Why are MI and IN GOP trying to wreck cleanup of Chesapeake Bay?

  • Published on February 25th, 2014

Opposition to Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Plan by Michigan and Indiana Could Hamper Great Lakes Protection Efforts

CHICAGO — The Chesapeake Bay is worlds away from the freshwater Great Lakes, yet that hasn’t stopped the attorneys general of Michigan and Indiana from inserting themselves into a legal battle there and siding with opponents of a plan to clean up the Chesapeake.

By filing an amicus brief in support of an industry lawsuit opposing the cleanup plan, the attorneys general send the wrong signal at a time when our country needs to focus on supporting restoration of clean water around the nation from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River to the Everglades.

Over the last 10 years, western Lake Erie has experienced the worst toxic algal blooms in the lakes for a generation. Carroll Township, west of Toledo, Ohio, last fall ordered residents to stop drinking Lake Erie water because of the presence of high levels of dangerous toxins. The situation is so serious that water treatment plants in the western Lake Erie watershed are spending millions of extra dollars to treat the growing volumes of algae in their water intakes. Green Bay in Wisconsin and Saginaw Bay in Michigan are also showing rising levels of environmental stress from similar problems.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has developed a “pollution diet” for the Chesapeake Bay that mandates reductions of pollutants from sources such as farms, construction sites and sewage treatment plants. The Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint, as this plan is called, was challenged in court by the American Farm Bureau, the National Association of Homebuilders and several agricultural trade groups. A federal district court judge last fall upheld the EPA’s authority to implement this Chesapeake pollution diet.

Countering that the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan “strips states of their traditional rights to make land-use decisions,” the attorneys general of 21 states, including Michigan and Indiana, recently joined industry groups seeking to reverse the judge’s decision to uphold the plan. “If this [Chesapeake Bay cleanup] is left to stand, other watersheds . . . could be next,” they state in a brief filed with the court.

“When pollution crosses state lines, threatens drinking water and chases people away from the lakes, a partnership of states and EPA only makes sense,” said Lyman Welch, Alliance for the Great Lakes Water Quality Program director. “The Great Lakes region has turned off the taps on some of the worst pollution in history, but there is much more work to be done. We need to be realistic about putting Lake Erie on a pollution diet.”

“Michigan, Indiana and the other 19 states weighing in on this should be focusing on the many pollution problems in their own back yards,” said Melissa Damaschke, director of Sierra Club’s Great Lakes Program. “For instance, here in the Great Lakes we have serious nutrient problems plaguing Lake Erie and we need concerted attention on addressing our local water quality problems. Great Lakes states should be learning from the Chesapeake Bay model, not meddling in its implementation.”

“Michigan and Indiana should join Ohio and ask the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency for a Lake Erie plan similar to the Chesapeake Bay plan that requires annual nutrient reductions, rather than go to court against the Chesapeake plan. Indiana and Michigan are doing little to nothing to reduce Lake Erie’s greening waters, which threaten drinking water for millions,” said Sandy Bihn, Lake Erie Waterkeeper executive director.

“It is only a matter of time before more Lake Erie communities cannot drink their drinking water and more Ohioans become ill from toxic algal blooms,” said Kristy Meyer, managing director of Agricultural, Health & Clean Water Programs at the Ohio Environmental Council. “Michigan and Indiana residents would be better served by these two states focusing on reducing the nutrient pollution flowing into Lake Erie and learning from the Chesapeake Bay model about how they can achieve those reductions.”

Alliance for the Great Lakes   •   Lake Erie Waterkeeper   •   Ohio Environmental Council   •   Sierra Club


For more information contact:

Alliance for the Great Lakes – Lyman Welch, Water Quality Program Director
Phone: (312) 445-9739 / E-mail:  lwelch@greatlakes.org

Lake Erie Waterkeeper – Sandy Bihn, Executive Director
Phone: (419) 691-3788 / E-mail:  Sandylakeerie@aol.com

Ohio Environmental Council – Kristy Meyer, Managing Director of Agricultural, Health & Clean Water Programs
Phone:  (614) 487-5842 / E-mail:  KMeyer@TheOEC.org

Sierra Club – Melissa Damaschke, Great Lakes Program Director
Phone:  (313) 965-0055 / E-mail:  melissa.damaschke@sierraclub.org

Susan Campbell | Communications Manager | SCampbell@greatlakes.org
Alliance for the Great Lakes | www.greatlakes.org
1845 N. Farwell Avenue, Suite 100 | Milwaukee, WI 53202 | 414-540-0699

Protect Your Lakes at http://takeaction.greatlakes.org/…

(Chesapeake bay image by Bryan Costin.)

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