The state Legislature on Tuesday approved a proposal sponsored by state Rep. Gary Glenn to rekindle Michigan’s shipping industry while maintaining robust standards that keep invasive species from the Great Lakes.
Michigan is saddled with the most stringent ballast water discharge laws in the region. The restrictions drove Michigan’s entire ocean-going export business to surrounding Great Lakes states.
The plan brings Michigan more in line with federal regulations, allowing the state to be competitive.
“The measures we have meant well in theory if other states had assumed the same parameters, but this has shown in time to be overregulation and it’s had very damaging effects,” said Glenn, of Williams Township. “We’ve lost shipping jobs to other states, our seagoing exports have dried up and we’re unable to make efficient use of ports like we have on the Saginaw Bay. This would be a true game-changer for our shipping industry and those who reside around Michigan’s thumb.”
Within the plan, vessels shall employ one of five ballast water management systems prescribed by the U.S. Coast Guard or one of four methods approved by the Department of Environmental Quality to acquire a Michigan ballast water discharge permit. The permit will not be awarded for a basic exchange or deep water flush during the Coast Guard’s compliance schedule extension period – a variation from federal guidelines.
The intent of the original regulation was to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species, with the knowledge that plants and animals are indiscriminately picked up from and expelled back into water when ballast tank levels change. But surrounding states were slow to join Michigan with stiffer provisions and shipping jobs quickly left the state as a result.
“Ships that come into Chicago or Detroit can go into Canadian waters or areas within the boundaries of Illinois and Wisconsin and dump their ballast water while doing business. You can’t do that at the Saginaw Bay in Bay City,” Glenn said. “It defeats the purpose of our current regulation when other states simply aren’t following through on the same vein and the trade-off in terms of what it’s done to our shipping industry is catastrophic.
We are a state with phenomenal agricultural efforts and one that provides tremendously for the auto and steel industries. We should be making it easier and cheaper to move these products.”
House Bill 5095 advances to the governor for review.