Great Lakes lose if shippers keep polluting


Here’s the good news: the EPA is proposing stricter emission standards for U.S. ships.

Here’s the bad news: the Great Lakes area, which includes our great state, may not benefit from the tighter rules because Congressmen Oberstar and Obey struck a deal to exempt Great Lakes ships from the emissions rule citing “economic hardhip” for the shipping companies if the standards were passed.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the exemption was approved as part of a natural resource spending bill and could be passed as early as next week.

Hindsight is the official blog of Minnesota 2020. Hindsight gives the run down on the news that jumps out at us on the issues that matter.

The EPA estimated that once the new emissions rules were in place, they could prevent up to 32,000 deaths each year, with over 500 of those in the Great Lakes region. But, given that 13 ships will be allowed to continue spewing dirty exhaust on the Great Lakes, we can assume those gains won’t be as high as originally anticipated.

According to environmental group Great Lakes United (GLU), the shipping industry has made some misleading claims. One of the main arguments in support of the exemption is jobs. It’s no secret the Midwest has been hit especially hard by this recession, and no one wants to pass rules that will put more people out of work.

But according to GLU, shippers’ claims that the new clean air regulations will put steamships out of business because they’d have to replace their engines don’t hold water. Serveral Great Lakes steamships have already replaced their engines and taken other steps that go beyond the new EPA requirements. According to GLU, many of these companies will see increased fuel efficiency because of the new engines, and as a result, savings down the road.

Environmental groups like GLU and the Healthy Lakes, Healthy Lives campaign have been fighting to clean up the Great Lakes for years. Some progress has been made, but there are still numerous problems facing the lakes-sewage overflows, invasive species, decimated wetlands and toxic pollution, to name a few.

Cleaner, more fuel efficient engines will benefit shippers and the Great Lakes region in the long run. The exemption is a bad idea, allowing a small group of companies to continue to pollute the air we breathe for short term gains.

Minnesota and the other Great Lakes states all lose out if this exemption is passed.