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LETTER: Vessel Incidental Discharge Act

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November 16, 2016

Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
S-230 U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510

Honorable Paul Ryan
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives
H-232 U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Honorable John McCain
Chairman, Committee on Armed Services
U.S. Senate
228 Russell Senate Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Honorable Jack Reed
Ranking Member, Committee on Armed Services
U.S. Senate
228 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Honorable Harry Reid
Minority Leader
U.S. Senate
S-221 U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510

Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
H-204 U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Honorable Mac Thornberry
Chairman, Committee on Armed Services
U.S. House of Representatives
2216 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Honorable Adam Smith
Ranking Member, Committee on Armed Services
U.S. House of Representatives
2216 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

RE: Concerns Regarding the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act

Dear Congressional and Armed Services Committee Leaders:

Western Governors write to express our concerns regarding efforts in Congress to preempt state authorities to protect our waters from aquatic invasive species and water pollution. This includes the current versions of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), and other measures. Western Governors recognize that there is interest in developing a consistent, streamlined national regulatory framework governing vessel discharges, but request that your committees consult with our states before advancing statutory changes that would preempt state authorities.

Western Governors recognize the importance of maritime commerce. Indeed, Western states’ ports are national assets, moving needed parts and retail goods into the country, while also providing the gateway for our nation’s exports to world markets. Western states have a compelling interest in maintaining the competitiveness of Western ports and to avoid losing business to East Coast, Gulf Coast and Canadian ports. Western states also have a compelling interest in maintaining the highest achievable standards to protect their waters against non-indigenous and invasive species and damaging pollutants.

Traditionally, states are vested with the authority to exercise their own unique regulatory procedures regarding vessel discharge and their related effects concerning the spread of invasive species and water pollution, due to the wide variety of resources and policies applicable to each individual state. However, recently the federal government has begun to chip away at states’ authority to protect their waters. The VIDA legislation currently under discussion would further diminish states’ authorities to protect their waters against the continual threat of aquatic invasive species and water pollution introduced by vessels using state waters.

In general, Western Governors do not support preemption of state authorities that limit states’ ability to protect state waters from harmful invasive species and water pollution. Many states have active invasive species and water quality management programs that are tailored to unique regional and local conditions. Legislation under current consideration would interfere with the states’ ability to protect their waters.

With the forgoing in mind, Western Governors oppose efforts to pass legislation that usurps the states’ role in protecting their waters from invasive species and harmful pollutants. However, recognizing Congress’ interest in ensuring regulatory certainty for a wide range of vessels, Western Governors stand ready to consult with your committees about potential common ground on this issue.

We appreciate your consideration of our concerns.

Sincerely,
James D. Ogsbury
Executive Director

cc: Honorable John Thune, Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
Honorable Bill Nelson, Ranking Member, U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
Honorable James Inhofe, Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Honorable Barbara Boxer, Ranking Member, U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Honorable Bill Shuster, Chairman, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Honorable Peter DeFazio, Ranking Member, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Honorable Gina McCarthy, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard

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