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GLIN==> Court Dismisses Shippers' Challenge to Invasive Species Law

Title: Court Dismisses Shippers' Challenge to Invasive Species Law

For Immediate Release                       
Aug. 16, 2007

Joel Brammeier, Alliance for the Great Lakes: 773-590-6494 (cell)
Jordan Lubetkin, National Wildlife Federation: 734-887-7109
Donna Stine, Michigan United Conservation Clubs: 734- 887-7109

Federal Court Throws Out Shippers’ Challenge to State Invasive Species Law

DETROIT – U.S. Federal District Court Judge John Feikens today dismissed a lawsuit filed by a coalition of oceangoing shipping interests to block a new Michigan law designed to stem the flow of invasive species into the Great Lakes.

A coalition of conservation groups intervened on behalf of Michigan to defend the state law -- among them the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the National Wildlife Federation and Michigan United Conservation Clubs, each of which was instrumental in supporting the law’s passage in 2005.

“Michigan’s leadership in passing our ballast water law has been fully validated and I now expect other states to follow our lead with even more aggressive action,” said Michigan Sen. Patty Birkholz (R-Saugatuck), chief architect of the Michigan legislation signed into law by Gov. Jennifer Granholm. “Congress should not enact legislation that pre-empts the authority of the Great Lakes states. We must all work together to save our Great Lakes from this unmatched peril.”

The ruling has implications for the other seven Great Lakes states, three of which  – Minnesota, Wisconsin and New York – have introduced similar legislation aimed at curbing the introduction of invasive species discharged from the ballast water tanks used by oceangoing ships to steady to steady their voyage from overseas.

The shipping coalition challenged Michigan’s law on several grounds. Among the most troubling from a policy standpoint was the suit’s claim that Congress had pre-empted state power to protect their waterways from aquatic nuisance species.

The court found, however, that the shippers “failed to state a claim that the ballast water statute is pre-empted by federal law.” In drawing his conclusion, Feikens wrote, “It is clear that Congress intended concurrent regulation to address the ANS problem, and not to exclusively occupy this field.”

“This is a victory in the fight against invasive species and for the millions of people who depend on the Great Lakes for their jobs and way of life,” said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office. “The law is clear: States have the right to defend their waters and citizens from the onslaught of invasive species.”

Donna Stine, deputy director for Michigan United Conservation Clubs, agreed. “The time for sitting on the sidelines is over,” she said. “We support Michigan and other states to take immediate action to stop invasive species from entering the Great Lakes.”

In its ruling, the court also noted that “concurrent regulation” with federal law is not limited to states. A clause from the federal National Invasive Species Act citing  “the authority of any state or political subdivision thereof to adopt or enforce control measures for aquatic nuisance species,” suggests that even municipal government is not pre-empted from acting to prevent aquatic nuisances from entering the Great Lakes, Feikens wrote.

“Invasive species threaten our proud outdoor heritage in the Midwest,” said Christopher Tracy, vice chairman of the Alliance for the Great Lakes’ board of directors and an attorney with the Kalamazoo law firm, Howard & Howard, which represented the Alliance in the lawsuit.

“This ruling from the federal court is yet another vindication of state and municipal rights to protect their natural resources from invasive species that are costing taxpayers billions of dollars every year,” Tracy said.


Formed in 1970, the Alliance for the Great Lakes is the oldest citizens’ Great Lakes organization in North America. Our mission is to conserve and restore the world’s largest freshwater resource using policy, education and local efforts, ensuring a healthy Great Lakes and clean water for generations of people and wildlife. http://www.greatlakes.org/

The National Wildlife Federation is America's conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children's future. www.nwf.org

Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC), founded in 1937, is one of the largest non-profit statewide conservation organizations in the nation.  MUCC has a long-standing history as an advocate for the scientific management of natural resources and the continuation of Michigan’s outdoor heritage.  It is a coalition of approximately 50,000 individual members and 500 affiliated organizations representing every county in the state. http://www.mucc.org/

All three organizations are members of the Healing Our Waters®-Great Lakes Coalition of nearly 100 organizations dedicated to the restoration of the Great Lakes ecosystem. http://www.healingourwaters.org/

Founded in Kalamazoo in 1869, Howard & Howard is a full-service law firm with a national and international practice counseling businesses, banks and public sector clients.  The firm has offices in Michigan (Ann Arbor, Bloomfield Hills and Kalamazoo), Peoria, Ill., Las Vegas, Nev., and Windsor, Ontario.  Howard & Howard’s major practice areas include corporate advisory services, commercial litigation and intellectual property. http://www.h2law.com/

Susan Campbell
Communications Manager
Alliance for the Great Lakes

Visit http://www.greatlakes.org