PI Original Mose Buchele Thursday July 31st, 2008, 9:41am

Smooth Ride So Far For Compact, But Questions Remain

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Great Lakes
Compact, an eight state agreement designed to protect water from the
lakes from being diverted outside the region. Lawmakers have been
trying to fast-track approval of the compact, which has bipartisan
...


Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Great Lakes Compact, an eight state agreement designed to protect water from the lakes from being diverted outside the region. Lawmakers have been trying to fast-track approval of the compact, which has bipartisan support, including from President Bush. There had been some concern that legislators from drought-prone regions of the country would find fault with the conservation agreement, but so far that does not appear to be the case:

House and Senate leaders from the region have said they are not aware of any significant opposition to the plan, which is common among states. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia currently belong to at least one interstate water compact, and many states belong to more than one.

The question that remains is just how effective the compact will be. With confidence high over its prospects, some environmentalists and lawmakers are questioning whether it will do enough to prohibit the "commercialization" of Great Lakes water:

Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak [D-MI] has spoken out with concerns that the compact's failure to regulate the export of water in containers smaller than 5.7 gallons is a loophole that could open up vast tracts of Michigan water to commercialization.

In a recent interview with Circle of Blue, environmental lawyer Jim Olson outlined his main complaints with the compact:

There are three major concerns that I have with the Compact. One is that there is a huge product exemption; a precedent is being set that water can be privatized for export and sale. It is not subject to the diversion ban and Compact, which could tilt the gradient of Great Lakes water to the West, or to the Southeast, or anywhere in the world if it was in a container. It wasn’t intended to turn water into a private commodity, or to privatize water and there’s a huge risk that the Compact does exactly that. [...]

The other big issue is that the Great Lakes and all navigable water are by U.S. and State Supreme Court decision since the late 1800’s subject to public ownership in a public trust, which demands that governments not dispose of water for private gain and purposes. [...] It’s strange that the Compact does not include a public trust standard, which is the most basic, and the highest ethical standard, or stewardship standard recognized by law, by the US Supreme Court, and by the states of the Great Lakes.

The last problem is that some of the states are adopting the Compact’s diversion ban, but they’re not enacting conservation standards that are very strict...

Proponents of the compact have responded to such concerns by arguing that any water protection agreement is better than an absolute lack of regulation.

(H/T Michigan Messenger)

Image used under a Creative Commons license by Flickr user swanksalot.

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