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TRAVERSE CITY — A federal court has rejected a shipping industry challenge to a government permitting system designed to prevent the spread of invasive species in U.S. waters.

The permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency regulates discharges of ballast water and other substances such as bilge water from vessels.

Many species that have invaded and disrupted ecosystems and cost billions of dollars in the Great Lakes and elsewhere in recent decades arrived from other countries in ballast water. Among them are zebra and quagga mussels.

The EPA permit sets rules for ship discharges and lets state governments add provisions to protect their own waters. Shipping groups asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to throw out the additional state requirements.

In a ruling Friday, the court refused.


Agency eases liability rule for spouse’s debt

The Internal Revenue Service says it is making it easier for some “innocent spouses” to escape liability for their husband’s or wife’s tax debt.

Under the law, taxpayers who file joint returns are generally liable for the tax debts of their partners. However, spouses who are unaware that their partners have underpaid federal income taxes may qualify for relief from the IRS.

The IRS had required innocent spouses to apply for relief within two years of the IRS starting a collection action. On Monday, the IRS eliminated the two-year time limit for some applications after lawmakers and advocates complained that many abused or divorced spouses may not become aware of IRS collection efforts for years.

From wire dispatches and staff reports