The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy has filed a petition in the state court of appeals challenging the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s ballast water discharge permit, arguing that the permit fails to protect Lake Superior from the continuing threat posed by aquatic invasive species. The MPCA permit allows ships to delay new treatment technologies to prevent biological pollution until 2016, leaving Lake Superior vulnerable to more invasive species for another seven years. The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy’s legal challenge is based on Lake Superior’s designation as an “outstanding value resource water,” which requires the MPCA to protect the lake from “degradation” from new pollution threats (see the statement of the case for more details). The MPCA ignored this requirement, claiming that while new invasive species continue to be introduced from ballast water discharges, the sources of this biological pollution – the ships themselves – are not new (see the MPCA’s decision for more details).
This legal action is the latest development in an ongoing effort by the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy to force the MPCA to protect Lake Superior from invasive species such as the invasive fish disease Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS). MPCA only issued the permit in response to a prior Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy lawsuit and resulting court order forcing the agency to regulate ballast water discharges in compliance with state and federal law. The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy’s legal work on this issue is being lead by my good friend and law school classmate Matt Norton, a smart and tenacious public interest attorney. I’ve never known Matt to quit or give up before the job is done, so I expect he’ll continue the legal fight until Lake Superior gets the protection it deserves.