Wednesday, May 21, 2008

House Hearing On Great Lakes Legacy Act

May 21: The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment, Chaired by Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), held a hearing on the reauthorization of the Great Lakes Legacy Act (S. 2994). Witnesses testifying at the hearing included: U.S. EPA's Benjamin Grumbles; Michigan Lt. Governor and Chairman of the Great Lakes Commission, John Cherry; the Alliance for the Great Lakes; Great Lakes Programs Sierra Club; and the Council of Great Lakes Industries.

In an opening statement full committee Chairman, Representative James Oberstar (D-MN) said, "When I worked with Congressman Ehlers [R-MI] on this legislation in 2002, we -- along with many members of this body -- had high hopes for its success. And we have seen some successes; sites have been cleaned up. But, truth be told, results from this program have been underwhelming. . . My hope is that today’s hearing will provide the Subcommittee with information whereby positive and constructive changes can be made in reauthorizing this legislation. The framework remains sound, but it must be fine-tuned to increase the pace at which these many contaminated sites in the basin are addressed and ultimately delisted."

Representative Johnson said, "Of the 31 Areas of Concern [AOCs], one -- Oswego River in New York -- has been delisted. Cleanup has been completed at four sites. I want to highlight, however, that this is cleanup of only four sites -- not four Areas of Concern. Many of the sites targeted by the original Legacy Act remain as they were in 2002 -- untouched and continuing to leach their toxic legacy into the Lakes. . . To be blunt, that so many hazardous waste sites remain unaddressed is a public health risk of the first order. . . we would be remiss if we did not find a way to clean these toxic hotspots at a far faster pace than we have over the past five years. We cannot shirk from our responsibility on that front."

Access the hearing website for links to a background document, all testimony, a webcast and opening statements (click here). Access the opening statement from Representative Oberstar (click here). Access legislative details for S. 2994 (click here).