Thursday, December 18, 2008

EPA Forces Wisconsin to Adopt Weak Federal Permit on Invasive Species

DNR to Use State Permit to Add Protections for Wisconsin Waters

MADISON, WIS. (December 16, 2008)―To meet an unreasonable federally-imposed deadline that could have shut down shipping in Wisconsin waters, the Wisconsin DNR yesterday withdrew its proposed improvement of an EPA invasive species permit and allowed the original ineffective EPA permit to go forward unchanged. At the same time, the DNR committed to issuing a state permit that contains the protections against invasive species that the EPA measure lacked.

“Wisconsin and other Great Lakes states are being dealt a tough hand due to the U.S. EPA, which for decades neglected its responsibility to protect U.S. waters from invasive species, and now has issued at the 11th hour a weak permit that does little to stop the introduction of those species,” said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office. “While we would prefer to have a tough, national EPA permit, we believe our best chance for protecting Wisconsin’s waters is to encourage the state to use whatever authority it has to prevent invasive species.”

The state action comes days before a court-imposed December 19 deadline, by which time EPA required states to certify a water quality permit issued by the EPA intended to address aquatic invasive species introduced by ballast water discharge. EPA had sent a letter to the DNR threatening enforcement action against ships in Wisconsin waters after December 19 if the DNR maintained its efforts to improve the EPA’s permit.

“We look forward to working with the DNR to protect Wisconsin’s waters much more effectively from ballast water discharges of invasive species,” said George Meyer. “A state permit, if done right, can give the state the protections it needs. The EPA permit certainly does not.”

As NWF and WWF begin working with the DNR on a state permit, they are also looking at options for legal challenges in federal and state courts to toughen the protections in the federal permit.

More than 185 aquatic invasive species have entered the lakes, disrupting the food chain, fouling beaches and damaging infrastructure―costing citizens, industry and businesses at least $200 million per year. The No.1 way aquatic invasive species enter the Great Lakes is through ballast water discharge from ocean-going vessels. One new non-native species enters the Great Lakes, on average, every 28 weeks.

“People, businesses and communities have borne the cost of invasive species long enough,” said Buchsbaum. “It’s time to slam the door shut on non-native species once and for all, before the problem gets worse and more costly. It’s time to stand up and protect the Great Lakes, our economy and our way of life.”

Andy Buchsbaum, National Wildlife Federation, (734) 887-7100,
George Meyer, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, (608) 516-5545,
Jordan Lubetkin, National Wildlife Federation, (734) 887-7100,

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