Protecting the Great Lakes
Journal Gazette (IN)
Published February 23, 2008
Indiana has definitely aggravated neighboring Great Lakes states.
State officials made dubious environmental decisions that many thought would have hurt Great Lakes water quality; air and water pollution permits from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management granted to the BP Whiting refinery serve as prime examples. Fortunately, state leaders have finally taken a step that should improve our standing with our neighbors.
On Wednesday, Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the Great Lakes Compact, making Indiana the first state to ratify the agreement to improve protection of the Great Lakes. The compact is an agreement between the eight Great Lakes states and the Canadian provincial governments of Ontario and Quebec to protect the world’s greatest freshwater resource better.
The compact is intended to protect the environmental, as well as the economic, interests of the states and provinces that border the Great Lakes. It creates standards for water-quality protection, regulates the amount of water that can be withdrawn from the lakes and requires Great Lakes states to regulate the use of water and adopt conservation plans. The rules affect everything from sewage treatment to how much water industries can use.
The compact will ensure that authority over the Great Lakes stays within the region. The Great Lakes are one of the most valuable resources in the world. The lakes represent significant economic advantages to the region because of tourism, transportation and water resources.
Because water is crucial to commerce and human life, the lakes are the envy of many drought-stricken states. It’s not difficult to imagine a water-hungry but more politically powerful state – such as California – wanting to siphon water from the Great Lakes region to feed it.
The compact was created in 2005 but requires each state legislature’s approval. Minnesota and Illinois approved the compact in 2007 but still need implementation language. The New York legislature recently approved the compact, but it needs Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s signature. And Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have legislation pending. The final step is approval from Congress.
For once Indiana is leading the way in protecting the Great Lakes by being the first to adopt the compact.