superior politics

Great Lakes Commission gets 2 million for phosphorus and sediment reduction

On August 3rd, the Great Lakes Commission announced via press release that it would be receiving $2 million in funding for 14 projects to reduce harmful phosphorus and sediment in the Great Lakes basin. The fund will come from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, facilitative by an agreement between the Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Phosphorus and sediments are being targeted because they’ve caused great harm to the Great Lakes Basin. The Great Lakes commission states that “polluting phosphorus and sediments … [cause] massive economic and environmental losses and damages and contributing to the formation of Harmful Algal Blooms and dead zones.”   Recent examples of locations which have phosphorous and sediment concerns include Toledo, OH’s ongoing efforts to combat algal blooms and Peninsula Harbour’s (Lake Superior) thin layer sediment cap in Jellicoe Cove.

The 14 projects were chosen by the Great Lakes Sediment and Nutrient Reduction Program, which, according to the Great Lakes Commission, prefers to award grants to nonfederal agencies and nonprofit organizations to carry out the initiatives in a “grassroots approach.” The Great Lakes Commission touts its history of working on collaborative projects with local, state, and federal partners to reduce non-point source pollution:

“Over its nearly thirty-year history, this program has supported 438 projects to reduce the input of unwanted sediment, nutrients, and other sediment-borne pollutants into Great Lakes, reducing soil erosion by an estimated 2 million tons and phosphorus loadings by 2 million pounds.”

The funding recipients are as follows:

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Last Call for IJC policy feedback

If you’re looking to contribute to important Great Lakes environmental policy development, the International Joint Commission (IJC) is still looking for public comment on its new Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) in the Great Lakes report. The report was created to propose strategy for federal, provincial, and state governments to reduce harmful effects of PBDEs on the environment. Here’s a brief crash course on PBDEs.

What are PBDEs?: According to the IJC, PBDEs are often found in flame retardant commercial and consumer products, and have been widely-used since the 1970s. They’re found in electronic devices, plastics, mattresses, and carpets.

Why are they bad?: The IJC describes PBDEs as “persistent, toxic, and bioaccumulative and have been detected in the environment and a variety of species worldwide.”

How do they affect the environment?: With exposure to PBDEs, wildlife have experienced increased mortality rates, malformations, and thyroid system and metabolic impairment. Though Canada and the U.S. have introduced measures to reduce their presence in the environment, PBDEs are still present in all of the Great Lakes.

What is the government doing about it?: In May 2016, the Canadian and U.S. federal governments declared PBDEs a ‘chemical of mutual concern’ under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The IJC produced the PBDE report to help inform further action on both sides of the border to manage PBDE damage.

Very briefly, the PBDE report proposes that the governments do the following:

  • Implement restrictions on the manufacture, use and sale of PBDEs and products containing them.
  • Eliminate potential releases of PBDEs during product recycling and disposal.
  • Provide guidance to industry, municipalities and the public on the recycling and disposal of products containing PBDEs.
  • Implement Extended Producer Responsibility programs requiring industry to be responsible to ensure proper recycling and disposal of products containing PBDEs.
  • Require industry to obtain prior government approval for PBDE substitutions.
  • Establish a registry identifying products containing PBDEs.
  • Ensure ongoing research and monitoring of PBDEs in the environment.

They’re asking for the public’s help before submitting a finalized report. With public feedback, the IJC can determine if there are any loopholes or overlooked points in their strategy.

You can help the IJC revise and proof their PBDE strategy by reading the PBDE report and addressing these questions:

  1. Is the problem accurately characterized?
  2. Are the recommendations sound?
  3. Are any important considerations overlooked?

Last day for comment is August 5th, 2016 – so don’t delay, if you want to contribute. You can contact the IJC with your feedback online (scroll to the bottom of the page and click ‘submit a comment’ button or email your comments via email to

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Three major Great Lakes headlines from the U.S.

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.

To see the full story at, click here. 

See additional reporting from here.

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.

To see the full article at Detroit Free Press, click here.

