Minnesota

MinnPost: Why a Clean Water Rule May – Or May Not – Be a Big Issue in Minnesota’s First Congressional District

Why a Clean Water Rule May – Or May Not – Be a Big Issue in Minnesota’s First Congressional District

By Walker Orenstein

As farmers in southern Minnesota grapple with President Donald Trump’s escalating trade war — testing the alliance between the agriculture industry and the GOP that substantially benefited Trump in 2016 —  First Congressional District Republican candidate Jim Hagedorn is making sure to showcase the administration’s industry-friendly policies as part of his effort to persuade voters to send him to Congress.

That means highlighting support for mining in northern Minnesota, including the recent decision to end a study of potential impact from copper-nickel mining on the Superior National Forest and the neighboring Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

But it also includes touting a Trump administration effort that hits much closer to home in southern Minnesota: the rollback of a 2015 update to the Clean Water Act that expanded protections to small bodies of water feeding larger rivers and lakes — a policy that happened to be one of President Barack Obama’s signature environmental initiatives.

“It’s one of the biggest regulatory issues in agriculture,” Hagedorn said. “I bring it up all the time.”

A fight over water protections

The Obama EPA’s 2015 rule change has a long backstory. It starts more than 40 years ago, when Congress first approved the Clean Water Act. That original bill gave the federal government jurisdiction over the “waters of the United States.”

Ever since, people have not stopped arguing what that actually means, and how broad the government’s authority is under the law. Does it apply only to  lakes and rivers and water that feeds directly into them? Or does the law cover even small wetlands, bogs, streams and other isolated or seasonal bits of water?

Supreme Court rulings on the matter have never quite cleared things up, so under Obama, the EPA stepped in to make firm — and far-reaching — guidelines on what could be considered a Water of the United States. John Kolb, a St. Cloud-based attorney who focuses on water and natural resources regulations, says a long study conducted by the EPA used to justify its rule boiled down to: “All water is connected.”

Many farmers took issue with the decision, however. Beyond their general opposition to government expansion, industry groups said the rule change meant they were going to be targeted and penalized for standard agricultural practices. Kirby Hettver, president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, said farmers out West were found in violation of Obama-era Clean Water Act “just for tilling their soil.”

He was referring to a case that began in 2012 in which the government ordered a farmer in Northern California, John Duarte, to pay millions in fines and penalties after it said he broke the law by “deep ripping” his field to plant wheat without a permit, and disturbing seasonal wetlands called vernal pools that are notably home to fairy shrimp. (While there are plenty of agricultural exemptions to the Clean Water Act, the government said the field wasn’t subject to them since it hadn’t been plowed in decades. The case was eventually settled.)

While Duarte’s legal saga started before Obama’s update to the Clean Water Act, it became a rallying cry for conservatives worried about government overreach, a charge that found a sympathetic reception within the Trump administration. Earlier this year, the EPA withdrew the rule and is now in the process of writing a more narrow definition of which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act.

Effect in Minnesota

And yet, whether any of this means much for Minnesota remains a topic of debate. One reason is that despite the Trump EPA’s withdrawal of Obama’s Waters of the United States rule, litigation has reinstituted the Obama rule in more than 20 states, including Minnesota.

For another, Minnesota administers much of the Clean Water Act for itself, and it adopted its own stringent definition of protected waters decades ago, said Jean Coleman, an attorney for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. In fact, Minnesota’s rule is far broader than the Obama-era water rule, and includes everything from irrigation and drainage systems to all “accumulations of water, surface or underground, natural or artificial, public or private,” within the state, she said.

“The definition of ‘Waters of the State’ is extremely expansive and it captures all waters that would be under the Obama definition of ‘Waters of the U.S.’ or under any other definition of ‘Waters of the U.S.’ because it is so expansive,” Coleman said.

She added: “I don’t think you can think of anything that’s liquid water that falls from the sky that’s not a water of the state.”

The state also has its own tough laws protecting wetlands and more, said Scott Strand, senior attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group. Those laws blunt any given update or reversal of the federal Waters of the United States rule. “It will have a more dramatic impact in states that don’t have vigorous state clean water protections,” Strand said of the changes to the Waters of the United States rule.

