Press Release

Joint Statement: EPA Rule Fails to Protect the Great Lakes From Invasive Species

December 18, 2023

Joint statement from the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rulemaking under the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act.

Chicago, IL (December 18, 2023)Today, a broad coalition of groups submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning its recently proposed supplemental rule to regulate ballast water pursuant to the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act of 2018 (VIDA). Congress directed the EPA to establish national standards for vessel discharges to protect the natural environment and the surrounding communities and economies from the harmful effects of vessel discharges, which include the introduction and transfer of harmful aquatic invasive species or pathogens through the discharge of ballast water.  We find that EPA’s supplemental rule does not protect the Great Lakes from the introduction or transfer of aquatic invasive species and does not do what Congress asked.  Once again, the agency has failed to act and is continuing the risk posed by the transfer of harmful invasive species.   

In October 2020, EPA released its proposed draft VIDA rules, which we, and many others, found to be severely deficient in that they did not protect the environment and arbitrarily excluded “Lakers” (vessels that do not leave the Great Lakes) from regulation.  The most recent draft supplemental rule continues to exempt Lakers from regulation and deletes requirements for best management practices.  Although EPA proposes to regulate “New Lakers” that are constructed after 2026, New Lakers are rarely built, and it would take nearly a century for all Lakers to be regulated under EPA’s approach.  Furthermore, EPA’s proposed rule would be much less protective than the approach adopted by Canada which requires all ships to have ballast water treatment systems installed and operating by 2030.


“Exempting any Lakers is the wrong approach to combat invasive species. The shipping industry has asked repeatedly for many years for uniform regulations for ballast water across the United States and that they be harmonized with Canada. What EPA is proposing is contrary to that demand. Exempting existing Lakers carves out this class of ship from regulation and puts the Great Lakes at risk. Most importantly, it fails to live up to our obligation to prevent new damage from the invasive species that have already cost the Great Lakes, and the people that rely on them,” said Molly M. Flanagan, Chief Operating Officer and Vice President for Programs at the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

“The EPA supplemental proposal will not protect the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters from ballast water invaders,” said Marc Smith, policy director for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office. “The EPA’s failure to regulate all vessels using the best available technology leaves the door open for future harm to our Great Lakes, our fishery, economy, and quality of life.”

“The EPA must ensure a final rule for ballast water that does not leave our Great Lakes more vulnerable to the continued introduction and spread of invasive species,” said Ann Mesnikoff, Federal Legislative Director for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “EPA has the authority and the tools to provide greater protection for The Great Lakes and must do everything in their power to protect these global gems.” 


Media Contact:

Don Carr, Alliance for the Great Lakes Media Director, can be reached at