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.

For more information on the bill, click here. 

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Superior Watershed Partnership gets $1mil project funding

The Superior Watershed Partnership has received more than $1 million in funding from state, federal, and private sources to coordinate and implement conservation, restoration, and pollution prevention projects around Marquette, MI. The funding will be used for the 2016/2017 field seasons.

The funded projects will cover stormwater management, habitat restoration, tree planting, and energy conservation, among others. Some of the larger projects aim to improve water quality and directly benefit Lake Superior.

An article on the Upper Michigan Source reported an abbreviated list of current Superior Watershed Partnership projects. See the projects, and their funding amounts, below:

·Coastal Wetland Restoration and Stormwater Quality Improvement ($200,000): The EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) awarded this grant to restore prioritized coastal wetlands and naturally treat stormwater runoff before entering Lake Superior.

·Habitat Restoration for Migratory Birds and Pollinator Species ($88,000): This high profile project will restore important habitat for migratory birds and pollinator species along nearly two miles of Lake Superior shoreline within the Marquette city limits. Funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

·Native Tree Restoration in Riparian and Coastal Zones ($190,000): The US Forest Service awarded this GLRI grant to plant native species of trees and remove non-native species on public and private lands along the Dead River riparian corridor and prioritized coastal zones of Lake Superior.

·Urban and Rural Watershed Restoration ($150,000): This EPA GLRI grant will fund urban and rural restoration projects including watersheds and sub-watersheds in the City of Marquette.

·Protecting Public Beaches through Improved Stormwater Management ($198,000): Phase two of this EPA GLRI bio-engineering project behind Lakeview Arena will be completed in 2016 with approved diversions to adjacent wetlands for additional natural filtration to further improve water quality and prevent beach closures. Monitoring has confirmed significant bacteria reductions to date.

·Household Monarch Butterfly/Pollinator Gardens ($7,500): Over 5,000 milkweed seed packets (totally over 150,000 seeds) were mailed to households in the greater Marquette area. In addition, the SWP and the NMU greenhouse staff provided over 3,000 free milkweed transplants to the public to benefit the endangered Monarch Butterfly.

·Great Lakes Education Mini-Grants for K-12 Schools ($18,500): The SWP Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI) program provides grants for K-12 schools to get students more involved in actual Great Lakes protection, restoration and monitoring projects. Over the last year grants were provided to Marquette Senior High School, North Star Academy, Bothwell, Sandy Knoll, Graveraet and other schools.

·Energy Conservation and Energy Assistance Program ($315,000): The SWP administers the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) for qualifying low income families. The program includes energy conservation, insulation and state assistance with energy bills. Approximately $315,000 in energy conservation measures and energy assistance was provided to residents in the greater Marquette area during the 2015/2016 season. Funded through the Michigan Public Service Commission.

·Comprehensive Stormwater Planning ($125,000): SWP staff wrote a successful grant application for the City of Marquette through the DEQ Stormwater, Asset Management, and Wastewater (SAW) program. DEQ awarded funding for the development of a comprehensive stormwater and watershed management plan to better manage runoff from roads, parking lots and yards and to improve the quality of stormwater entering Lake Superior.

·Great Lakes Conservation Corps ($25,000): GLCC crews employ young adults 18-25 years old that complete a wide variety of conservation projects within the City of Marquette including but not limited to: dune restoration, invasive plant removal, beach clean-ups, habitat restoration and more.

To see more on the Superior Watershed Partnership, visit their website here.

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Canadian government declares microbeads ‘toxic’

In a move towards an outright ban, the Canadian federal government has officially labelled microbeads a toxic substance under the Environmental Protection Act. Doing so will give them the ability to ban the beads, often used in personal care products. According to an online notice by the Canada Gazette, the government is now targeting microbeads 5 millimetres in size, as opposed to the original 2 millimetres in size.

