Congressman Bob Gibbs’ Statement During House Floor Debate of H.R. 2838, The “Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011”

November 4, 2011

Congressman Bob Gibbs, Chairman of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, made the following statement during floor debate of H.R. 2838, The "Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011." 

“Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 2838, the “Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011,” and in particular Title VII of the bill, the 'Commercial Vessel Discharges Reform Act of 2011.'

“Ballast water, while a necessity to maintain the stability of large vessels during waterborne navigation, has always recognized as one of the ways invasive aquatic nuisance species are transported globally and introduced into coastal waters where they did not live before.

“Numerous invasive species have been introduced into U.S. waters through ballast water discharges.  One of the most well known is the zebra mussel in the Great Lakes, which has caused millions of dollars of damage to infrastructure.

“Current efforts to reduce the risk of invasive species being introduced through ballast water discharges are haphazard, contradictory, and ineffective.

“The management of ballast water currently is governed differently by the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as by an assortment of international, state, and territorial regulations.

“As a result, vessels engaged in interstate and international commerce are required to meet several different standards for the management of ballast water, some of which are not technologically achievable or verifiable.

“Complying with this patchwork of regulations is burdensome and unacceptable.

“Commercial shippers are the heart of our nation’s interstate and foreign commerce.  As we all know, interstate and foreign commerce involving navigation is at the heart of Federal jurisdiction under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

“If we subject vessels visiting ports in more than one state to different permit requirements in each state that they visit, they will be forced either to violate state laws or cease making port calls in states with requirements that are inconsistent with the technology that the vessel has installed in response to an earlier-enacted regulation from another state.

“Vessels involved in interstate and foreign commerce are mobile and cannot be expected to comply with potentially scores of inconsistent State requirements as they navigate from one jurisdiction to the next.

“These inconsistent State requirements will impose serious economic burdens on interstate and foreign commerce.

“There simply is no reason to interfere with interstate and foreign commerce in such ways, particularly when a more sensible, uniform, and environmentally protective approach is available under this bill.

“Title VII of H.R. 2838 aims to address both the need for standards to reduce the risk of introducing invasive species in our nation’s waters through discharges of ballast water, and the need for vessels that navigate from one jurisdiction to another to have one uniform set of requirements to comply with.

"The bill establishes a common sense approach for regulating ballast water that will protect the environment, grow maritime jobs, and promote the flow of maritime commerce.

“I urge passage of H.R. 2838 and I yield back.”