PEC Applauds Committee Approval of Great Lakes Compact

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Harrisburg, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) today commended the state House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee for unanimously passing House Bill 1705 (introduced by Representative Patrick Harkins, D-Erie), which would ratify the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (Great Lakes Compact) in Pennsylvania.  “House Bill 1705 and the Great Lakes Compact are a significant step forward in ensuring the long-term protection of the Great Lakes – a critical economic and community asset to northwesternPennsylvania,” saidBrian Hill, President and CEO of PEC. “The long-standing bipartisan support for this collaborative agreement by both Governors Ridge and Rendell, as well as members of the General Assembly, demonstrates its significance toPennsylvania.” Under both Governors,Pennsylvania negotiated with otherGreatLake states, two Canadian Provinces, and representatives from business and industry, agriculture, environmental organizations, and other interests to establish the Great Lakes Compact.  This multi-state agreement creates a unified structure among the Great Lakes states for management of future water withdrawals outside of theGreat Lakes basin.

Hill said such withdrawals represent “a significant threat as southern and western states already view the Great Lakes as key to their future community and economic development needs.”

In addition, the Great Lakes Compact encourages state adoption of conservation and efficiency measures to help maintain the vitality of the Basin’s water supply resource-based qualities.  “Lake Erie may be the most vulnerable of all theGreat Lakes to disruption because it has the smallest water volume and shallowest average depth,” noted Hill.   “Even if water is withdrawn from Lake Superior north ofWisconsin, the water level will drop throughout the interconnectedGreat Lakes system.  This could greatly disrupt theErie harbor and all docks along the shore, significantly harming fish and other aquatic species inLake Erie.  It would be both an ecological and an economic calamity.”  For the Great Lakes Compact to become operational, it must be ratified by all eight states within theGreat LakesBasin and approved by the U.S. Congress.  To date,Illinois andMinnesota have already ratified the Great Lakes Compact, and legislation is pending in several other Great Lakes States.  House Bill 1705 now advances to consideration by the House of Representatives.

“There is strong support for this legislation in both chambers of the General Assembly, and from both sides of aisle; we urge the House to quickly take up House Bill 1705 in January to ensure the long-term protection of one of our most unique and valuable natural resources.”