Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Governors Decry "Misguided Efforts" To "Derail" Compact

Feb 19: According to a release from the Great Lakes Council of Governors (CGLG), the eight Great Lakes Governors renewed their call to state legislators to take the steps needed to protect the region’s most valuable asset, the Great Lakes. Specifically, the Governors adopted a resolution again urging swift enactment of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (compact) and rejected calls for renegotiations that will only serve to weaken the protections they endorsed more than two years ago. The Governors issued a clear statement decrying recent proposals to upset the delicate compromise among diverse and varied interests in support of protecting the Great Lakes through the compact.

On February 14, Ohio Senate President Bill Harris (R-Ashland, OH), and Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Michael Huebsch (R-West Salem, WI) announced they had teamed up to propose "modification" of the Great Lakes Compact and said they "will move expeditiously to pass legislation in their respective chambers." [See WIMS 2/15/08]

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, CGLG Chair said, “The Great Lakes are not only our greatest natural resource, but they are also a true national treasure. As Great Lakes Governors, we have been fighting to make sure we have a compact that preserves and protects the waters of the Great Lakes. We cannot allow misguided efforts to derail this important compact at this critical time.” Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty said, “This compact will improve and protect the health of the Great Lakes and our region’s economy. It was designed to enhance the protections many of our states already have in place and will protect us from new diversions of water from the Basin. We are hopeful that every Great Lakes state will ratify the compact soon.”

In a release the CGLG said, "The compact was developed by the Governors during an open and transparent process in order to ensure that everyone’s interests were represented and protected. As a result, there is an overwhelming consensus in favor of enacting the compact’s protections. Recent proposals by individual state legislators to change the compact threaten to destroy its protections and jeopardize regional management of the Great Lakes. Due to the legal vulnerability of current federal law, failure to enact the compact endorsed by the Governors will likely result in litigation through the courts or Congress interceding to exercise control over the Great Lakes.

Legislative approval has already been completed in four states: Minnesota, Illinois, New York and Indiana. Compact legislation has been approved by the Pennsylvania House and the Ohio House; bills are pending in Michigan; and, a bill is expected to be introduced soon in Wisconsin. Additionally, over 100 diverse groups of stakeholders who depend on the Great Lakes have endorsed the compact approved by the Governors.

Access a release from the Governors (
click here). Access a resolution adopted by the Governors (click here). Access details on individual state adoption of the Compact (click here).

Great Lakes Commission Recommendations On Legacy Act

Feb 15: The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) is calling on Congress to reauthorize the Great Lakes Legacy Act in order to continue progress in remediating contaminated sediments in the Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs). First passed in 2002, the Great Lakes Legacy Act authorizes funding to remediate contaminated sediments in the U.S. and binational Great Lakes Areas of Concern designated under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Commission Chair and Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry Jr., in a letter to Congressional leaders and members of the House and Senate Great Lakes Task Forces said, “The Legacy Act program has been highly successful in cleaning up toxic hot spots in Great Lakes rivers and harbors and has become a cornerstone of Great Lakes restoration efforts. It’s critical that Congress reauthorize the Great Lakes Legacy Act and maintain this vital program for restoring the Great Lakes.” Cherry noted that the Commission’s recommendations are consistent with the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration and that the Legacy Act enjoys strong support from the Great Lakes states, the business community, regional environmental organizations and local Area of Concern advisory councils.

The Commission recommended several amendments to benefit the Great Lakes states and improve the Legacy Act’s effectiveness and efficiency. Two major recommendations included, one, reauthorizing the Legacy Act through 2013 and increasing authorized appropriations to $150 million annually, consistent with the recommendations of the Great Lake Regional Collaboration and to better match the projected long-term costs of remediating contaminated sediments. Second, the GLC recommended that the current 35 percent nonfederal cost-share requirement be reduced to 25 percent for orphan sites where no responsible party is available to support the nonfederal cost share, to lessen the burden on states and local communities. The complete list of recommendations and additional information is available fro the contacts below.

To date, five cleanup projects and seven projects to monitor and evaluate contaminated sediments have been implemented under the Legacy Act, with eight additional projects now under review. The original Great Lakes Legacy Act enacted in 2002 authorized $270 million over five years to remediate contaminated sediments in Great Lakes Areas of Concern.

Access a release from the GLC (
click here). Access the complete recommendations and background (click here).