Thursday, January 28, 2010

34 Groups Call For Slow Down On Great Lakes Agreement

Jan 27: As the United States and Canada work toward a new Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, 34 environmental and conservation groups are telling the governments that their timeline does not allow for proper public consultation, and that this could seriously undermine the final Agreement, its implementation, and ultimately the health of the Great Lakes. John Jackson, Director of Clean Production and Toxics with Great Lakes United (GLU) said, “The governments began consulting on thinking about the Agreement in March of 2006. They only finally announced their intent to renegotiate last June, and have proceeded to sit on their hands for the past eight months. Now, they want to jam this process through by the end of the year. I’m sorry, but that’s just not good governance.”

The dissatisfaction was expressed in a letter sent to the governments earlier this week by the groups. It is a response to a presentation by Environment Canada and U.S. EPA in a web conference earlier this month [See WIMS 1/14/10]. At that time, the government agencies revealed their process for the renegotiation. Currently, they are inviting public comment on the issue of governance until February 14 -- exactly one month from the announcement. The governments have given no indication how future public comment periods will operate.

The groups, which include formal government advisors, offer six recommendations to improve the process: (1) Release a draft government position or options paper on governance issues. (2) The release of the draft government position or options paper should set off a 60-day public comment period. (3) Once the governments have negotiated draft language on governance, release it again for a public comment period. (4) For the “issues” consultations, follow a process similar to recommendations 1-3, with the release of a draft position or options paper followed by a 60-day public comment period followed by another opportunity for comment after the governments have completed their first round of negotiations on the topic. (5) Compile a web-posted summary of comments received from public input at each stage of the consultations. (6) Release a final draft of the complete revised Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement for comment prior to completing negotiations and hold public hearings in both countries on this draft.

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was first signed by Prime Minister Trudeau and President Nixon in 1972, and subsequently revised in 1978 and 1987. The Agreement committed the two countries to protecting the health of the ecosystem, prohibiting the discharge of pollution in toxic amounts, and to virtually eliminating dangerous, persistent toxic substances.

Access a release from the groups and link to access the letter (
click here). Access a Binational website on Amending the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement with further details, contacts and background information (click here).