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Begich, Rubio Hail Committee Passage of Bill to Fight EPA Regulations for Vessels

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Mark Begich (D-AK) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) today hailed Senate Commerce Committee passage of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, which would cut needless red tape impacting ships and other vessels conducting interstate and international commerce.

The bill, sponsored by Begich and Rubio - the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard – and 28 other Senators, would set uniform standards for regulating ballast water and other incidental discharges from vessels, and exempt fishermen and other small boat users.

“This bipartisan bill gets the EPA on the same page as fishermen and sets a reasonable national standard so that shippers and other vessel don’t have to worry about the current, confusing patchwork of federal and state rules,” said Begich. “I am proud to sponsor this bill with Senator Rubio, which has the backing of Alaska’s fishermen and the maritime industry. Committee passage is a good step, and I will keep working until we see this pass full Senate and get this signed into law.”

“The status quo hurts shippers and other vessel owners engaged in interstate commerce because of the sheer complexity of federal and state regulations they're facing," said Rubio. "By establishing a uniform set of environmentally sound standards and eliminating duplicative and redundant regulation, we can simplify the law and allow these businesses to focus more on their operations while permanently exempting small vessel owners from onerous and unnecessary regulation. The Senate should act on this legislation as soon as possible."

The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act would establish ballast water treatment requirements set by the Coast Guard in 2012 as the uniform national standard governing ballast water discharges by vessels.  By 2022, the Coast Guard and EPA would be required to issue a revised rule that is 100 times more stringent than the initial ballast water treatment standard.  And, if a more stringent state ballast water treatment standard is determined to be feasibly achievable, detectable, and commercially available the more stringent standard would be adopted as the uniform national standard.

The legislation would also exempt incidental discharges by commercial vessels less than 79 feet, fishing vessels including seafood processors and tenders, and recreational vessels, as well as incidental discharges that occur for research, safety, or similar purposes.  Not considered an environmental problem, these vessels have previously been exempted on a year-to-year basis.

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