Wednesday, January 23, 2008

House Hearing On Improving Great Lakes Water Quality

Jan 23: House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, Chaired by Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) held a hearing entitled, Progress Toward Improving Water Quality in the Great Lakes. The Subcommittee received testimony from representatives from the U.S. EPA, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the International Joint Commission, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and members of the United States House of Representatives on Great Lakes water quality. Representatives testifying included: Peter Visclosky (D-IN); Bart Stupak (D-MI); and Mark Kirk (R-IL); and Rahm Emanuel (D-IL).

GAO delivered testimony entitled, Great Lakes Initiative: EPA and States Have Made Progress, but Much Remains to Be Done If Water Quality Goals Are to Be Achieved (GAO-08-312T, January 23, 2007). GAO indicated that millions of people in the United States and Canada depend on the Great Lakes for drinking water, recreation, and economic livelihood. In 1995, EPA issued the Great Lakes Initiative (GLI). The GLI established water quality criteria to be used by states to establish pollutant discharge limits for some BCCs and other pollutants that are discharged by point sources. The GLI also allows states to include flexible permit implementation procedures (flexibilities) that allow facilities’ discharges to exceed GLI criteria.

GAO's testimony was based on its July 2005 report, Great Lakes Initiative: EPA Needs to Better Ensure the Complete and Consistent Implementation of Water Quality Standards (GAO-05-829) and updated information from EPA and the Great Lakes states. The statement addressed: (1) the status of EPA’s efforts to develop and approve methods to measure pollutants at the GLI water quality criteria levels, (2) the use of permit flexibilities, and (3) EPA’s actions to implement GAO’s 2005 recommendations.

GAO said in its 2005 report, it made a number of recommendations to EPA to help ensure full and consistent implementation of the GLI and to improve measures for monitoring progress toward achieving GLI’s goals. GAO said EPA has taken some actions to implement the recommendations. For example, EPA has begun to review the efforts and progress made by one category of facilities -- municipal wastewater treatment plants -- to reduce their mercury discharges into the basin. However, until EPA gathers more information on the implementation of GLI and the impact it has had on reducing pollutant discharges from point sources, as we recommended, it will not be able to fully assess progress toward GLI goals.

EPA testified that, "While significant and emerging challenges remain, the Great Lakes have made a dramatic comeback from severely polluted conditions - 30 to 40 years ago when the Lakes were seemingly on the verge of collapse... We have also made significant progress in incorporating revised permit limits into NPDES permits that reflect the Guidance [GLI]. The percentage of NPDES permitted discharges to the Lakes or major tributaries that had permit limits reflecting the Guidance's water quality standards has increased from 62% in 2002 to 95% in 2007." The Agency cited and listed many of the accomplishments of the recent State of the Great Lakes 2007 [See WIMS 6/7/07 and below].

Access the hearing website for background information and links to all testimony (
click here). Access the 2007 Highlights Report on the State of the Great Lakes 2007 and other documents about Great Lakes indicators and the SOLEC website (click here); or the Binational website (click here).

$9 Million Great Lakes Watershed Restoration Grant Program

Jan 22: ArcelorMittal, the world's number one steel company, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced the ArcelorMittal Great Lakes Restoration Program. The new grant program is funded by a $2.1 million donation from the ArcelorMittal USA Foundation that will be matched by a $3 million investment by NFWF and Federal agency partners including: U.S. EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The contributions will then be leveraged by grantees to enable a total on-the-ground impact of $9 million throughout the Great Lakes watershed.

According to a release, the ArcelorMittal Great Lakes Restoration Program is an important step towards restoring the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes Basin. The program is designed to address the habitat and ecosystem restoration goals developed through the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration (GLRC). The Regional Collaboration, created by a Presidential Executive Order, is a wide-ranging, public-private cooperative effort to design and implement a strategy for the restoration, protection, and sustainable use of the Great Lakes. Specifically, ArcelorMittal funds will support wetland protection and restoration across the Great Lakes Region.

Lou Schorsch, President and CEO, ArcelorMittal Flat Carbon Americas said, “A vibrant, sustainable Great Lakes is important to our business and our community. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to lead the effort in improving the fish and wildlife habitat in the Great Lakes. Our USA Foundation is committed to supporting sustainability through the focus areas of education, the environment and support of healthy and safe communities where our employees and customers work and live.” Benjamin Grumbles, Assistant Administrator for Water at U.S. EPA said, “This seed money grows innovative partnerships to restore and sustain the greatness in the Lakes. The world's largest freshwater ecosystem benefits when governments and the private sector team up to achieve the environmental and economic goals of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration.”

Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation said, “Ever increasing pressure on our fresh water ecosystems underscores the need to protect and restore and Great Lakes, which represent ten percent of all fresh water globally. We are proud to work with ArcelorMittal and our federal, state, and local partners to move Great Lakes restoration forward. ArcelorMittal's commitment sets a high bar for corporate commitment to restoring the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes system.”

Access a release from NFWF (
click here). Access more information on the Great Lakes Watershed Restoration Program including applicant eligibility, eligible projects, and submission requirements (click here).