Caitlin Workman, a spokesperson for Minister of the Environment Catherine McKenna, told CTV that the government wants to ban microbeads and expects to have draft regulations ready by autumn. The government’s goal is to phase out their use in scrubs, bath products, facial cleanser, and toothpaste “to protect the long-term health of our environment and to keep Canada’s lakes and rivers clean,” Workman told CTV.

Though the government’s timeline for the banning of microbeads and import on microbead products is loosely defined at this point, companies have already taken action to stop microbead products from hitting the shelves. The notice in the Gazette says that of 14 companies that make up the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, 5 have already stopped using microbeads in their products. The remaining 9 will follow suit by 2018 or 2019. The government’s original goal was to ban manufacture and import of microbead products by the end of 2017 and ban the sale of these products by the end of 2018.

Following similar moves in the U.S. and Europe, Parliament voted unanimously to remove microbeads from the market and ban their use. The decision was announced by the former Conservative government last August.

CTV notes that the wording in the online notice specifically targets microbeads found in personal care products. Federal officials took care to note that they rejected more restrictive wording pushed by industry stakeholders who felt that the proposed ban would over-regulate the plastics supply chain in Canada and foster “unintended stigmatization” of plastic products. The online noticed backed the rationale of their decision with United Nations research done on the harmful effects of microplastics.

To see the full article from CTV, click here.

To see the online notice in the Canadian Gazette, click here.






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Waukesha diversion proposal approved

Environmental groups, municipal leaders, and the public are reacting strongly after eight Great Lakes governors voted unanimously on June 21 to approve Waukesha, WI’s proposal to divert millions of litres per day from Lake Michigan. Though Waukesha isn’t so far from Lake Michigan – at 27 kilometres away, it straddles the Great Lakes Basin – critics fear that the unprecedented decision may open up the Great Lakes to similar requests from other thirsty regions with dire drought or pollution problems.

Among the dissent was the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, an organization of 123 mayors who issued a press release opposing the diversion prior to the vote, and issued another release just after the vote expressing their disappointment with the result. Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee echoed the sentiment in a SaultOnline article.

Keith Brooks, campaign director for Environmental Defense Canada, told CBC that he doesn’t believe Waukesha’s application demonstrated sufficient need for the resource, because it hadn’t exhausted every other option available before requesting the diversion.”Everybody would probably love to take that water, because water is probably in short supply in lots of places,” Brooks said. “The body was created to manage the resource, to protect and conserve it.”

The body he’s referring to is the Great Lakes Compact. It started with the Great Lakes & St Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement, a good-faith agreement signed by eight Great Lakes state governors and Ontario and Quebec provincial premiers in 2005. The agreement provided a framework for the states and provinces to implement programs and laws to protect the Great Lakes.

At the same time, the governors endorsed the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. The Compact is a legally binding agreement between the Great Lakes states – Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – which details how they manage the use of the Great Lakes’ water supply. It became state and federal law in 2008, and it was this body which Waukesha had to apply to for its Lake Michigan request.

CBC’s article reports that despite the size of the request, Waukesha’s 31 million litres is a drop in the bucket compared to the 40 billion litres per day currently being withdrawn from the lake. Waukesha’s take is 0.07% of that total. Roughly 160 billion litres water withdrawn daily from the whole Great Lakes Basin – of which Ontario consumes the very largest amount at a whopping 41% of the total, followed by Michigan at 23%. Most of the withdrawn water is for thermoelectric power production – 70%, as opposed to 13% being used for public water supplies.

Most of the 160 billion withdrawn litres find their way back to the basin. In 2014, only 1.4 billion litres of that total was lost; this amount was down from 3.2 billion litres lost in 2013.

CBC spoke with Theresa McClenaghan, executive director and counsel for the Canadian Environmental Law Association, to get some perspective on the legal precedent set by the Compact’s vote. They report that while McClenaghan and the Association were disappointed to hear that the vote went Waukesha’s way, she’s skeptical that a similar request from municipalities farther away would be treated as favourably. She told CBC that it would be more economic unrealistic to transport water great distances because of the energy costs involved.