 

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ELPC named the 2018 Regulatory Champion of the Year by Interstate Renewable Energy Council

 (San Francisco, CA) – During an awards ceremony at Intersolar North America, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) today honored its 2018 3iAward recipients, celebrating the nation’s best innovation, ingenuity and inspiration in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The winners are based on a prestigious annual national search.

“Today, we’re proud to recognize our 2018 IREC 3iAward recipients – among the nation’s most extraordinary people, projects and programs making a sustainable energy future a reality,” said IREC Board Chair Larry Shirley.

“Their work is setting new standards – creating solutions to today’s complex renewable energy and energy efficiency challenges – changing communities and our national energy landscape in the process,” added Ken Jurman, IREC board member and chair of the 3iAwards Committee.

“As we honor their achievements, IREC celebrates its 36th year,” Shirley said. “We are more proud than ever of our own history, leading transformative policies and practices that allow millions more Americans to benefit from clean renewable energy.”

Regulatory Champion of the Year
Environmental Law & Policy Center, Chicago IL

Where Midwest regulatory reform issues call for talented public interest environmental entrepreneurs, you’ll find the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Since 1993, ELPC has been improving the quality of life in Midwest communities, now with offices in nine states. Nowhere is ELPC’s handiwork more apparent than in the Illinois Future Energy Jobs bill and the Illinois Power Agency’s Long Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan, both of which will help usher in new wind and solar projects. ELPC has played a pivotal role advancing community solar and interconnection reform in Illinois, Iowa and most recently Minnesota, where consumers and communities experienced major backlogs, delays and costs to connect community solar projects to the grid. Along with IREC and Fresh Energy, ELPC successfully petitioned the Minnesota Public Utility Commission for more transparent, nationally consistent interconnection standards. New common-sense interconnection standards now lay the foundation for more Midwesterners to benefit from clean energy for years to come.

MPR News: Line 3 Still has Regulatory Ground to Plow Before Bringing in Bulldozers

July 10, 2018

Line 3 Still has Regulatory Ground to Plow Before Bringing in Bulldozers

By Elizabeth Dunbar

Before Enbridge Energy can bring in the bulldozers and backhoes to build its Line 3 pipeline across northern Minnesota, it still has to go through more months of regulatory scrutiny.

The project took a big step forward late last month when it won approval from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission after nearly four years of review — but it was by no means the last hurdle the controversial project faces. Gov. Mark Dayton’s office has tallied 29 more approvals needed before construction can start.

And even if Enbridge gets all of those permits approved by state agencies, county governments and federal regulators, there’s still the likelihood that one or more decisions will be challenged in court.

“Patience is a virtue in advocacy for large-scale infrastructure projects and large-scale natural resource development projects,” said Nancy Norr of Jobs for Minnesotans, a group that supports Line 3.

The company expects the bulk of the permits will be in hand by Nov. 1, according to Guy Jarvis, executive vice president for pipelines and projects at Enbridge.

“Once you have all that, it’s still several months of mobilization before you’re actually out doing significant construction,” he said, predicting that construction could start in early 2019.

The first thing on Enbridge’s to-do list is filling in the details on an agreement with the PUC to adhere to certain conditions. That includes a plan for paying for cleanup, should the new pipeline spill, and offering jobs to Native American contractors. Those details are due next week, and project opponents say they’ll be heavily scrutinized.

“We still have a long way to go at the PUC,” said Scott Strand, the attorney representing Friends of the Headwaters. He says once the conditions are clarified, groups opposing Line 3 can ask for reconsideration, and can also ask the Minnesota Court of Appeals to review the decision.

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Environmental Groups Disappointed Minnesota PUC Failed to Put Vulnerable Natural Resources Ahead of Tar Sands Producers’ Economic Interests

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Environmental Groups Disappointed Minnesota PUC Failed to Put Vulnerable Natural Resources Ahead of Tar Sands Producers’ Economic Interests

Groups vow to continue fight to protect Minnesota’s valuable waterways

 

St. Paul, Minn. – The five-member Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) today conditionally approved Enbridge’s controversial line 3 crude oil pipeline expansion project. The PUC found that Enbridge had narrowly met its burden under Minnesota law, based largely on concerns about the safety of the old line 3, but conditioned its approval on removal of the old line 3 instead of abandonment in place and on the development of a financial guarantee package to assure Enbridge does not escape responsibility for an oil spill.

