Monday, July 18, 2011

OH Governor Vetoes Bill That Would Violate Compact

Jul 15: Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich vetoed HB 231, legislation related to Ohio's participation in the Great Lakes Compact, an agreement between the eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces to provide for management of Great Lakes water [See WIMS 7/14/11]. In vetoing the bill Kasich issued a statement saying, "Lake Erie is an incredible resource that demands our vigilant stewardship to maximize its environmental, recreational and commercial potential for Ohioans. The Great Lakes Compact ensures that Great Lakes states and provinces work together to protect the lakes and the water resources in the basin, and Ohio's legislation is intended to further Ohio's compliance with the compact. While most of HB 231 fulfills Ohio's obligations without concern and helps meet the needs of Ohio's industrial, energy and agricultural water users, portions of it must be improved. Namely, Ohio's legislation lacks clear standards for conservation and withdrawals and does not allow for sufficient evaluation and monitoring of withdrawals or usage. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to make the necessary improvements to the legislation."
    The bill was supported by the Coalition for Sustainable Water Management including: Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Manufacturers Association, Ohio Petroleum Council, Ohio Chemistry Technology Council, Ohio Soft Drink Association, Greater Cleveland Partnership, and Ohio Aggregates & Industrial Minerals Association.
    A July 15, letter from U.S. Representative Candice Miller (MI-10), co-chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force (GLTF), along with fellow co-chairs of the House GLTF sent a letter to Governor Kasich expressing concern the bill which they said would allow an excessive amount of water to be withdrawn from Ohio's portion of Lake Erie and its tributaries without any oversight. In the letter the House GLTF members wrote that: "Ohio House Bill 231, amongst other things, would allow an excessive amount of water to be withdrawn from Ohio's portion of Lake Erie and its tributaries without any oversight. Under this legislation a water user would not have to seek a permit unless there was a new withdrawal of five million gallons of water a day averaged from Lake Erie, two million gallons a day averaged from a river or groundwater source, and 300,000 gallons of water a day averaged from a high-quality, small stream.

    "These threshold numbers surpass the states and provinces surrounding Lake Erie and the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes are a shared resource. Withdraws that occur in Ohio's Lake Erie basin do not only impact Ohio, they also impact Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ontario, and Pennsylvania's waters. Three years ago, Ohio made a commitment to the Great Lakes states and provinces to conserve and sustainably use Lake Erie waters. Ohio House Bill 231 does not live up to this commitment and will jeopardize the Great Lakes and the surrounding states and provinces."

    In a letter to Ohio Senate leaders on June 27, one of the authors of the Great Lakes Compact, Sam Speck, Director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources from 1999 to 2006, who chaired the Great Lakes Commission said, "I am concerned that Substitute House Bill 231 will undermine the resource protections that the Commission worked so hard to establish in the Compact. Should the General Assembly pass the bill as currently written… Ohio will adopt legislation that violates the Great Lakes Compact. What's more, Ohio will adopt the weakest water supply protections of all of the Great Lakes states. . ."

    Access a release from Governor Kasich (click here). Access a release and the letter from the House GLTF (click here). Access a release from the Nature Conservancy and link to the Speck letter (click here). Access a legislative analysis for HB231 (click here). Access further legislative details for HB231 (click here).