Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Reported to House amended (11/03/2011)

Commercial Vessel Discharges Reform Act of 2011 - (Sec. 2) Amends the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly known as the Clean Water Act) to allow a person owning, operating, or chartering by demise a commercial vessel to discharge ballast water into navigable waters only if the discharge: (1) meets the ballast water performance standard, qualifies as a safety exemption, meets the requirements of an alternative method of compliance and the vessel operates exclusively within a geographically limited area or operates pursuant to a geographic restriction; and (2) is in accordance with an approved ballast water management plan. Defines "commercial vessel" to mean a watercraft or other artificial contrivance used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water that is engaged in commercial service.

Applies such restrictions to the owner or operator of a commercial vessel that is designed, constructed, or adapted to carry ballast water if the commercial vessel is: (1) documented under the laws of the United States, or (2) operating in navigable waters on a voyage to or from a point in the United States. Exempts from such requirement owners or operators of: (1) a commercial vessel that carries all of its ballast water in sealed tanks that are not subject to discharge, (2) a commercial vessel that continuously takes on and discharges ballast water in a flow-through system, (3) any vessel in the National Defense Reserve Fleet that is scheduled to be disposed of through scrapping or sinking, (4) a commercial vessel that discharges ballast water consisting solely of water taken aboard from a municipal or commercial source that meets the applicable regulations or permit requirements for such source under the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), or (5) a commercial vessel that is three years or fewer from the end of its useful life when such restrictions become effective for the vessel.

Establishes deadlines for compliance with performance standards.

Requires owners or operators to: (1) conduct ballast water treatment using a treatment technology certified for the vessel before discharging the ballast water, and (2) ensure that any discharge meets the numerical ballast water performance standard set forth in the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments or a revised standard.

Authorizes an owner or operator to discharge ballast water without regard to a performance standard if the discharge is: (1) done solely to ensure the safety of life at sea, (2) accidental and the result of damage to the commercial vessel or its equipment not willfully or recklessly caused by the owner or operator and all reasonable precautions to prevent or minimize the discharge have been taken, or (3) solely for the purpose of avoiding or minimizing discharge from the vessel of pollution that would otherwise violate federal or state law.

Requires the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to: (1) complete, by January 1, 2016, and every 10 years thereafter, a review to determine whether revising the ballast water performance standard would result in a reduction in the risk of the introduction and establishment of aquatic nuisance species; and (2) undertake a rulemaking to revise such standard if such review finds that revising the standard would result in a scientifically demonstrable and substantial reduction in such risk. Prohibits the Administrator from issuing a revised performance standard that applies to a commercial vessel constructed prior to the date the standard is issued unless the revised standard is at least two orders of magnitude more stringent than the standard in effect on the date the review is completed. Authorizes the governor of a state to petition the Administrator to review such standards if there is significant new information that could reasonably indicate that such standards could be revised to result in a reduction of such risk.

Requires the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating to evaluate a ballast water treatment technology, upon application of a manufacturer, with respect to: (1) whether the treatment technology meets the ballast water performance standard when installed on a commercial vessel (or a class, type, or size of commercial vessel); and (2) the effect of the treatment technology on commercial vessel safety. Authorizes the Secretary to certify such technology for use on a commercial vessel if the technology meets such criteria and does not use a biocide or generate a biocide: (1) that is a pesticide, as defined in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), unless the biocide is registered under such Act or the Administrator has approved the use of such biocide in such treatment technology; or (2) the discharge of which causes or contributes to a violation of water quality standards under the Clean Water Act.

Prohibits an owner or operator from using uncertified technology to comply with the requirements of this Act, unless the technology: (1) is being evaluated under the Coast Guard Shipboard Technology Evaluation Program, or (2) has been certified by a foreign entity as meeting performance and safety requirements of this Act.

Authorizes the Secretary, in certifying such technology, to impose conditions on the installation, use, or maintenance of the technology onboard a commercial vessel as are necessary for: (1) the safety of the vessel, the crew, and passengers; (2) the protection of the environment; and (3) the effective operation of the treatment technology.

Authorizes an owner or operator who installs certified technology to use it notwithstanding any revisions to a ballast water performance standard occurring after its installation so long as the owner or operator: (1) maintains such technology in proper working condition, and (2) maintains and uses such technology in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications and any conditions imposed by the Secretary. Terminates such authorization with respect to a commercial vessel after: (1) the expiration of the service life of such technology or of the vessel, or (2) the completion of a major conversion of the vessel.

Directs the Administrator to issue guidelines specifying land-based and shipboard testing protocols or criteria for certifying: (1) the performance of ballast water treatment technologies, and (2) laboratories to evaluate such technologies.