“The Commission unfortunately put the short-term financial interests of Canadian tar sands producers ahead of the public interest in preserving water resources, in addressing climate change and in respecting tribal treaty rights along the proposed route,” said Scott Strand, Senior Attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). “This is of course a setback, but it’s likely not the final word.”

The Midwest-based ELPC is representing Friends of the Headwaters, a volunteer-based organization opposing the proliferation of crude oil pipelines in central Minnesota.

The PUC also approved Enbridge’s preferred route with small modifications. The approved route passes near the Mississippi River Headwaters in Itasca State Park, through areas in central Minnesota unusually susceptible to groundwater contamination, through critical wild rice habitat and wetlands, and near the mouth of the St. Louis River into Lake Superior.

Once the PUC finalizes its decision, and issues a written order, the next steps will be petitions for reconsideration, and then eventually appeals to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court. Enbridge also needs to secure permits from federal, state and local agencies before they can proceed.

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MPR News: Oil Pipeline’s Fans, Foes Gear Up For Testimony Over the Fate of Enbridge’s Line 3

June 16, 2018
Oil Pipeline’s Fans, Foes Gear Up For Testimony Over the Fate of Enbridge’s Line 3
By Elizabeth Dunbar

A smiling, cowboy-hat-wearing James Reents is greeting oil pipeline protesters in Minnesota’s lake country this summer in a big way — his picture is plastered on two billboards with the message, “Welcome Water Protectors.”

Reents, who doesn’t normally seek out that kind of attention, is also planning to travel to St. Paul from his home on Ten Mile Lake near Hackensack, Minn., to speak at a state Public Utilities Commission hearing over a pipeline next week. He has been writing and re-writing the 10-minute statement he’ll make, opposing Enbridge Energy’s plan to build a new line to replace its aging Line 3 oil pipeline that runs through northern Minnesota.

“We’re all water protectors,” he said. Reents and his wife began that work by trying to keep invasive species out of their own lake. Now, in retirement, pipelines have their attention.

“What we realized is that the issues of water and water quality are much larger,” he said Thursday.

Beginning Monday, the PUC will hear final arguments for and against the new pipeline. The commission is expected to decide whether — and how — to allow the project to move forward no later than June 28. The testimony and the decision comes after a nearly four-year process, but they will mark the beginning of what could continue to be a long, emotional battle for those invested in the project’s outcome. Protesters from across the country are expected in Minnesota this month, and they might stay.

“When the state rejects Enbridge’s proposal, we will celebrate,” Winona LaDuke, the longtime environmentalist and indigenous rights activist, said Thursday. Her group, Honor the Earth, put up the billboards with Reents’ face on them. If the PUC approves Enbridge’s project? “We will be ready to camp and protect our water,” she said.

At the same time, other Minnesotans are putting up yard signs, signing petitions and knocking on doors to seek support for the project. Enbridge representatives recently greeted gas station customers in Park Rapids, Minn., with free lunch and $20 gas cards. Besides the company itself, labor unions and agribusiness groups are backing the efforts.

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PRESS RELEASE: New Minnesota Rules Make Connecting Clean Energy to the Grid Easier for Customers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Judith Nemes, ELPC | 312-795-3706 | JNemes@elpc.org

Ruth Fein, IREC | 518.858.7329 | ruthfein@irecusa.org

Matt Privratsky, Fresh Energy | 651-726-7571 | Privratsky@fresh-energy.org

New Minnesota Rules Make Connecting Clean Energy to the Grid Easier for Customers

Minnesota made new strides for clean energy last week (May 24, 2018), becoming the third midwest state in the last three years to adopt wholesale reforms to their interconnection procedures – creating a more transparent and effective process for customers to connect to the electric grid.

