The State of Illinois, the United States, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago have filed their respective responses to Michigan and the other Great Lakes states in the U.S. Supreme Court. (I’ve created a separate post with all Supreme Court filings involving the Asian carp at www.greatlakeslaw.org/blog/2010/01/supreme-court-asian-carp-filings.html.)
I didn’t see any surprises in their responses – basically all three government defendants are arguing that (1) the Supreme Court should not get involved in the Asian carp crisis; (2) federal, state, and local governments are already doing everything possible to stop the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes; and (3) the risk of Asian carp entering the Great Lakes is overblown anyway.
My first take is that the defendants’ attempt to minimize the risk of Asian carp entering the Great Lakes undermines their credibility about how serious they are in responding to this threat. The defendants seek to discredit the DNA testing relied on by Michigan to show that Asian carp are close to the Great Lakes, but at the same time brag about how they poisoned a six mile stretch of water killing all aquatic life in an extreme effort to keep the carp away. The truth is that the defendants have the same concerns about Asian carp getting into the Great Lakes as Michigan and the other states, but they are just not willing to take the steps needed to solve the problem.
The bigger issue here is that the United States has entered this dispute squarely in support of the Army Corps of Engineers and State of Illinois. The United States should be supporting the efforts of Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and New York in demanding immediate action to stop the threat of Asian carp entering the Great Lakes. As a candidate, President Obama pledged a “zero tolerance” policy on invasive species in the Great Lakes, but this action totally contradicts that rhetoric. In the Supreme Court, the United States is presenting the interests of its most environmentally irresponsible agency – the Army Corps of Engineers – and ignoring broader long-term interests shared by the U.S. EPA, Fish & Wildlife Service, and many members of Congress. The fact is that Asian carp are here because of mistakes by the federal government, and now that same federal government is telling the Supreme Court and five Great Lakes states to let the Army Corps keep doing whatever it wants. That’s not the change we were promised.
Update: For coverage of the political fallout of the Obama administration siding with Illinois in the Asian carp dispute, see today’s coverage by Dan Egan of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.