From Jan O'Connell, Sierra Club Board member in Grand Rapids:
from the Sierra Club and the WMEAC
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:
August 26, 2004 Tom Leonard (WMEAC) 616-451-3051 Jan O'Connell (Sierra Club) 616-956-6646
Grand Rapids, MI - The Sierra Club and WMEAC (West Michigan Environmental Action Council) announced today their appreciation for Rep Vern Ehlers (R) leader-
ship through the years for initiating & supporting legislation in protecting our precious Great Lakes. It is through Rep Ehlers concern for the environment that many pieces of Great Lakes Legislation have been passed.
The WMEAC and the Sierra Club both were in agreement and would like to bring to the attention of Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Michael Leavitt who is visiting West Michigan today that while it's nice for the Bush Admini-stration to now talk about cleaning up the Great Lakes, other recent Administration policies are making it impossible to realize the goals of Great Lakes protection and restoration. Both organizations have significant concerns regarding the differences on how the Bush Administration has handled Great Lakes issues since the very beginning of their Administration, as shown in the following Great Lakes issues.
Sewage Overflows & Beach Closings - During the month of May 04' some 10 billion gallons of raw sewage were dumped into the Great Lakes by the cities of Milwaukee & Detroit through Combined Sewage Overflows (CSO's). The Bush Administration's FY 05' budget cuts the State Revolving Fund--the program to address CSO's--by $178 million in the Great Lakes Region. This will make it more difficult for municipalities to control sewage overflows and will lead to more contaminated beaches. There were 1,020 beach closings in 2003. This also affects 37 million people who drink water from the Great Lakes basin.
Toxic Waste Cleanups - The Bush Administration failed to support the polluter-pays principle of the Superfund toxic site cleanup program. As a result, Superfund ran out of money to clean up toxic sites; the number of completed clean-up sites has fallen by 50% during the Bush Administration; and taxpayers are now bearing the entire cost of cleaning up sites polluted by industries.
Great Lakes Funding Cuts - Current administration has slashed funding for enforcement, ecosystem restoration and wastewater treatment in Great Lakes states
by over $249 million dollars.
Mercury Pollution - In what we feel is a nod to industry, in January 2004, the Bush Administration proposed a mercury rule that allows power plants to spew three times as much mercury than if our current clean air laws were enforced--for decades longer. Seeing that Mercury is known to cause deformities this move to allow more Mercury is a move that could place the 630,000 babies born each year at risk of mercury poisoning Currently all of the Great Lakes and their tributaries are covered by fish consumption advisories due to mercury contamination.
Global Warming Pollution - The current Administration has ignored global warming by refusing to require cuts in heat trapping carbon dioxide pollution, as well as not raising raise fuel economy requirements or mandating energy companies to get more energy from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. Scientists have warned that failing to curb global warming emissions will lead to a drop in Great Lakes water levels by
1.5 to 8 feet by 2100.
Water Diversion - Just this past month President Bush in a visit to Traverse City, MI stated, "We've got to use our resources wisely, like water. It starts with keeping the Great Lakes water in the Great Lakes Basin." He also stated his position was clear: “We’re never going to allow diversion of Great Lakes water. But in July of 2001, “Bush said he
wants to talk to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien about piping Great Lakes water
to parched states in the west and southwest. The President insisted, “A lot of people here don’t need the water, but when you head South and West, we do need it.”
Invasive Species – The Administration has not required the EPA to regulate ship ballast
water that may contain invasive species. Invasive species such as Asian carp, zebra
mussels, sea lamprey, and ruffle have taken over Great Lakes ecosystems at the expense
of native species and taxpayers. Zebra Mussels alone cost communities more than $5 billion a year.
Wetland Destruction - The current Administration inserted an exemption that would exclude numerous waterways from protection under the Clean Water Act. The Great Lakes region has lost more than 70% of its wetlands. Additional wetlands destruction will cause more flooding, degrade water quality, and eliminate important habitat for fish & wildlife.