There are doubts whether Michigan’s Republican governor Rick Snyder will approve a bill passed by Michigan’s Senate last Thursday (9 November) and by the state’s House a week earlier that brings the state’s legislation on ballast water treatment into line with federal regulations.
In a long-standing policy statement on his website, Mr Snyder explains his approach to invasive species and sets out three steps that Michigan should take, with the first being to commit the state to “remain a leader on ballast water standards.” The US National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Michigan United Conservation Clubs are encouraging members of the public to contact Mr Snyder – the NWF has published his phone number – and ask him to veto the bill.
It is not clear when he will consider it as the House has to formally enrol the bill before it goes to the governor and the state’s legislature began a two-week break beginning on 9 November.
Senators had voted 25-11 to approve the bill, with the vote generally following party lines: 23 Republicans and two Democrats supported the bill while eight Democrats and three Republicans opposed it.
Debate in the Senate followed similar lines to that in the House, pitting commercial against environmental arguments. Those in favour of the bill, such as the Republican senator Triston Cole, said that Michigan’s more-stringent requirements on ballast treatment discouraged ocean-going vessels from using the state’s Great Lakes ports and argued that the resulting truck movements to bring cargo to Michigan was not environment-friendly.
But the Democrat senator Rebekah Warren said that Michigan's policy is similar to those of 13 other states. “Evidence has shown that these stronger standards have been effective in slowing, although not preventing, the spread of invasive species,” she said. She also believed the timing was not ideal, “because the US Environmental Protection Agency is revising its rules.”
“We are joint stewards of 20% of this entire earth's fresh surface water. It is not cavalier to protect that important natural resource,” Warren said.
Senators did not make any changes to the bill, which includes an amendment agreed in the House that commits the state to “[hold] 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.
• Documents relating to the bill are available here.