Environmentalists Score a Win Against "Invasive Species"

The House of Representatives passed the restriction of discharge of ballast water from oceangoing ships

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The fight against climate change may dominate the environmental agenda, but green activists today are celebrating a win in a lower-profile fight. The U.S. House of Representatives, by an overwhelming vote of 395 to 7, passed new legislation yesterday restricting the discharge of ballast water from oceangoing vessels. Ballast water, which is frequently sucked into ship tanks in one part of the world and discharged in another, is the primary culprit in a rampant invasive species epidemic in American waterways.

Exotic species, such as zebra mussels in the Great Lakes, are disrupting ecosystems, destroying tourism and fishing economies, and costing states millions of dollars. The new legislation requires the installation of new technology on ships by 2012 to treat ballast water before it's discharged. "This is exactly the type of strong legislation the environmental community has championed for years," said Corry Westbrook, legislative director of the National Wildlife Federation.

The White House isn't so keen on the bill, citing concerns over how the legislation applies to recreational vehicles. Lawmakers believe they can address those concerns, and even if they do not, they have the votes to override a veto.

—Bret Schulte