Two leading Michigan state lawmakers have announced that they intend to file a brief supporting Michigan’s lawsuit in the Supreme Court against Illinois over Asian carp. Senator Patty Birkholz (R-Saugatuck), chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee, and Representative Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), chair of the House Great Lakes and Environment Committee, have joined together in a bipartisan effort to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp. They made the announcement just one day after Michigan filed its petition and motion for preliminary injunction in the Supreme Court. Senator Birkholz’s announcement is here; Representative Warren’s announcement is here.
Senator Birkholz and Representative Warren have exceptionally strong records of protecting the Great Lakes from invasive species. Senator Birkholz was the lead author of the Michigan law that regulates ballast water discharges in the Great Lakes to prevent the spread of invasive species. When shipping companies brought a Constitutional law challenge against the ballast water regulations, Senator Birkholz and other legislative leaders joined the State of Michigan in successfully defending the regulations in federal court. I represented Senator Birkholz and the other legislative leaders through the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, and we got a great result in the fight against invasive species.
Senator Birkholz and Representative Warren earlier this month sponsored resolutions, passed by both the Michigan Senate and House, calling on the federal government to take immediate action to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp. But the federal government has failed to take the necessary action, so the Michigan lawmakers will join the state’s Attorney General in bringing the fight to the Supreme Court.
I’m honored to be representing these two legislative leaders through the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center. The Supreme Court won’t be considering Michigan’s petition and motion for preliminary injunction until early January, so it’s not yet clear how the case will proceed.
The carp case brings national attention to the Great Lakes:
The Asian carp case has gotten national attention, with coverage in the New York Times and many other major newspapers. The New York Times website also has an excellent story on the case from Greenwire.
And the case brings calls from environmental advocates for a long term solution:
Environmental advocates are looking at the dispute as an opportunity to explore long term solutions to protect the Great Lakes with alternatives to the Chicago diversion. Thom Cmar, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Chicago, has been a leader in the legal battles over invasive species in the Great Lakes and writes about the case on NRDC’s Swichboard blog. Like Thom, Andy Buchsbaum of the National Wildlife Federation sees the case as chance to rethink the Chicago diversion, which he calls the “single biggest threat” to the Great Lakes. I completely agree, as this crisis presents an opportunity to develop a modern solution to water management, navigation, and invasive species protection in the Great Lakes region.
Ohio to join Michigan in Supreme Court case against Illinois:
Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray has announced that the State of Ohio will join Michigan in petitioning the Supreme Court to reopen the case against Illinois, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. (Thanks to Dick Bartz, formerly a senior official with the Ohio DNR, for bringing this to my attention.)
Update: Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray has now filed a short memorandum with the Supreme Court supporting Michigan’s petition to reopen the case and modify the 1967/1980 Chicago diversion decree.