Tuesday, September 23, 2008

House Approves Great Lakes Compact

Sep 23: On a "Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass," requiring a 2/3 majority, the U.S. House approved the Great Lakes Compact (S.J. Res. 45), by a vote of 390 - 25. Environmental and conservation groups praised the approval and commended U.S. Representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Vern Ehlers (R-MI), Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), Steve LaTourette (R-OH) and Jim Oberstar (D-MN); and Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Carl Levin (D-MI), Arlen Specter (R-PA) and George Voinovich (R-OH), where the measure was approved by voice vote in August [See WIMS 8/4/08]. The President has indicated he will sign the approval.

Despite the overwhelming approval, it did not come without controversy and concern. Two Great Lakes Representatives -- Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) both raised concerns regarding loopholes in the Compact [
See WIMS 9/8/08]. Of major concern were the exemption of water in a container smaller than 5.7 gallons ("the bottled water loophole"); creating a Federal definition of Great Lakes water as a "product" subject it to international trade law obligations (e.g. NAFTA, GATT, etc.) and related "public trust doctrine" issues.

On Monday, September 22, Representative Stupak urged all 435 members not to approved the Compact until some answers were received from his previous inquiries in July to the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Trade Representative and the IJC (See link below). Kucinich had argued that Congress could close the loopholes without sending the Compact back to the State to be ratified again by passing his bill H.R. 6814 and adding specific language in the Committee Report for the Compact which strengthens the public trust doctrine provisions in the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 in ways that Compact Report language could not.

Various groups indicating their support included: Great Lakes United; National Wildlife Federation; Alliance for the Great Lakes; Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition; Council of Great Lakes Governors; Michigan Environmental Council; Michigan League of Conservation Voters; Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council; and Sierra Club.

Access the roll call vote (
click here). Access legislative details for S.J.Res.45 (click here). Access a release from Representative Stupak (click here). Access the Committee on Judiciary. H. Rept. 110-863 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 6577 (click here).

Canadian Mayors Call For Great Lakes Commitments

Sep 22: According to a release from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, mayors representing over 7 million Canadians in Ontario and Quebec issued a letter calling on the five Federal political leaders in the Canadian election to publicly declare their proposals for protecting the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. Thunder Bay Mayor Lynn Peterson, chair of Cities Initiative said, "Canadian municipalities are spending over $4 billion a year on Great Lakes and St. Lawrence protection. Given the national and international importance of this massive fresh water resource, it is time we have a substantial commitment from our federal government."

Canadian members of the Cities Initiative issued the letter a day after presidential candidates in the United States raised the importance of Great Lakes protection in their federal election campaign. Toronto Mayor David Miller said, "We are encouraged that, through the activities of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative and other organizations, both U.S. presidential candidates are acknowledging the critical importance of protecting this vital resource. Senator Barack Obama has come forward with his proposal and Senator John McCain has made known his concern for the future of the Great Lakes. It is time our federal party leaders stepped up and made their voices heard."

Access a release from the Cities Initiative (
click here). Access the Cities Initiative website (click here).