The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has filed a petition in state court challenging a vessel general permit and regulations approved by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that would regulate discharges incidental to the normal operation of commercial vessels, including discharges of ballast water. NWF v. Martens, No. n/a (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Albany Cnty. 11/8/12).

Petitioner argues that DEC has effectively loosened its restrictions and has left the Great Lakes, the Hudson River and Long Island Sound susceptible to being overrun with invasive aquatic species. Petitioner further alleges that such invasive species have already caused in excess of $200 million per year in damage-and-control costs across the Great Lakes. The petition seeks a court order forcing DEC to modify its certification to ensure that vessels discharging ballast water comply with New York water quality standards, as required by the Clean Water Act.

A vessel takes on and discharges ballast water as it loads and unloads cargo to maintain trim and stability, and, as a result, ballast water may be discharged in a lake or river, far from where it was taken up, and lead to the spread of aquatic species into water bodies where they are not indigenous. Petitioners allege that all ships traveling to any of the Great Lakes must first pass through New York, making state regulation of ballast water extremely important. See Law 360, November 8, 2012.