs. Aquatic nuisance species invasions can also cause damage to coastal infrastructure and threaten coastal industries.
In reauthorizing and amending existing federal aquatic nuisance species (ANS) legislation, S. 525 would, among other things, provide detailed guidance and requirements for the conduct of a federal ballast water management program and the establishment of a research program to support efforts to prevent the introduction of any ANS. We believe this bill appropriately identifies significant issues related to improving the nation's defense against the introduction of ANS, and that reauthorization and amendment of the legislation is necessary to effectively address this growing environmental problem. However, we do have some specific concerns regarding implementation actions detailed in this bill, which we believe should be considered.
Working under the broad authorities granted by current legislation, the Coast Guard’s ongoing regulatory efforts are addressing many of the ballast water management provisions contained in S. 525. As detailed in the transmittal letter accompanying the Secretary of Transportation's June 2002 voluntary ballast water management assessment report to Congress, mandated by the National Invasive Species Act, the Coast Guard is establishing a mandatory national ballast water management program. Coast Guard efforts also include: (1) the setting of an enforceable and scientifically supportable ballast water treatment standard, and (2) establishing a process that will facilitate the development, testing and evaluation of promising experimental treatment systems. We believe that our current regulatory strategy is both sound and aggressive, especially when compared to the current state of ballast water management technology, which is very much in its infancy. We further
believe that the prescriptive requirements and new management arrangements contained in S. 525 would unnecessarily complicate and inevitably delay the implementation of an effective mandatory federal ballast water management regime.
We are particularly concerned with the bill's inclusion of a proposed interim ballast water treatment standard. However, the interim standard that requires the removal of 95% of the viable organisms taken in by the vessel as specified in the bill, presents near insurmountable monitoring and enforcement challenges. In consultation with other federal agencies, the Coast Guard is currently assessing various options for biologically protective treatment standards, including standards that would be expressed as allowable concentrations of organisms in discharged ballast water. In order to support the treatment technology evaluation process for a ballast water discharge standard, the Coast Guard is working under a cooperative arrangement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other technical experts, to develop verification protocols for ballast water treatment technologies. We are also tracking several complementary international efforts to develop effective management technologies and will use their findings as appropriate in developing our domestic program.
The legislation proposes that the Coast Guard will promulgate the regulations for an interim standard, while the EPA will develop the final standard. The Coast Guard supports a single standard that is scientifically sound and enforceable. The responsibility to develop and promulgate a ballast water discharge standard should remain with one agency, and we would like the opportunity to work further with the Subcommittee in order to clarify specific agency roles.
Another area of concern is the proposed timelines for implementing various aspects of the ballast water management regulatory regime. While it is important to promulgate regulations quickly, the timelines presented in the proposed legislation may significantly inhibit the participation of the stakeholders. Appropriately, existing rulemaking procedures provide opportunity for stakeholder input, and accelerating the timelines would compromise these processes. The Coast Guard receives valuable input from many sectors including the scientific community, water treatment technologists, the maritime industry, and federal and state agencies, commenting both on the regulatory aspects of our rules, as well as the environmental consequences of these rulemakings as agency actions. It is critical to continue to permit this information exchange.
While the Coast Guard is not assigned responsibilities for conducting the ecological surveys described in S. 525, the results of these surveys will likely be used to evaluate the efficacy of our efforts as well as the efforts of other federal agencies in reducing the rate of invasions by aquatic nuisance species. We believe it is important to coordinate the development of such surveys with the implementing agencies, such as the Coast Guard.
Thank you for the opportunity to present some of our views on this bill today. The Coast Guard looks forward to working with Congress on the reauthorization of ANS legislation while we continue our ongoing efforts to implement an effective ballast water management regime. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.