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Earthrise Wins Huge Case Against EPA Over Ballast Water

October 05, 2015

Today, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Vessel General Permit (VGP) that governs the discharge of 21 billion gallons annually of ballast water— laden with invasive species— to the nation’s waters. In a sweeping decision, the Court held that EPA’s permit failed to establish permit limits that meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.

Read the 2nd Circuit Opinion here.

This decision is a huge victory for the Great Lakes and our nation’s waters, as well as for our clients–NWEA (Northwest Environmental Advocates) and Center for Biological Diversity–who were represented by Earthrise’s Allison LaPlante, acting as lead attorney, along with Deborah Sivas and Matthew Sanders from the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic. The court found that the EPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously in issuing the permit, because it failed to ensure that these ballast water discharges would comply with water quality standards and it failed to evaluate onshore facilities for ballast water treatment.

“Invasive species are like a wildfire, growing instead of washing away; once released there is almost nothing that can be done,” said Allison LaPlante, lead attorney on the case. “The court said that EPA could not just simply throw its hands up and refuse to do the hard work of establishing permit limits that will protect water quality.” 

This litigation began more than 15 years ago and included tireless work by NWEA’s Executive Director and Lewis & Clark distinguished alumna, Nina Bell, several Earthrise attorneys over the years, and of course, with many hours put in by Earthrise law students including Brandon Cobb, Tori Cole, Cameron Jimmo, Courtney Moran, Donald Gourlie, Laura Kerr, and especially Serena Liss, Joel Reschly, Jordan Schoonover, and our current Earthrise fellow, Ryan Shannon. 

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