After more than two years, the updated rules are the result of work at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), Fresh Energy and the  Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). In May 2016, the three organizations jointly petitioned the PUC to initiate a proceeding to establish new interconnection standards that better align with the current market for distributed generation, and to achieve greater consistency with national best practices.

The state’s early challenges connecting community solar gardens projects to the grid led to major backlogs and increased delays, and costs for consumers and communities. This prompted the three organizations to request an overhaul of the state’s interconnection rules to improve the process. They were also looking to streamline the interconnection process for rooftop solar systems, which constitute the vast majority of interconnection applications in the state.

“Interconnection standards are an integral component to a strong market and key to sustaining clean energy growth,” according to Sara Baldwin Auck, regulatory director for IREC, an independent national organization working to accelerate clean energy for more than 35 years.

“Minnesota’s interconnection standards were some of the first to be adopted in the country, but they have not been significantly updated since 2004,” adds Sky Stanfield, who represented IREC in the state proceeding through Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP. “Given the state’s upward growth trends in renewable energy, and with new prospects for energy storage and smart inverter adoption on the horizon, the timing for these improvements is important,” says Stanfield.

“With this interconnection standard, Minnesota has laid the groundwork for our transition to clean energy, and will help drive the Minnesota market forward by bringing certainty and transparency,” adds Laura Hannah, senior policy associate at Fresh Energy, an independent nonprofit that provides in-depth policy analysis on energy issues across Minnesota. “The utilities will be much more prepared for increasing volumes of applications and modern technologies.”

Hannah adds: “The partnership was ideal with IREC’s national experience, ELPC’s regional perspective, and Fresh Energy’s local expertise. It was a big lift to overhaul the standards and accomplish what we did as a working group. A key win is recognition from the commission that we can’t let another 12 years go by without updates.”

“With the commission’s decision last week, Minnesota joins a growing list of midwest states adopting common-sense standards to streamline their interconnection process,” says Brad Klein, senior attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy organization. “We hope this decision encourages the remaining states-including Michigan and Wisconsin-to step forward to join Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Ohio.”

The recently adopted reforms (ref. Docket E999/CI-16-521) replace existing state rules with new procedures based on a national model established by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), known as the Small Generator Interconnection Procedures (or SGIP), along with some additional national best practices.

While these improvements create greater consistency across all Minnesota utilities – which will translate to cost- and time-savings for project developers, consumers and utilities – the Minnesota PUC declined to adopt some important best practices and deferred some critical decisions to a later point in the process.

Some key elements of the decision:

  • Rules Aligned with National Models: Minnesota adopted interconnection rules based on a 2014 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission model. The use of a more nationally recognized model helps decrease the learning curve for interconnection customers and should facilitate updates in the future as innovations emerge from states using similar frameworks.
  • A Formal Screening Process for Mid-Size Systems: The new rules adopt a fast track and detailed supplemental review process that allows mid-sized projects to be reviewed using a two-tier screening process, rather than requiring all projects to go through a full study process. The value of this change will increase as distributed generation penetration increases. The fast track screens follow the FERC SGIP model but contain a few Minnesota specific modifications; i.e., adopting a more conservative eligibility limit that may send some larger projects to full study unnecessarily.
  • Improved Application and Review Process for Smaller Systems: One of the most important changes allows small rooftop solar projects to use a simplified application and review process. This helps streamline the interconnection process for projects smaller than 20 kW. However, if the current 11-week timeline (average 4 weeks for small systems in other states) is left as is, it could add substantial costs and delays to residential and small commercial customers. The PUC deferred decision on this timeline, so the opportunity for change remains.
  • Addition of Energy Storage: The new rules include energy storage systems in the definition of eligible projects, creating a more clear process for energy storage customers to connect their projects to the grid. Considerably more work needs to be done to streamline this process.
  • Adoption of a Pre-Application Report: The new rules allow interconnection customers to request a pre-application report from their utility, which provides details on the state of the grid at the proposed point of interconnection. This preliminary information allows customers to get a sense early in the process – before they make a large investment of time and money – whether a given project is likely to integrate into the grid at that location, without triggering major upgrades.
  • Reporting on Interconnection: The PUC required utilities with more than 40 applications a year to publish a public interconnection queue that enables customers to track the progress of interconnection projects. It also adopted some temporary annual reporting requirements, which while not comprehensive, are a start to providing enhanced visibility into how well the new interconnection process improvements are working.

