A broad coalition of environmental organizations (including the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center) led by John Jackson of Great Lakes United have made a formal request to President Obama regarding appointments to the International Joint Commission. From the letter sent by the environmental groups to President Obama:
One of the important tasks that awaits you is to appoint three commissioners to the U.S. positions on the International Joint Commission (IJC). We urge you to do so as soon as possible. The IJC is a body that ensures co-operation between the U.S. and Canadian governments in addressing cross-border environmental issues and at times plays a critical role in avoiding potential conflicts between the two countries. For an effective IJC, we need to have commissioners in place who have the authority of your imprimatur behind them.
The IJC’s mandate extends across the entire U.S.-Canada border but the largest part of its work is on Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River issues. A properly functioning IJC is particularly critical to success in restoring and protecting the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.
The IJC can and must play a leading role in numerous Great Lakes issues, including implementing and revitalizing of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, protecting water levels and flows in the Great Lakes and connecting rivers, and proactively addressing new threats from toxics, invasive species, and climate change.
To meet these challenges, the environmental groups offer some recommendations for the type of leaders needed for the IJC, most importantly “a proven ability to act as an independent strong defender of and promoter of the longterm wellbeing of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River ecosystem.”
The letter from the coalition of environmental groups does not recommend specific individuals, but I will. Dr. Sam Speck, previously appointed by President Bush, has all of the desired traits for an IJC leader and deserves to be reappointed by President Obama. (See my post on Sam Speck’s original appointment last year for more details and background.) There isn’t much from Bush’s environmental “legacy” that should be continued, but Sam Speck is hardly a Bush lacky. He is an incredibly knowledgeable, experienced, non-partisan (he was elected as a Republican to the Ohio State legislature and has since worked with leaders from both parties), and dedicated public official that has been at the center of almost every major Great Lakes issue for the past decade. While the IJC needs some new leadership and change is always good, one of the three spots should be used to provide continuity and experience with Dr. Speck.
The other individual that deserves consideration is Lana Pollack. Lana is the former president of the Michigan Environmental Council and a former state senator from Ann Arbor (she’s a Democrat, which can be assumed for any politician from Ann Arbor these days). She has a long history of leadership on environmental and Great Lakes issues, and has the reputation and skills to bring new credibility to the IJC. She is politically adept and has strong relationships throughout the Great Lakes basin and in Washington DC. I don’t always agree with her policy positions or advocacy approaches, but I have tremendous respect for her as a professional. An IJC with Sam Speck and Lana Pollack (who seem like odd colleagues from a purely partisan perspective) would provide real policy leadership on the most pressing environmental issues facing the Great Lakes.