Monday, July 7, 2008

States Onboard With Compact; Congress Next

Jul 7: It's almost official that all of the Great Lakes states have now approved the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact legislation. On July 4, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell approved legislation passed last week; Ohio's Governor signed the Ohio legislation last week; and Michigan's Governor Jennifer Granholm has already praised the passage of Michigan's bills and is expected to officially sign the bills very soon. Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York and Wisconsin have all previously approved their legislation. The states-approved Compact will next go to Congress for Federal approval.

In a release from the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Sharon Cook, Water Conservation Program director said, “It is an historic moment for the Great Lakes when all the states, through both their governors and legislatures, recognize that this incredible resource is important to us collectively. It’s clear that the Great Lakes states can come together to regulate and manage the resource that we share.”

The National Wildlife Federation issued a release saying, "Over seven years ago, state representatives, environmentalists, industry groups, and others set out to protect the Great Lakes for future generations by drafting a binding regional agreement on water withdrawals. Many naysayers thought the agreement would never make it out of the negotiations, let alone through the state legislatures. Yet we are incredibly close to achieving our goal. We hope that Congress will act swiftly to close the deal."

The Great Lakes Water Resources Compact is the culmination of a multi-year process of negotiations among the eight Great Lakes States. The Compact is designed to protect Great Lakes water supplies by implementing a water management plan to protect against water diversions out of the basin and to promote water conservation measures within the basin. To become law, the Compact must be enacted by all eight Great Lakes States and consented to by the U.S. Congress.

While most interest groups are pleased with the various state approvals, a major unsettled issue remains in Michigan over the lack of a "public trust" doctrine provision that was advocated by two former Governors [Milliken (R) and Blanchard (D)] and many environmental interests [See WIMS 6/13/08]. Concerns were raised that without public trust language, the State's and Great Lakes waters are at risk of sale and export because of NAFTA and GATT -- international trade agreement provisions which prevent bans or strict regulation on water once it is a commodity.

Access a release from Governor Strickland (
click here). Access a release from Governor Granholm (click here). Access the status of various state compact legislation from the Council of Great Lakes Governors (click here). Access a release from the Alliance (click here). Access a release from NWF (click here). Access a posting from Michigan Attorney Jim Olson on the public trust concern (click here). WIMS-Great Lakes Environment blog posts on the Compact approvals (click here). Access a media report on the upcoming Congressional consideration (click here).