With these improvements adopted, the PUC will turn its attention to updating the technical standards document to include smart inverter settings, the requirements for energy storage, and the other deferred issues noted above.

As parties to this involved process, IREC, Fresh Energy and ELPC commend the PUC for the time and energy invested to improve this foundational clean energy policy and look forward to continuing efforts to ensure effective implementation of these rules in 2019.

StarTribune: Central to Enbridge’s New MN Pipeline Request is How Much Oil is Needed

March 24, 2018
Central to Enbridge’s New Minnesota Pipeline Request is How Much Oil is Needed
By Mike Hughlett

At Flint Hills Resources’ sprawling refinery in Rosemount, Enbridge’s proposed new oil pipeline is seen as vital. Flint Hills wants to increase production there, but says it needs more oil to do so and Enbridge is its main supplier.

Enbridge says its six pipelines across northern Minnesota are so full that oil is being rationed, hurting refineries across the Midwest including Flint Hills. Enbridge wants to spend $2.6 billion to replace its aging and corroding Line 3. It says without the increased capacity from that project, the rationing — or apportionment as it’s known in the oil business — will just get worse.

“The current Enbridge Mainline fails to meet refinery demand for crude oil, despite a series of expansions over the last 15 years,” Neil Earnest, a consultant for Enbridge, said in testimony filed with state regulators.

And the company forecasts continuing growth in Canadian oil production well into the 2030s, even as changes in the global auto market portend weaker gasoline demand and national experts have predicted market changes because of that.

The need for that oil will play a key role when the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission decides on Enbridge’s request to build its new Line 3, a decision expected in June.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce — tasked with looking out for the public interest in pipeline matters — said the need for Enbridge’s oil isn’t enough to trump the potential risks to society, especially oil spills in pristine waters and wildlife areas.

Further, Commerce has questioned the accuracy of Enbridge’s forecast of future need and so-called negative effects of rationing.

For the oil industry, apportionment is evidence of “a system not running properly,” said Jake Reint, spokesman for Flint Hills’ Pine Bend refinery in Rosemount, one of the largest in the Midwest. Flint Hills is an arm of Wichita-based Koch Industries.

Reint said the refinery is not running as efficiently as it should and continued apportionment could lead to canceling future projects.

Flint Hills has spent about $750 million in upgrades at Pine Bend over the past five years, with some projects still ongoing (and oil output increasing). Another $600 million of investments are planned.

They would allow Flint Hills to further increase production from around 300,000 barrels per day now up to 339,000 barrels per day.

“Without the crude oil, it just doesn’t make as much economic sense,” Reint said.

Canada is the biggest source of U.S. oil imports, and Enbridge’s Minnesota pipeline corridor is the main artery of Canadian crude.

The Minnesota pipeline corridor delivers about 70 percent of the crude oil required at Midwest refineries served by Enbridge, the company says. It would not break out how much is used in Minnesota.

More than 20 percent of the oil flowing through Minnesota goes to the middle of the country or the Gulf Coast, routed through Enbridge’s big terminal in Superior.

As Canadian oil production has increased in the last several years, pipeline backups have followed. “Since 2014, we have been in almost continual apportionment,” Earnest, the Enbridge consultant, said in an interview.

For much of 2017, Enbridge’s apportionment was about 20 percent for Canadian heavy crude, meaning oil producers could have shipped 20 percent more given their own supply coupled with demand from refineries downstream.

The current Line 3, because of its age, can only run at 51 percent of its 760,000 barrel-per-day capacity. A replacement would restore full flow, and allow for 155,000 barrels per day more if eventually needed and approved by regulators.

Without a new Line 3, Enbridge forecasts apportionment of over 20 percent this year through 2020, rising to over 30 percent in 2021 and beyond.

