Michigan’s legislature passed a state House bill last week (2 November) that brings the state’s legislation on ballast water treatment into line with federal regulations. The bill now moves to the state's Senate for further consideration.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep Gary Glenn, argued last month that the state’s current rules put Michigan at a competitive disadvantage compared with other states and Canadian provinces that border the Great Lakes, which have harmonised their requirements.
But the move was described as marking a “race to the bottom” by Ken Sikkema, a former Republican majority leader in Michigan’s state Senate and now senior policy fellow with the consultancy firm, Public Sector Consultants.
Speaking during a discussion on Michigan Radio on Friday, he recalled that Michigan had passed its own stricter law in 2005 when the state was “leading the charge to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species”. Now, “because you have so many jurisdictions … whoever has the lowest standard, sets the ceiling.”
Speaking in the same discussion, a former Democratic legislator Vicki Barnett shared Mr Sikkema’s disappointment that the bill had been passed but said that the state’s previous law had become untenable. In 2005, “we were assuming that other Great Lakes states would jump on board. … That didn’t happen." As a result, she said, while Michigan has higher standards, “lower standards are still in effect for most of the other states and the two provinces that feed into the Great Lakes.”
If those other states had followed Michigan’s lead, she said, “we could have protected the Great Lakes with a much stronger law that would have been in effect for all of the Great Lakes ports.”
Nonetheless, what she described as “a major amendment” was made to the bill that “holds to higher standards should the federal standards, or the Coast Guard standards, be diminished”. The amendment also states that, if “a compact of Great Lakes states of which this state is a part” adopts more protective standards, those will also be adopted in Michigan.
• Listen to the Michigan Radio interview here.
• Documents relating to the House bill are available here.