Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New Great Lakes Legislative Caucus Website

Mar 26: The Great Lakes Legislative Caucus has launched a new website which they say will better serve state lawmakers interested in issues related to Great Lakes protection and restoration. The Caucus operates as part of the Midwestern Office of The Council of State Governments (CSG) which provides staffing services and funding for the caucus is provided by the Joyce Foundation. The Great Lakes Legislative Caucus is a nonpartisan group of state and provincial lawmakers from eight U.S. states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin) and two Canadian provinces (Ontario and Quebec). Michigan Senator Patricia Birkholz (R) serves as chair of the caucus.

Highlights of the website include: 1) links to the caucus's Great Lakes state and federal legislative trackers, 2) maps of the Great Lakes basin's state and federal legislative districts, as well as a list of legislators representing the basin, 3) a page devoted to information on upcoming caucus events and activities, 4) a recap of the latest news impacting the Great Lakes and the legislators who represent it, 5) and a forum for caucus members to exchange ideas with one another.

The Caucus has announced is planning to hold two regional teleconferences. The first call will be held April 25 and will focus on Great Lakes water quality and pollution prevention efforts. The second conference call will be held May 19 and will feature a presentation by the Brookings Institution's John Austin, who will examine the role that Great Lakes protection and restoration can play in strengthening the region's economy. Additionally, on June 13 and 14, the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus will meet in Chicago where legislators will have the chance to learn more about key Great Lakes-related environmental issues and policy trends. At the meeting, legislators also will have the chance to learn from and work with one another on state strategies to protect the lakes. The event will include a mix of programming and discussion opportunities.

Access the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus website (click here). Access a release with further details on the upcoming events of the Caucus (click here). Access the Midwestern CSG website (click here).

Brookings Institution Report On Great Lakes Economic Leadership

Mar 28: The Brookings Institution has issued a new report entitled, The Vital Connection: Reclaiming Great Lakes Economic Leadership in the Bi-National U.S.-Canadian Region.

The report recommends the following: establishing a bi-national innovation fund that targets investment and research in next-generation energy technologies, the science of the Great Lakes, and areas such as advanced manufacturing and medical health; enhancing and marketing the "Freshwater Coast" with a deeper investment in Great Lakes restoration and the establishment of a new Great Lakes Coastal Development Authority; improving the movement of goods along the U.S.-Canada border; creating a common market in the Great Lakes region for human capital and commerce; and setting and meeting renewable energy standards and carbon-reduction goals.

According to the report, "The bi-national Great Lakes region can continue to model what economic regions will look like in the global economy -- and also how they can thrive. To realize this vision will require leadership and purposeful actions that acknowledge the unique opportunities provided by the Great Lakes economy. Only the U.S. president and Congress, along with the Canadian prime minister and Parliament, can promote understanding of the economic opportunities to be realized. Working together, and working with federal leadership, the opportunity is real for the Great Lakes region to forge a new economic leadership position, and serve anew as a model for world economic and social innovation."

Access the complete 28-page report (
click here). Access a presentation to Canadian officials (click here). Access the Brookings the Great Lakes Economic Initiative website (click here).

Great Lakes Attorneys General Support State Ballast Regulations

Mar 20: Six Great Lakes state attorneys general have filed an amicus brief defending the right of states to protect their natural resources from aquatic invasive species. The brief specifically voices support of the Michigan regulations for ocean-going ships. The rules, based on a 2005 law, are the focus of a federal lawsuit now being heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. A U.S. district court judge ruled in favor of the Michigan law last year. Legislation has been introduced in several Great Lakes states to follow Michigan's lead on ballast water regulations. In addition, state regulators in Minnesota and Wisconsin are considering the adoption of statewide ballast water rules. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, on February 26, 2008, led the coalition of six Great Lakes attorneys general in filing the brief.

Michigan issued its first 10 Ballast Water Control General Permits in February 2007, under its law that went into effect January 1, 2007, and is designed to prevent the introduction of invasive species into the Great Lakes. Under the controversial new law, oceangoing ships must obtain a permit from MDEQ in order to use Michigan ports. Permits are issued only if the applicant demonstrates that they will either not discharge ballast water or will use one of four approved environmentally sound technologies and methods to prevent the discharge of aquatic invasive species.

On August 15, 2007, in the case of Fednav et al., v. Steven E. Chester, et al (U.S. District Court, Eastern District, Southern Division, Case No. 07-cv-11116), U.S. District Judge John Feikens ruled that Michigan's Ballast Water Statute, (Mich. Comp. Laws § 324.3112(6)), is constitutional and dismissed a lawsuit by nine shipping companies and associations that had challenged the new State law [See WIMS 8/16/07].

Access an release from the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus with links to Minnesota Attorney General announcement (
click here). Access the complete 32-page opinion from Judge Feikens (click here). Access legislative details for PA 33 of 2005 (click here). Access the Michigan Ballast Water Reporting website for extensive background information (click here). Access a Sea Grant Law Center legal review white paper (click here).