Commerce questions the accuracy of Enbridge’s oil forecasts. Demand for gasoline and diesel fuel, it says, is likely to fall in the long-term as electric vehicles take off and fuel efficiency grows in traditional cars.

Crude demand will be dented, it said in a regulatory filing, potentially causing an oil glut and pushing down petroleum prices: “Global oil oversupply clearly could reduce demand for transportation of crude oil on the Enbridge Mainline which, in turn, could reduce [Enbridge’s] modeling projection of the use of that system.”

The wild card in the oil demand outlook is the future of electric vehicles (EVs).

Now, they’re a very small market. But if costs for EVs fall and demand for them grows as expected, they could displace oil demand and force automakers to increase the fuel efficiency of gas and diesel vehicles, according to a 2017 Wood Mackenzie report.

“For oil producers, the threat of EVs is existential,” the report said.

Boston Consulting Group, in a study released last month, said electric cars could represent more than 20 percent of new vehicle registrations by 2030. The company’s research suggests gasoline demand would drop by 10 to 15 percent by 2025, and by 30 to 35 percent by 2035.

“Global oil demand, as alternatives come online and as efficiency gains are realized, is expected to flatten, peak and decline, though it’s not a disruptive [steep] decline,” said Clint Follette, a managing director at Boston Consulting.

Enbridge doesn’t foresee a decline, at least in the next 20 years or so.

In a PUC filing, the company says that even if electric vehicles capture 75 percent of the North American auto market by 2035, its Minnesota pipeline corridor would still be operating at full capacity.

Canadian oil producers are coping with a bottleneck that goes beyond Enbridge because of a lack of pipeline capacity coming out of Canada, oil industry analysts say.

“They are getting a much lower value for their crude,” said John Coleman, a senior analyst with energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie. (Conversely, the Canadian discount helps U.S. refiners like Flint Hills, since they’re buyers).

Oil analysts expect that Enbridge’s new Line 3 will be the first of three proposed Canadian oil pipelines to come online to help alleviate the capacity shortage. However, like Line 3, the two other big oil pipelines have also faced considerable opposition.

Even with capacity upgrades, Canadian oil has another problem.

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Toledo Blade: Congressmen, ELPC, Demand Faster Action on Asian Carp

 
Congressmen Demand Faster Action on Asian Carp
by Tom Henry

Twenty-six members of Congress — including U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green), Tim Walberg (R., Tipton), and Debbie Dingell (D., Dearborn) — have joined numerous other elected officials in demanding more aggressive action from the Army Corps of Engineers against destructive Asian carp threatening to enter the Great Lakes near Chicago.

A bipartisan letter submitted Friday said the congressmen are firmly holding the Corps to an early 2019 deadline for completing the most crucial report to date for a long-term fix, called the Brandon Road Lock & Dam Study.

It affects the future of the Brandon Road lock near Joliet, Ill., and the series of Chicago-area waterways that artificially connect the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins. That connection, made in the early 1900s, has made it possible for invasive carp moving north along the Mississippi to someday enter the Great Lakes via Lake Michigan.

The letter, submitted on the final day the Corps was accepting formal comments to its tentatively selected plan, mirrors one submitted earlier by several U.S. senators from the Great Lakes area, including Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), co-chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D., Mich.), and senators from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and New York who are members of that task force.

“Current estimates show it will take as long as eight years to have a barrier installed at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam — a time frame which is unacceptable,” Miss Kaptur said. “With the Asian carp on the doorstep of our region’s most vital natural resource, we have a small window of opportunity to stop this invasive species. Once the Asian carp are in the Great Lakes, it will be too late to stop the destruction they will cause.”

The Corps is looking at fortifying electric barriers and taking other measures to thwart the movement of carp and other exotics. But it has said it is unlikely to act on several measures before 2025, a timeline that senators and now congressmen have said is unacceptable.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a 2018 gubernatorial candidate, likewise joined the fray late last week by telling the Corps in his formal comments that it should close the Brandon Road lock while also recognizing its obligation to meet previously agreed-upon deadlines.

While the Corps has tentatively selected a plan that uses electrical fences, noise, and water jets to keep out invasive species, Mr. DeWine and the large contingent of congressional members believe that doesn’t go far enough — especially after reports in June of a silver Asian carp found 9 miles from Lake Michigan, beyond the electric barriers.

