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In re SDS Gen. Permit for Ballast Water Discharges

ELR Citation: 39 ELR 20167
Nos. No. 08-1828, (Minn. Ct. App., 07/28/2009)

A Minnesota appellate court upheld a state permit regulating ballast-water discharges into Minnesota waters of Lake Superior. An environmental group argued that the agency erred in its interpretation and application of the state's nondegradation rule, failed to conduct an appropriate nondegradation review, and used an inadequate process to determine how stringent the permit's terms must be in order to preserve existing water quality. But the agency's interpretation of the terms "expanded discharge" and "new discharge" as set forth in the nondegradation rule was proper, and it correctly determined that a nondegradation review was required during the permitting process. Moreover, given the deferential standard of review and the fact that ballast-water discharge into Minnesota waters of Lake Superior has previously been unrestricted, the process the agency used to conduct the nondegradation review and its decision to establish permit terms without a baseline analysis of Lake Superior's existing water quality was not arbitrary and capricious. The permit terms were likewise entitled to deference. In adopting water treatment standards and a timeline for implementation of those standards, the agency reasoned that water quality will not be maintained and improved by the adoption of treatment standards and an implementation schedule that are unachievable. This reasoning is sound.