The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Citizens’ Board has approved a new general permit to stop the spread of invasive species from ships’ ballast water discharges. The new permit is MPCA’s response to a state court’s ruling that the agency must take steps to regulate ballast water discharges pursuant to state and federal law. The case was brought by the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, an innovative and legally sophisticated state environmental group (I may be biased; I used to work there). The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy is especially concerned about the spread of the invasive fish disease Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) into Lake Superior from other parts of the Great Lakes.
The regulatory developments in Minnesota could have national implications, as the recent decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that ballast water discharges are subject the federal Clean Water Act will require the EPA and other states to also take measures to prevent the spread of invasive species from ships. Other states may look to Minnesota as a model for a state permit program. But Minnesota’s permit could be improved, as it gives ships until 2016 to treat their ballast water discharges. Still, it’s another welcome step in the states’ ongoing fight to stop the spread of invasive species in the Great Lakes.