In this week’s politics round up, three major headlines surface from Great Lakes basin policy across the border.
House passes Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding
Last Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives signed off on a $32 billion bill for environmental agencies. Included in this sum is $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. This amount has remained the same as the figure received by the GLRI last year.
Major wins for environmental agencies included Great Lakes cleanup money included in the bill and a $186 million increase in the Drinking Water State Revolving fund. However, there was vocal opposition to a $164 million cut in the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, and a $400 million cut to a program which pays for sewage infrastructure updates. Critics also lamented that provisions in the bill would weaken the Clean Water Act.
Michigan State forces Enbridge to pay for Line 5 assessment
Michigan state officials announced last Tuesday that the state had hired two contractors to evaluate spill risk of the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. Enbridge will be forced to pick up the tab regardless of what the study finds. Attorney General Bill Schuette said that the company agreed to put aside $3.6 million aside in escrow to pay for the study, overseen by the state.
The two contractors are Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems (Calgary, AB) and Det Norske Veritas (USA). Dynamic will assess the current pipelines and provide alternative solutions to them, listing any potential impacts of the alternatives. Det Norske will provide an independent risk analysis to see what how much the financial damage might be for a worst-case spill, and figure out what resources would be necessary to respond to such a scenario. The studies will be completed in summer 2017.
Environmental advocacy group Oil & Water Don’t Mix criticized the agreement struck between Michigan State and Enbridge, objecting that Enbridge would have first access to the final report and will be able to lobby for changes before the public sees it. Groups also demonstrated outside of AG Shuette’s home last week in Midland, demanding an immediate shutdown of the pipeline.
Baldwin waterfront bill passes at Senate
Senator Tammy Baldwin has worked on the Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act passed for the last year, and it was finally granted a Senate vote last week. The bill, whose goal is to help restore and revitalize waterfronts across the country, was passed in Senate and will move to the House.
The bill would offer grants and funding to municipalities (such as Green Bay, or Superior) who wish to transition former industrial areas into commercial, tourism, and residential ventures. Baldwin believes the bill is both environmentally and economically geared, stimulating positive growth in areas previously polluted and abused by industry. Baldwin said in a press release: “Waterfronts are a critical asset for our quality of life in Wisconsin, as well as for our long term economic security. In fact, the Great Lakes are directly linked to more than 1.5 million U.S. jobs and $62 billion in annual wages. And Wisconsin’s natural resources support nearly $12 billion dollars of economic activity in the Badger State. Boosting our waterfront communities is not just an environmental goal, it is an economic necessity.”
Baldwin also sees the bill as the driver of investment in critical infrastructure that will be built to withstand increasingly extreme weather events and adapt to changing ecosystem conditions.