WASHINGTON, D.C.Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee and senior member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee with jurisdiction over the U.S. Coast Guard, and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who was instrumental in developing changes to help address concerns of Great Lake states, issued the following statements after the Senate’s 94-6 vote to pass an amended bill reauthorizing the Coast Guard and enacting the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) -- a bipartisan measure that will protect waterways and marine life in Delaware and throughout the United States from invasive species and harmful pollution.

VIDA directs the EPA to craft new rules limiting ballast discharges of toxic pollution and invasive species and empowers the U.S. Coast Guard to enforce these standards. It also gives states the ability to establish “no-discharge zones” for vulnerable areas within their borders.

“Today, we are one step closer to getting this strong bipartisan compromise signed into law. This bill protects waters across our country from the environmental and economic risk of the spread of invasive species contained in ballast water, while also providing regulatory certainty for vessel owners and mariners. To reach this agreement, my colleagues and I did not settle for what was easy or what was expedient. These improvements have taken a great deal of time and energy, they are the right thing to do,” said Carper. “Specifically, it will reduce the risks posed by ballast water discharges that enter our waterways, minimize the likelihood of introducing invasive species along our coasts and in the Great Lakes, while still ensuring these discharges are regulated under the Clean Water Act. This bill shows that we can keep our vessels moving in and out of our waterways while protecting our environment and marine life at the same time. As Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I was proud to be at the table during negotiations to see this compromise across the finish line and find a responsible way to pass the Coast Guard Reauthorization agreement. Thank you to Senators Thune, Nelson, Stabenow and Portman for working with me on this important bipartisan bill.”

“As the Coast Guard works through hurricane season and continues drug interdiction and other critical efforts, Senate passage of this legislation is a critical step toward supporting the men and women in uniform who guard our nation,” said Thune. “Addressing the need for clear and enforceable standards of incidental water discharges from vessels, a bipartisan agreement included in this legislation places the Environmental Protection Agency in the lead role of establishing standards, which the Coast Guard will monitor and enforce. Clear, achievable rules will be the most effective way to address environmental concerns about the spread of invasive species through ballast water discharges.”

“This bill will both protect the Great Lakes against the spread of invasive species and ensure that our shipping industry in Ohio and across the Great Lakes is competitive,” said Portman. “I want to thank Senator Stabenow for working with me to find a balanced legislative solution to ensure the regulations regarding vessel discharges will protect the ecosystem in the Great Lakes. I appreciate Senators Thune and Carper for working with us on this important issue for the Great Lakes region.”

The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA):

  • Delegates the lead role in establishing standards for discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and assigns the Coast Guard the lead role in monitoring and enforcing standards.
  • Accommodates unique regional situations.  Pacific Coast ballast water exchanges will continue and the Great Lakes may set their own basin-wide standards.
  • Allows States to establish no-discharge zones for areas that require additional protection.

Highlights of S. 140: The Frank Lobiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018:

  • Maritime drug and border enforcement – includes new authorities to combat illicit trafficking and smuggling and transnational criminal organizations by furthering interagency cooperation, combating concealment of bulk cash, and increasing the budget for investigations and ability to use informants.
  • Multiyear contracting – authorizes the Coast Guard Commandant to utilize several new acquisition tools, including multiyear funding for procuring future National Security Cutters.  These changes will allow the Coast Guard to reduce the price of follow-on vessels and give shipyards greater predictability, stabilizing workforces.
  • Authorization level – authorizes the U.S. Coast Guard for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 at $10.1 billion and $10.6 billion. The previous Coast Guard authorization, enacted in 2016, authorized $9.1 billion for the service for fiscal years 2016 and 2017.
  • Arctic Operations – directs the Coast Guard to conduct a review of the assets and personnel required to ensure the safety and security of the Arctic.
  • Recreational Boating – increases safety and clarifies requirements for recreational boating safety by implementing the installation of engine cut-off switches and alternate signaling devices.

Senate approval of S. 140, as amended, returns it to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senator Carper gave floor remarks yesterday on the agreement. Watch HERE.

For background information on the bill, see yesterday’s release about the bipartisan agreement reached by Carper and others.