The attorney general said the Corps should implement the lock closure alternative, which will be the most effective and cheapest to construct.

The Chicago-area decision affects Ohio because Lake Erie is the epicenter of the Great Lakes region’s $7 billion fishery, valued at more than all commercial and recreational fishing in U.S. waters along the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Gulf of Mexico.

More fish are spawned and caught in Lake Erie than the other four Great Lakes combined.

Researchers have said Ohio’s tourism and recreation industries would greatly suffer if Asian carp found their way to western Lake Erie.

Mr. DeWine also encouraged the Corps to work on plans for a multibillion-dollar, complete hydrologic separation of the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins to block the spread of Asian carp.

A contingent of five major environmental groups — the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Prairie Rivers Network, and the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club — also demanded a more aggressive response from the Corps via 21 pages of joint comments submitted Friday.

“Now is the time for all effective and necessary action steps,” Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, said. “Further delays risk Asian carp getting into Lake Michigan while the Army Corps is fiddling. Prevention solutions now are wise investments.”

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Great Lakes Now: ELPC’s Learner Tells US Army Corps to Stop Fiddling, Act Fast on Asian Carp Report

Pace of Asian Carp Plan “taking far too long”
Michigan Senators Critical of Timetable

by Gary Wilson

The debate about how to stop Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes hit another milestone last week as the Army Corps of Engineers’ extended comment period on a potential solution came to a close.

The controversy is now in its second decade.

The opportunity to comment was expanded to accommodate a previously unscheduled session in New Orleans. The extension angered Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters who say the “process is taking far too long.”

The Corps has been seeking public input on its plan, known as the Brandon Road Lock study, since September. If implemented, the plan would provide a suite of options to keep carp out of the Great Lakes.

in a letter to the Corps, Stabenow and Peters questioned why the New Orleans meeting wasn’t scheduled earlier.

The Brandon Road Lock, 50 miles from Lake Michigan, near Joliet, Illinois, is thought to be a choke point for stopping Asian carp.

But the final Army Corps report isn’t due until August of 2019, and Stabenow and Peters want that date moved up by eight months to January.

The senators expressed frustration that the Trump administration had delayed release of the report early in 2017.

Illinois Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti called for the report to be delayed in a column published in the Chicago Tribune in early 2017. Shipping interests in Illinois have lobbied against the Army Corps plan.

In their letter, Stabenow and Peters also questioned the Corps’ economic analysis of the impact of Asian carp on the Great Lakes.

“The (Army Corps) should not ignore the impact of Asian carp on several important industries – including recreation and tourism – or the economic impacts to the other Great Lakes besides Lake Erie,” the senators wrote.

Lake Erie’s fishery is the largest in the Great Lakes and thought to be the most vulnerable to an Asian carp invasion.

In a similar letter to the Army Corps, 28 members of the U.S. House from the Great Lakes region called for the original project timeline to be followed.

“Fiddling”

Input from environmental groups followed previously held positions but also sought to spotlight economic impacts.

Howard Learner said in a statement released to Great Lakes Now that the Army Corps’ proposals are a “starter.”

But Learner said they are “short of what’s needed to avoid the economic and ecological disaster if our public officials don’t prevent Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes.”

He accused the Corps of “fiddling,” which would lead to additional delays.

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Press Release: ELPC Commends Full Funding for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SEPTEMBER 14, 2017

ELPC Commends Full Funding for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative 

House Rejects Trump Administration’s Zeroing Out FY 2018 Budget for this Successful Program 

 

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center

 

CHICAGO – Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said in response to the U.S. House of Representatives’ approval of full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) as part of the fiscal year 2018 budget:

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center commends the bipartisan legislators who worked together to reject the Trump Administration’s cuts and provide full funding of $300 million for the successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative,” Learner said. “This program has supported more than 3,000 sensible projects to protect and restore the Great Lakes since 2011. That’s great value for all of us who live, work and play in the Great Lakes. We urge the U.S. Senate to include full funding as it considers the budget.”

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