“We certainly hope it will prove the true exception to the rule, not turn out to be a pattern in the future,” she said.

To see the full CBC article, click here.

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Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative convenes in Niagara

Over June 15-17, 123 mayors came together for an annual meeting of the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative in Niagara, NY to discuss environmental, social and economic issues facing the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence. Representatives from local Lake Superior communities were in attendance from both Canada and the United States.

On the docket for the Cities Initiative were presentations and resolutions adopted on issues such as invasive species (particularly Asian carp and phragmites), microbeads, radioactive waste, drinking water safety, pipeline safety, integrated water management, confined animal-feeding operations, and sewer overflows. The mayors also took great time to review climate change strategies and commitments, as well as poll for responses on the proposed Waukesha diversion.

A press release by the Cities Initiative was released to local news sources voicing the mayors’ collective opposition to the Waukesha diversion, which will be decided in a final vote by Great Lakes state governors on June 21, 2016. The Net Newsledger quoted Nipigon, ON mayor Richard Harvey and EarthCare representative Brad Doff from Thunder Bay, ON, , both of whom added their voices to the previously published release.

“This is an important decision because it sets a precedent for the future,” said Brad Doff, EarthCare Thunder Bay attending on behalf of the City of Thunder Bay. “If we open this door, it may open the door wide for many other municipalities requesting to draw water outside of the great lakes basin.”

“This may be one of the most significant threats to the great lakes today” commented Mayor Harvey. “Any move to allow diversions of Great Lakes water out of the basin opens the door to future diversions and withdrawals’ of our waters. Being at the head waters of the Great lakes we recognize water as one of our greatest assets and must do everything to protect this great gift we have.”

In covering the event, the London Free Press reported an impassioned call by Cities Initiative for more resolute action to counteract climate change. The mayors are hoping to see more help from federal, provincial, and state levels to help with local climate change initiatives and programming expansion.

The Free Press spoke with mayor John Dickert of Racine, WI, who stated that too many legislators are “sitting on the sidelines” when they should be working more closely with municipalities to rethink transportation systems, build efficient buildings, and convert to renewable energy sources.

“We’re going to do it with your help, but if you folks aren’t going to do this at a federal level or a state level, then it’s time to move on . . . We need the funding, just as a reminder, but we will do it,” Dickert told the Free Press.

Though several communities in the Cities Initiative are promising to track and document their efforts to reduce carbon output, some smaller municipalities feel that larger cities need to step up their effort to account for their larger carbon footprint. Accordingly, a presenting engineer from Toronto suggests rather than focusing on new carbon emissions strategies, successful existing ones should be scaled-up. Fernando Carou, an engineer with the Toronto environment and energy division stated: “It’s not only about initiatives. It’s about getting the magnitude right.”

To see the Net Newsledger article (originally sourced from a Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative press release, click here.

To see the London Free Press full reporting on the Cities Initiative conference, click here.

To see a the full document of 2016 resolutions passed by the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, click here.

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Waukesha diversion final vote looms, spurs continued concern

As the Great Lakes states prepare for the the final decision on Waukesha, WI’s proposed water diversion from Lake Michigan, members of the public continue to express concern over the precedent-setting vote.

The Toronto Star recently spoke to several interested parties from the Great Lakes region to gauge reaction to the proposed diversion. Bob Duncanson, executive director of the Georgian Bay Association (representing 20 cottage associations), spoke on behalf of the Association and told the start that while they’re glad Waukesha’s request was scaled back considerably from its first incarnation, “we still feel that it sets a bad precedent for protection of the finite water resources in the Great Lakes.”

However, the Star also consulted Gail Krantzberg, a McMaster University engineering and public policy professor with 30 years experience as a Great Lakes scientist and policy analyst. She says she is “cautiously optimistic” that approval of Waukesha’s proposal won’t lead to a bad precedent for other thirsty communities, because the city’s situation is unique. She says that the request is for “drinking water, not golf courses,” addressing critics’ fears that the diverted water will be used for urban expansion. Waukesha submitted the request because its aquifer is depleting and contaminated with radium.

