Commencing in February 2009, the US Evironmental Protection Agency (EPA) is requiring most commercial vessels to comply with permitting requirements for discharges incidental to the normal operation of the vessel. The Vessel General Permit (VGP) requirement was published by the EPA on February 5, 2009. Attached is a paper that I presented in April 2009 at the Green Ship Technology Conference in Hamburg, Germany explaining the implications of this new requirement. Each regulated vessel that is greater than or equal to 300 gross registered tons or has the capacity to hold or discharge more than eight (8) cubic meters (2,113 gallons) of ballast water must submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) so as to remain in compliance. For regulated vessels already in operation, the NOI must be submitted during the time period beginning June 19, but not later than September 19, 2009. Additional information regarding the VGP program is contained in the EPA Fact Sheet.
On February 11, 2011, the EPA and the US Coast Guard entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining steps the two agencies will take to better coordinate efforts to ensure compliance with the VGP provisions. The Coast Guard also issued a Policy Letter providing guidelines for evaluations of compliance by US and foreign vessels operating in US waters.
On March 8, 2011, the EPA entered into a settlement agreement with various environmental advocacy groups. Under the settlement, the EPA has agreed to publish a draft of a new VGP by November 2011 and to issue a new permit by November 2012 that would come into effect when the current VGP expires in December 2013. Among other things, the new VGP will include numeric concentration-based effluent limits for discharges of ballast water expressed as organisms per unit of ballast water volume. Such limits will be either technology-based or water quality-based, or both.
On July 22, 2011, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a petition filed by the Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) for review of a nationwide permit (the Vessel General Permit or VGP) issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the discharge of pollutants incidental to the normal operation of commercial vessels operating on the navigable waters of the United States. The LCA raised a number of procedural challenges, all related to EPA’s decision to incorporate into the permit various conditions that states submitted to protect their own water quality. The court found that the LCA had not shown that the additional procedures they requested would have had any effect on the final EPA permit. Lake Carriers’ Association v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 09-1001 (DC Cir., July 22, 2011).
VGP One Time Report requirement – October 11, 2011.