Hearings - Testimony
 
Full Committee Hearing
Great Lakes Regional Collaboration’s Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes
Thursday, March 16, 2006
 
George Kuper
President, Council of Great Lakes Industries

Good morning. Thank you for your leadership in and support of the Great Lakes Restoration Strategy. And, thank you also for this opportunity to express our support for the breadth and comprehensiveness of the Strategy and to express industry’s perspective.

 

I am here today representing the Council of Great Lakes Industries (CGLI), which is made up of three dozen U.S. and Canadian companies and industrial associations with significant investments in the Great Lakes basin. CGLI is a member driven organization focused exclusively on policy issues in the Great Lakes Region. We have substantial experience in the function of multi-stakeholder, consensus-building efforts and our individual members have real world, practical experience of doing business in the Great Lakes region. In CGLI, work gets done by the members and is developed from members’ priorities. The mission of our organization is “promoting the economic growth and vitality of the region in harmony with its human and natural resources” or in other words, sustainable development.

Industry has been, and continues to be, actively engaged in a range of basin-wide and local initiatives to address the issues in the Great Lakes Restoration Strategy. Council of Great Lakes Industries’ members and senior public policy managers from Great Lakes industrial organizations were actively involved in the Collaboration process.

Like many others, I am here today to represent industry’s support for environmental restoration in the Great Lakes. In order to avoid repetition, I will focus on issues that others might not mention - issues that we believe must be considered for the sustainable development of our Great Lakes Region. This testimony will evidence industry’s support for the Restoration Strategy; the national significance of investing in the restoration of the Great Lakes region; and, some specifics of the Strategy that we feel are worthy of attention.

I. From industry’s perspective, we view the Collaboration’s Restoration Strategy as a useful guide to many of the – primarily environmental - concerns of the citizens of the Great Lakes basin. We welcome the 12 December 2005 commitment of the Great Lakes Governors, Federal administrators, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Mayor’s organization, Tribal Leaders, and others to develop a plan for going forward. There is a need to address the uncertainty surrounding what happens next, making sure that rigorous analysis, including risk assessment, is conducted before priorities are set and programs funded. Therefore, we look forward to the release by the Collaboration Executive Committee of their priority plans for the continuation of the GLRC and implementation of the Restoration Strategy.

The Collaboration process has given the region an opportunity to do things differently. It was a complicated, multi-stakeholder process. But it provided a chance for many participants to offer input. Unfortunately, the process did not always include enough rigor to determine the true costs and societal benefits, and accurately determine priority needs – needs we trust will be addressed by the Executive Committee’s plans. We also hope they will include ways to streamline the implementation process for priority programs. But, the multi-stakeholder process did allow some industry representatives to bring their important and sometimes unique perspective to the individual task groups including:

· a scientific focus;
· details regarding accomplishments in the basin over the last three decades and industry’s role in the significant reduction of persistent, bio-accumulating toxics releases;
· recognition of current regulations and the roles they play in protecting the environment;
· an understanding of what encourages sustainable economic development and what does not; and,
· experience regarding the real costs associated with achieving specific objectives.

Not surprisingly, we industrial representatives feel that the entire focus of the Collaboration should be on sustainable development. A healthy environment, social progress and a strong and vibrant economy - all elements of sustainable development – are essential to the well-being of our Region’s, and the Country’s, manufacturing economy. The environment is only one leg of the three-legged sustainable development stool – the other legs are social and economic. It is important to remember that the environment is an arena where the region has worked hard and effectively to change the way we do things. While we still face challenges, we are achieving environmental improvement. Our big challenge now is to continue to improve the environment while increasing jobs and the tax base that support education and quality of life. This is not to say that we’re in a “jobs verses environment” situation. The people of the Great Lakes Region need a healthy environment and the jobs that support them. The two are inextricably linked. We can’t have one without the other. It is the infrastructure necessary to provide for a healthy environment that is in need of attention.

II. It is important for us all to understand that successful implementation of the Great Lakes Restoration Strategy is not just a Great Lakes Regional issue. The Great Lakes Region is a vital component of the U.S. economy. A strong Great Lakes economy is very important for the country as a whole.

The Great Lakes Region is responsible for producing a third (32.5%) of the U.S. gross State product [based on Gross State Product, 2004]. We do this from a population base of 40 million people or less than a quarter of the Nation’s population.

But, we need your help. The Region that has made this significant contribution to the Nation’s economic welfare is now in need of the Nation’s care and attention. Our manufacturing base – 60% of all U.S. manufacturing - is clearly having problems. The global information and communications revolution is contributing to a critical period of what economists refer to as “creative destruction” in the region’s economy. The old ways of doing business are giving way to the new ways of doing business and some of our industries and many of our citizens are caught in this transition. At the same time our manufacturing base must implement significant productivity improvements in order to reduce costs and strive to remain globally competitive.