Prohibits manufacturers from selling, introducing into interstate commerce, or importing for sale uncertified ballast water treatment technology for commercial vessels after ballast water discharge requirements for commercial vessels are in effect.

Requires the Secretary to establish an alternative method of compliance with this Act for a commercial vessel having a maximum ballast water capacity of less than eight cubic meters. Authorizes the Secretary to establish as an alternative method of compliance appropriate ballast water best management practices to minimize the introduction or establishment of aquatic nuisance species.

Requires an owner or operator to discharge ballast water in compliance with performance standards or alternative means of compliance unless discharging ballast water into: (1) an onshore facility for the reception of ballast water that meets standards issued by the Administrator, or (2) an offshore facility for the reception of ballast water that meets standards issued by the Secretary. Requires such standards to be issued within two years.

Authorizes the Secretary to issue a certificate stating that a commercial vessel is in compliance with ballast water discharge requirements if discharging ballast water into a facility meeting such standards is the sole method by which ballast water is discharged. Requires an owner or operator discharging ballast water into such reception facilities to discharge such water in accordance with an approved ballast water management plan.

Authorizes the Secretary to approve a ballast water management plan for a foreign commercial vessel on the basis of a certificate of compliance issued by the country of registration if the requirements of that country for a ballast water management plan are substantially equivalent to regulations issued by the Secretary.

Requires an owner or operator to maintain a ballast water record book in which each operation of the commercial vessel involving a ballast water discharge is recorded in accordance with regulations issued by the Secretary. Authorizes the Secretary to provide for alternative methods of recordkeeping.

Authorizes state governors to apply to the Secretary to administer their own inspection and enforcement authority for ballast water discharges. Prohibits a state from adopting or enforcing any state law with respect to such a discharge except for regulations established under a program approved by the Secretary.

Requires the Administrator, within three years, to evaluate discharges incidental to the normal operation of a commercial vessel. Defines such a discharge to mean a discharge of a pollutant into navigable waters in connection with the testing, maintenance, and repair of a system, equipment, or engine whenever the commercial vessel is waterborne, or a discharge into navigable waters from a commercial vessel of: (1) graywater (except body wastes and the wastes from toilets), bilge water, cooling water, oil water separator effluent, anti-fouling hull coating leachate, boiler or economizer blowdown, byproducts from cathodic protection, controllable pitch propeller and thruster hydraulic fluid, distillation and reverse osmosis brine, elevator pit effluent, firemain system effluent, freshwater layup effluent, gas turbine wash water, motor gasoline and compensating effluent, refrigeration and air condensate effluent, seawater pumping biofouling prevention substances, boat engine wet exhaust, sonar dome effluent, exhaust gas scrubber washwater, or stern tube packing gland effluent; (2) any other pollutant associated with the operation of a marine propulsion system, shipboard maneuvering system, habitability system, or installed major equipment, or from a protective, preservative, or absorptive application to the hull of a commercial vessel; (3) weather deck runoff, deck wash, aqueous film forming foam effluent, chain locker effluent, non-oily machinery wastewater, underwater ship husbandry effluent, welldeck effluent, or fish hold and fish hold cleaning effluent; or (4) any effluent from a properly functioning marine engine. Excludes as such a discharge: (1) a discharge into navigable waters from a commercial vessel of ballast water, rubbish, trash, garbage, incinerator ash, other such material discharged overboard, oil or a hazardous substance, or sewage; or (2) an emission of an air pollutant resulting from the operation onboard of a vessel propulsion system, motor driven equipment, or incinerator.

Revises provisions concerning the expiration of the Vessel General Permit for Discharges Incidental to the Normal Operation of Vessels issued under NPDES as in effect on December 19, 2008, for all jurisdictions except Alaska and Hawaii, and on February 6, 2009, for Alaska and Hawaii.

(Sec. 3) Directs the Administrator to determine, within one year, the discharges incidental to the normal operation of a covered vessel for which it is reasonable and practicable to develop best management practices to mitigate adverse impacts on the waters of the United States and to review such determination every five years. Defines a "covered vessel" to mean every description of watercraft, or other artificial contrivance used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water, that is engaged in commercial service and that is: (1) less than 79 feet in length; or (2) a fishing vessel, regardless of length.

Requires the Secretary to promulgate regulations on the use of best management practices for discharges incidental to the normal operation of a covered vessel that the Administrator determines are reasonable and practicable.

(Sec. 5) Prohibits the regulation in any manner other than specified in this Act of a discharge incidental to the normal operation of a commercial vessel or a discharge of ballast water from a commercial vessel.

(Sec. 6) Repeals provisions of the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990 directing the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating to issue voluntary guidelines to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic nuisance species into the Great Lakes through the exchange of ballast water of vessels prior to entering those waters.