Constitutional Law

Ballast Law Rocks the Boat


A group of shipping companies and trade associations is challenging a Michigan law that requires ships to treat ballast before dumping it in state waters.

The suit filed in Detroit federal court claims the state law, designed to protect Lake Michigan from invasive species carried in sea water, unconstitutionally regulates commerce with foreign nations, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports.

Environmentalists say invasive species such as the Zebra mussel are damaging ecosystems, clogging water pipes and reducing game fish at a cost of $500 million a year. Shippers respond that they have to pay $300,000 to install the required scrubbing system for each vessel, yet the technology is ineffective.

State Sen. Patty Birkholz introduced the bill after constituents complained about an invasive weed and declining fishing stock in the lake.

“This just reached a political tipping point,” she told the newspaper. “Every year it was a new species, more bad news and nothing out of Washington.”

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