Commercial vessel owners may be compliant with EPA and Coast Guard requirements, but still be at risk of fines and penalties for violating state requirements that cannot be met by existing technology. This overlapping patchwork of federal and state regulations kills jobs, undermines the efficiency of maritime transportation, increases business costs, and places mariners at risk of civil and criminal prosecution. It also delays investments in treatment technology that will strengthen environmental protection.
VIDA, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, is the product of bipartisan leadership and negotiation to construct a framework that will protect our waterways, foster efficient and cost-effective maritime commerce, and maintain appropriate roles for the Coast Guard, EPA and states. It is imperative that this legislation be enacted without further delay.
Title VIII of S.1129, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017, has incorporated the bipartisan Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA). It has the support of U.S. and international vessel owners and operators; fishing vessel, passenger vessel and charterboat operators; labor unions; marine terminals and port authorities; national business organizations; and industries that rely on maritime shipping to transport essential cargoes in domestic and international commerce.
VIDA, which currently has 23 bipartisan Senate cosponsors and 37 bipartisan House cosponsors, would eliminate a regulatory burden hindering interstate and international commerce by replacing a patchwork of federal and state regulations with uniform national standards for the regulation of ballast water and other discharges incidental to normal vessel operations. The bill would also maintain protective measures jointly undertaken by industry and federal agencies to reduce the movement of invasive species on the navigable waterways.
VIDA would provide vessel owners and mariners with a predictable and transparent regulatory structure in which vessel incidental discharges are regulated and enforced by the U.S. Coast Guard, using as its baseline the ballast water discharge standard that EPA's Science Advisory Board has determined to be the most stringent currently achievable. The bill will ensure the installation of high-performing technologies on commercial vessels, and allows for improvements in the national standard as technology improves. VIDA also preserves the ability of states to enforce the federal ballast water discharge standard, petition for a higher standard, work with Coast Guard to develop best management practices, and regulate recreational vessels operating in their waters.
VIDA will also permanently exempt fishing vessels and vessels under 79 feet from EPA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program. These vessels have been operating under a series of temporary exemptions enacted by Congress. Permanent relief is needed for the operators of these vessels, as long-term regulatory certainty is needed for the operators of large commercial vessels.
Why you should take action
VIDA will strengthen protections for America's waterways, provide a stable regulatory structure for interstate and international maritime commerce, and eliminate needlessly duplicative regulatory programs. Please support VIDA today.