To round out the commentary, the Star consulted Ontario government representatives for comment. It reports that Ontario’s minister of natural resources and forestry told them the province “shared the strong concerns expressed by the public with respect to Waukesha’s original diversion proposal.”

The Star also quoted MPP Bill Mauro (Thunder Bay-Atikokan), who pointed out that the Waukesha application was “amended significantly” – referring to reduction of service-area boundaries and restriction on volume to 31 million litres per day. He also stated that the province “remains apprehensive about any diversion by Waukesha and will continue to voice the concerns of Ontarians.”

However, Ontario was among the preliminary votes in favour of the amended proposal, conducted May 18th. The vote passed 9-0 among Great Lakes states and provinces. Minnesota, the 10th member of the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body, abstained from the vote. Ontario and Quebec will not have a say in the final vote, to take place sometime this month. The original vote was to take place today, June 13th, but appears to have been pushed back.

To see the full article from the Toronto Star, click here.



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Great Lakes fight against invasive species faces challenges in Congress

In March, headlines reported good news in the fight against invasive species: no new invasives had been detected in the Great Lakes in a decade. Enthusiasm might be short-lived, however. A recent push in U.S. Congress, backed by the shipping industry, to loosen regulation around ballast water treatment is being condemned by the White House and environmental groups as a step backward in protecting the Great Lakes.

According to the Associated Press, the measure was “tucked into a $602 million defense bill” that was passed in the House mid-May. Sponsored by California Republican Duncan Hunter, the provision would exempt ballast water discharges from regulation under the federal Clean Water Act. In effect, this prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing standards and leaves the U.S. Coast Guard solely in charge. The two agencies currently share those responsibilities.

Hunter said that the measure would provide an overarching federal rule on ballast water treatment and is “intended to simplify a confusing patchwork of state and federal ballast regulations that is burdensome to shippers and hampers interstate commerce.” Great Lakes shipping and port organizations endorsed Hunter’s amendment.

Environmental advocates responded critically, pointing out that loosening regulation around ballast treatment would be a regressive move.

“The Clean Water Act is the nation’s only comprehensive law that can combat an environmental plague of aquatic invasive species that costs the U.S. economy billions of dollars and touches every single state in the union with its destructive powers,” said Nina Bell, executive director of Northwest Environmental Advocates in Portland, Oregon.

The White House chimed in with a statement condemning the Hunter provision, saying it “undermines the ability to fight the spread of invasive species” and would “irreparably hinder the successful prosecution of unlawful discharges.”

Critics say the issue should be treated separately from the defense bill, and suggest that the amendment was attached to an essential military bill to prevent a presidential veto. Supporters of the bill rebutted by mentioning that the annual defense measure routinely includes maritime provisions because they are important to national defense.

Sea Lampreys are an example of an invasive species in the Great Lakes.

Much of the debate is focused on how stringently ballast water should be treated before it is released. Ballast water is taken on by freighter ships to provide stability in rough waters, but it can contain organisms (plant, animal, virus,) which may be harmful when introduced from one environment to another as the water is released in ports far away. Quagga mussels, zebra mussels, Asian carp, and sea lampreys are examples of invasive species which have wrecked havoc on the Great Lakes.

Current regulation enforces treatment of ballast water to kill off these organisms before they can do damage. In 2012, the U.S. Coast Guard adopted international standards which required ship operators to limit the number of live organisms in ballast water. It also required that ocean-going vessels (‘salties’) exchange their ballast water at sea, or rinse empty tanks with saltwater to kill freshwater creatures. A year later, the EPA followed suit and adopted the same standards.

In October 2015, a federal appeals court ordered the EPA to build on their policy and toughen the rules with treatment methods such as filtration, UV light, and chlorine application. Environmentalists fear that order will be nullified if Hunter’s amendment is passed and strips the EPA and Great Lakes states of their power to enforce investment in improved treatment methods.

