Senate blocks bill that opponents say weakens water pollution rules

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The Senate blocked legislation on Wednesday that environmentalists and opponents argue would weaken water pollution standards.

Senators voted 56-42, depriving the legislation of the 60 votes it needed to move forward.

Democratic Sens. Bob Casey (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Doug Jones (Ala.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.) voted with Republicans to advance the bill. Everyone, besides Jones, is up for reelection in a state won by Trump in 2016.


The bill included a version of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), which would exempt ships’ ballast water from Clean Water Act oversight under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and stop most states’ attempts to regulate ballast water.

Ballast water has been blamed for some of the worst invasive species cases, like zebra mussels in the Great Lakes and the introduction of various algae species to waterways.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) praised the bill, saying it would help overcome “duplicative regulations enforced by the Coast Guard, the EPA and the states.”

“This inefficient regulatory regime unnecessarily raises costs and jeopardizes jobs. Our provision … would clean up that mess and make life easier for American mariners while still protecting our environment,” he said.

But environmentalists say removing the EPA’s authority — and leaving the regulation of ballast water solely to the Coast Guard — would remove important water protections.

“VIDA moves us away from the responsible management of ballast water discharges by completely removing Clean Water Act authority over ship ballast water discharges,” a coalition of green groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and American Rivers, wrote to senators last week.

Tags Bill Nelson Bob Casey Claire McCaskill Clean Water Act Heidi Heitkamp Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin Mitch McConnell United States Environmental Protection Agency
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