The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system on Earth, accounting for about 20% of the world’s fresh surface water supply and about 95% of the U.S. supply. They are vital for the lives and livelihoods of millions of people, and they provide critical breeding, feeding, resting and migrating areas for waterfowl, colonial nesting birds and many other species of migratory birds. Despite all of their power, majesty and importance, the lakes are not impervious from harm. In the past, the lakes have been put under tremendous strain and mistreated for economic gain. But today we understand the important role the health of the lakes play in the health of ourselves and our economy. And we know that the futures of our children and grandchildren depend on our collective efforts to protect our lakes.
What is ELPC Doing?
Several of ELPC’s specific projects affect the Great Lakes:
- Protecting the Great Lakes from Aging Oil Pipelines. Every day, Enbridge’s decaying, 60-year-old “Line 5” pipeline carries over 20 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas fluid under the Straits of Mackinac, which connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. In 2010, another Enbridge pipeline spilled more than 875,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. That spill created an ecological disaster that is still being cleaned up today. ELPC is working with the Michigan Land Use Institute, Michigan Environmental Council, FLOW and other partners to require Enbridge to remove, replace or upgrade its pipeline to protect the vulnerable Straits of Mackinac. We are gaining support from policymakers to take needed protective action.
- Stopping the SS Badger from Dumping Toxic Coal Ash in Lake Michigan. ELPC and our colleagues are working with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and others to stop the coal-burning SS Badger, a Lake-Michigan ferry boat, from dumping about 1 million pounds of toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan each year. In 2013, the SS Badger’s owner agreed with the US EPA to reduce coal ash dumping in 2014 and completely stop by 2015. The SS Badger’s owner now claims to have installed digital combustion controls that lower fuel consumption, and, in summer 2015, will store the coal ash on board. ELPC will work to ensure that the SS Badger stops dumping into the Great Lakes.
- Preventing Unnecessary New Pollution into Lake Michigan. ELPC public interest attorneys regularly represent grassroots clients in cases and policy campaigns to protect Lake Michigan from runoff, wastewater, industrial discharges and other sources of pollution.
On a broader scope, ELPC’s policy experts are also engaged in securing critical funds that help clean up toxic sites, curb the spread of invasive species, protect and restore habitat and reduce pollution.