In order to protect this contribution to the Nation’s GDP, the region is going to need the Nation’s investment. Industry is working hard to identify the things needed to be done to improve our productivity and our competitiveness. In addition to individual company efforts, there is the newly formed Great Lakes Manufacturing Council which has identified some common elements of manufacturing competitiveness that can be worked on collectively. That agenda is similar to the agenda of the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, which develops new technologies for common factory functions. The outcomes from these collective efforts will be available to manufacturers throughout the country. In the region we will need new investment to apply the results. We will need to attract significant private investment in new plants and equipment to harvest the productivity improvement opportunities we have identified. We need to capitalize on the talent of the people in this Region, their up-graded skills and our R&D successes. And, I must add, that new investment will be easier to attract when the national problems related to the transition from industry supported health care and retirement burdens - which sit disproportionately on the Region and make us less competitive – are fixed.

A vibrant sustainable development infrastructure is a key ingredient in attracting essential industrial investment. A significant Federal commitment to the Region in support of modern and improved water and wastewater infrastructure will have a profound impact on the economy of the Region and the Nation as a whole. Public funding and pursuit of key parts of the Restoration Strategy will have a positive economic development impact on the Region. We are currently trying to organize a study – jointly with the Healing Our Waters / Great Lakes Coalition and Mr. Buchsbaum – in order to understand how to quantify these positive economic impacts. We hope to be able to report back to you specifics on the spin-off economic development impacts you can anticipate from funding the Restoration Strategy.

III. Industry has specific ideas about how we can begin to focus on and achieve sustainable development within our region using the outputs from the Collaboration. Setting the right priorities are important. As we’ve said, our resources are strained and the needs are many.

Some of the Restoration Strategy identified needs that we feel are important to the development of our economy include:

· Coastal Health – We believe the sewage treatment capacity in the basin needs to be expanded and improvements funded. These infrastructure improvements are essential to protect the Great Lakes ecosystem and also positively impact future economic development in the region.
· Areas of Concern (AOCs) and Sediments -- We have testified in support of the original legislation and for an increase in funding for the Great Lakes Legacy Act (GLLA) in the past and we continue to support it. The Restoration Strategy calls for – and we support - streamlining the approval process and improving coordination between all the levels of government to speed-up clean-ups. The proposed increased flexibility in selecting sediment treatment and disposal options is good policy. The GLLA deserves to be fully funded.
· Toxic Pollutants – We’ve made a lot of progress in this area. And there is much more to do. But things have changed. Because of the substantial reductions made, it is now critically important to consider the magnitude and relative importance of remaining levels of these materials from risk assessment and management perspectives to ensure that resources are directed to reductions that will have meaningful outcomes. The industries I represent – and others - are heavily involved in the Great Lakes BiNational Toxics Strategy (GLBTS) where we are working hard and meeting the targets for substance release reduction/elimination and timetables set out within this program. But, a word of caution on issues like mercury and other substances of concern. If, in our efforts to “virtually eliminate” (whatever that means) this naturally occurring substance we become more restrictive on operations in the Region, we will make our Region less competitive and cripple economic development. This means that informed risk-based solutions are needed, not arbitrary additional reductions in pursuit of broad non-quantified policies.
· Non-Point Sources -- We support the recommendations of the task group that are directly related to the control of pollution from indirect sources. And we support the deployment of Best Management Practices (BMPs) as a reasonable approach to dealing with the current circumstances prevailing in the Basin.
· Aquatic Invasive Species – The Restoration Strategy calls for important actions – like the carp barrier - that should be actively pursued in order to preserve the efficacy of Great Lakes shipping and preserving our access to world markets. We support these.
· Information and Indicators – Coordinated monitoring and assessment is essential to ensuring success in Great Lakes protection and restoration efforts. The collection of information is vital but we need to make sure we make the right decisions and we need to measure the right things. And, we must make this information readily available to track progress and support research.
· Sustainability -- While in support of the recommendations from this area, we are disappointed that it has been split out as a separate area of the Collaboration. As I said before, sustainable development is not one segment of this effort but the overriding enabler needed to support both the environment and economy in our Region. The balancing of environmental, social and economic factors is key to each element in this Restoration Strategy. It should form the organizing framework of the entire strategy.

 

Again, while these actions will improve the environment, they will also add to the economic viability of the region currently under enormous economic pressure.

 

Looking at the Restoration Strategy as a whole, we should all understand that there must be a shift in emphasis from some old programs and their obsolete objectives to new areas. We must make the most efficient use of public dollars to meet Restoration Strategy objectives, especially when funding for existing programs can be directed and/or redirected to meet Restoration goals. Programs such as the BiNational Toxics Strategy and the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference have great potential to satisfy some critical needs raised in the Strategy.

Industry in the region - where many companies are in a fight for their continued existence – supports many of the initial recommendations of the Restoration Strategy, as we understand them. Many of these programs deserve funding for the betterment of our great region. But, we must caution that the economic viability of the region needs to be a part of each funding decision, not only for the sake of the Region, but the good of the Country.

Thank you for this opportunity to share our experience. Please call on us to provide additional information and perspectives.

 

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