In June, the Senate is expected to vote on its own defense bill. If the ballast water provision is not added, it will be among issues the House and the Senate will negotiate to produce a final version.

To see the full story from Associated Press, click here.




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3 major headlines in environment, climate change, and Great Lakes policy

Three massive announcements were made in environment and climate change policy last week. Ontario makes a major move to tackle carbon emissions, and the government calls for participation and feedback on its Great Lakes programs in two outreach announcements. See the headlines below!


1. Review & Comment: major Great Lakes document in draft stage, looking for input until July

A draft Nearshore Framework for Great Lakes, a document pertaining to water management, has been completed and is up for review and public comment. The document was created to satisfy a requirement of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement which spans Canada and the U.S. It covers watersheds which connect to the coastline of the Great Lakes and the international section of the St. Lawrence river. The purpose of the document is to assess nearshore waters that will assist in identifying management priorities, including protection of ecologically valuable areas, protection of water quality, and restoration of degraded areas.

Comments must be submitted by July 12, 2016. They can be forwarded to contacts at (click here).

To see the draft, click here.


2. Federal government looking for public and organizational participation in Great Lakes concerns

Environment and Climate Change Canada is looking for stakeholder involvement in their Great Lakes programs and policies. This is an excellent opportunity to engage with lakewide partnerships and organizations that have a hand in developing and implementing policies and projects around the Great Lakes. Whether you want to have direct input, or just be kept informed of key policy and project updates, they’re looking to hear from you.

They issued the following notice via email last week:

If you or your organization is interested in keeping abreast of Lake Partnership activities for a specific Great Lake, we ask that you send us the following information by June 10, 2016.
Organization (if applicable);
Great Lake of interest;
Degree of involvement desired (i.e., to be kept informed or to participate directly); and
E-mail address.
Please send the requested information to the following e-mail addresses:
In the U.S.:


3. Ontario passes ‘cap-and-trade’ climate change legislation

Last Wednesday, Ontario passed the Climate Change Mitigation and Low-Carbon Economy Act. The legislation creates a cap-and-trade system, which sets a maximum-allowable pollution limit, and issues permits (or credits) to companies specifying what their carbon emission limit is (the ‘cap’). If a company goes over this limit, they will be penalized. However, they can buy or sell emission permits/credits if they come in above or below their limits (the ‘trade’).

In a press release, Ontario said it would invest money raised by the cap-and-trade program into a “new Greenhouse Gas Reduction Account,” and promised to “invest every dollar in green projects and initiatives that reduce emissions.” They report that the first auction of these permits/credits will happen in March 2017. However, under other cap-and-trade programs, companies are granted free permits/credits as incentive to prevent them from moving their operations to locations without cap-and-trade systems. While there’s no word on whether this will happen in Ontario, it has been reported that some industries will receive a four-year exemption from the program for the same reason.

The province will be linking its cap-and-trade system with Quebec and California, who already have these programs in effect. This means that Ontario companies can buy permits from (or sell to) companies in California and Quebec, and vice versa. According to The Globe and Mail, Manitoba will follow suit with a cap-and-trade program of its own, but will limit it to 20 of the province’s large polluters.

So how much will the cap cover? The Globe reports that “emission allowances will be capped at roughly 142 metric tonnes per year in 2017, which is expected to decline 4.17 per cent each year to 2020, when the Liberals hope to have achieved a 15-per-cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over 1990 levels.”

The plan is expected to add approximately $5/month to home heating bills, and 4.3 cents to the cost per litre of gasoline. A published report and subsequent media reporting on May 16 suggested that the Liberal government planned to phase out the use of natural gas for heating, causing public outcry. However, they denied the claims on May 18, the day the legislation was passed. According to The Globe and Mail:

“Despite what the opposition are saying, we’re not forcing anyone off of natural gas,” Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal told the legislature Wednesday.

“There will not be climate change police in the province of Ontario seizing natural gas furnaces or fireplaces.”

To see the full story at The Globe and Mail, click here.

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