Quantcast

Tea Party-Controlled Legislature Pushes 'Industry-Driven' Great Lakes Water Withdrawal Bill

The Ohio legislature, dominated by a Tea Party-controlled Republican supermajority, often seems to be creating more problems than it solves. And it could be creating a problem with international ramifications. In its lame duck session, the chamber passed HB 490 last week, a water quality bill which alters standards for withdrawing water from Lake Erie and its tributaries, and sent it to the state Senate, where it's expected to pass.

Toledo is one of the Ohio cities dependent on Lake Erie for recreation, tourism and drinking water.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

The omnibus bill contains some good things, such as new restrictions on use of fertilizers on farmland, one of the causes of last summer's algae bloom in Lake Erie that shut off the water supply to nearly 400,000 people in the Toledo area. But there's a lot of dissent about its new rules for the withdrawal of Lake Erie water by industrial and other heavy users. And when there's disagreement about the impact of something this legislature is doing, it's wise to be wary especially when the fairly conservative Cleveland Plain Dealer calls it "a last-minute, larded-up mid-biennium agricultural bill" with "an industry-driven, water-withdrawal amendment that could condemn Lake Erie to death by a thousand straws."

Among other things, the new language would consider only the impact of withdrawals on water level and not on wildlife or pollutant levels, potentially violating the 2008 Great Lakes Compact between the eight Great Lakes states and the international Great Lakes St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact with Ontario and Quebec. Joel Brammeier, president and CEO of the nonprofit environmental group Alliance for the Great Lakes, told the Plain Dealer that if Ohio starts picking and choosing which parts of the compact it wants to follow other states might do the same.

"The risk to the Great Lakes is that we go back and start rehashing more than a decade of work that started in 1998 because Ohio has chosen to renege (on) part of the compact," he told the paper. "That's not a good use of anybody's time."

The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) says,"OEC strongly opposes the new amendment to the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. We believe the amendment violates the letter and spirit of the Great Lakes Compact and leaves Ohio vulnerable to litigation, poses risks to water quantity and the wildlife of Lake Erie, and will harm the public's and sportsmen's enjoyment of Lake Erie and wildlife."

OEC pointed out that Governor John Kasich vetoed a similar provision in 2011, saying "Ohio’s legislation lacks clear standards for conservation and withdrawals and does not allow for sufficient evaluation and monitoring of withdrawals or usage."

As the Akron Beacon Journal put it in an editorial, Don't Break the Compact, the "misguided language has resurfaced."

The paper expressed the hope that the governor will remove that language when the rushed bill lands on his desk, although it's hard to guess what Kasich, reelected in a landslide to his second and final term and rumored to be harboring presidential aspirations, will do. State representative Teresa Fedor, a Democrat from Toledo, attempted to remove language in the House but that was voted down. Republican Lynn Wachtmann from nearly Napoleon, Ohio, who runs a bottled water company, pooh-poohed objections, telling the Toledo Blade, "Since we passed the original Great Lakes bill, I don’t believe there’s been a single permit issued by (the Department of Natural Resources) to withdraw additional water from any watershed that I’m aware of. So any reference that this bill or something else previous is any cause of algae bloom is nothing less that ridiculous. The water issue in Toledo has zero to do with this issue.”

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Top 10 U.S. Cities Running Out of Water

How Drought-Stricken California Can Do More With Less Water

Toxic Algae Bloom Leaves 500,000 Without Drinking Water in Ohio

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Logging state in the U.S. is seen representing some of the consequences humans will face in the absence of concrete action to stop deforestation, pollution and the climate crisis. Mark Newman / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

Talk is cheap, says the acting executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, who begged governments around the world to make sure that 2020 is not another year of conferences and empty promises, but instead is the year to take decisive action to stop the mass extinction of wildlife and the destruction of habitat-sustaining ecosystems, as The Guardian reported.

Read More
The people of Kiribati have been under pressure to relocate due to sea level rise. A young woman wades through the salty sea water that flooded her way home on Sept. 29, 2015. Jonas Gratzer / LightRocket via Getty Images

Refugees fleeing the impending effects of the climate crisis cannot be forced to return home, according to a new decision by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, as CNN reported. The new decision could open up a massive wave of legal claims by displaced people around the world.

Read More
Sponsored
The first day of the Strike WEF march on Davos on Jan. 18, 2020 near Davos, Switzerland. The activists want climate justice and think the WEF is for the world's richest and political elite only. Kristian Buus / In Pictures via Getty Images

By Ashutosh Pandey

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is returning to the Swiss ski resort of Davos for the 2020 World Economic Forum with a strong and clear message: put an end to the fossil fuel "madness."

Read More
Protesters attend a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court held by the group Our Children's Trust Oct. 29, 2018 in Washington, DC. The group and the plaintiffs have vowed to keep fighting and to ask the full Ninth Circuit to review Friday's decision to toss the lawsuit. Win McNamee / Getty Images

An appeals court tossed out the landmark youth climate lawsuit Juliana v. United States Friday, arguing that the courts are not the place to resolve the climate crisis.

Read More
The land around Red Knoll near Kanab, UT that could have been razed for a frac sand mine. Tara Lohan

By Tara Lohan

A sign at the north end of Kanab, Utah, proclaims the town of 4,300 to be "The Greatest Earth on Show."

Read More