Michigan is surrounded by the largest system of fresh water on Earth. The Great Lakes hold a full 90 percent of the fresh surface water in the United States. They are a priceless and irreplaceable natural resource. I am working to ensure that the federal government is a full partner in helping to restore the Great Lakes, especially Lake St. Clair.
Our State also boasts an abundance of other natural assets, including expansive timberlands, dunes, wetlands, thousands of inland lakes, and pristine public lands. Taken together, Michigan’s land and water resources provide recreational opportunities for millions of people and are vital to our state’s economy. Michigan’s tourist industry alone contributes over $18 billion a year to the state economy, and accounts for more than 190,000 jobs.
We also need to do more to strengthen the laws that safeguard our air, water, and pristine lands. After years of rollbacks in environmental rules and a failure to make the investments necessary to upgrade water and sewer infrastructure, maintain our nation’s parks, and clean up toxic chemicals, it is critical that the Obama Administration and Congress work together to protect and invest in our nation’s natural resources.
Restoring the Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are Michigan’s crown jewels. A comprehensive effort is needed to protect and restore them, and the federal government needs to be a full partner in this work.
Shortly after taking office, President Obama sent a budget to Congress requesting $475 million as a down payment on a new and focused program to clean-up and restore the Great Lakes. The new effort is called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). I fought to ensure these funds were approved by the House and Senate. The GLRI funds are being put to work to address longstanding problems in the Great Lakes, including combating invasive species like the Asian carp, cleaning up toxics in contaminated areas of concern, restoring fisheries and habitat, and protecting beaches and watersheds from polluted run-off.
The $475 million Congress approved for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in 2010 was an important first step, but fully restoring the Great Lakes will require a sustained commitment at the federal, state and local level. I am leading the effort in the House to ensure sufficient resources to continue this effort going forward. To date, we have won over $1.9 billion to restore the Great Lakes.
Protecting Lake St. Clair
Lake St. Clair is an irreplaceable natural resource that provides drinking water, fishing and recreation to millions every year. I am working to protect and restore Lake St. Clair and its watershed.
Over the last 15 years, a great deal of progress has been to address longstanding environmental damage to Lake St. Clair. Significant financial resources have been deployed to upgrade sewer infrastructure to correct the chronic problem of combined sewer overflows into the Lake. Illicit drain connections that dump raw sewage into rivers and streams feeding into Lake St. Clair are being tracked down and repaired.
A key federal program called the Clean Water Revolving Fund Program has provided localities with hundreds of millions of dollars in low-cost loans to improve the watershed’s water infrastructure that keeps sewage from spilling into the Lake. As a direct result of these and other efforts, the number of beach closings on Lake St. Clair has dramatically declined.
Defending the Clean Air Act
Since the passage of the landmark Clean Air Act in 1970, air pollution in the United States has been sharply reduced. The Clean Air Act has resulted in unprecedented improvements in air quality that have prevented hundreds of thousands of premature deaths in our country as well as prevented literally millions of cases of pollution-related illnesses such as heart attacks, chronic bronchitis, asthma attacks, and child respiratory illnesses.
For all its many successes over the last 40 years, the Clean Air Act is now under attack by some in Congress. Opponents of the law are trying to weaken the Clean Air Act and prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from curbing emissions of air toxics as well as carbon pollution. I strongly oppose these misguided efforts to roll back our nation’s clean air protections.
Air pollution is costly, and the Clean Air Act has allowed Americans to lead healthier, more productive and longer lives. Although significant progress has been made to improve air quality in most U.S. cities and communities, there is more to be done. Now is not the time to weaken the Clean Air Act.
Battling the Asian Carp
The invasive Asian carp pose a clear and present danger to the Great Lakes. If the carp succeed in becoming established in the Great Lakes, they will decimate our region’s $7 billion fishery and put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk. I have been doing everything I can to prevent this from happening.
I have met with high-ranking officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Fish and Wildlife Service to urge them to redouble their efforts to combat the carp. I have also worked with the Michigan congressional delegation to make sure that whatever financial resources are needed to fight the Asian carp are available.
(Updated May 4, 2014)