Thursday, April 6, 2017
We’ve had our share of trade disputes with Canada over the years, from fishing rights to lumber to the negotiation of NAFTA (now under fire from Trump). But one of Canada’s most precious resources, water, is at high risk of severe pollution by reason of the U.S. removal of restrictions on industrial effluents being dumped into public waterways and the defunding of pollution clean-up efforts threatened under Donald Trump budget request to Congress.
Canada is acutely aware of the fiery drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the decimation of lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers in West Virginia and North Carolina and the host of earthquakes and pollution in fracking communities down here. They’ve read the stories about the mine owners who have refused to partake in their local municipality’s water supply – after telling the community how safe that water supply is – while making sure all their water comes from somewhere else.
They’ve watched states and local industry fight the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tooth and nail over pollution controls, and lose with increasing frequency. But today, they also know that the new Trump rules and proposed defunding of the EPA will reverse those policies and bring back the days when lakes and waterways were too dangerous to extract drinking water from, swim in or life next to.
They may care that all that pollution eventually makes its way into our oceans, contaminating sea life, creating dead zones, but they know we will suffer more. They’re not happy that their northern wildlife, dependent on Arctic ice, is slowly becoming extinct as nations around the world push carbon dioxide and methane, products of burning fossil fuel, into the atmosphere… and that their biggest and closest neighbor, the United States, has a new official policy both to deny man-induced global climate change and to permit its industries to pollute the water and the air almost at will, bringing back obsolete coal as an acceptable fuel source.
But what is really terrifying Canadians these days, as to their own environment, is what the Trump administration plans for Canada’s greatest source of fresh water: the Great Lakes. That Trump carried Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania – all states bordering those lakes – and will suffer the consequences as well, is no consolation to Canada. Americans may have voted for Mr. Pollution-is-the-price-of-jobs; Canadians did not and would not. From hard effluents to troubling algae blooms and suppressing alien species that have found their way into the lakes, the Trump administration seem hell bent on “Making America Greatly Polluted Again”… and taking Canada unwillingly along for the ride.
“The Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate funding for a program that addresses major environmental and health threats in the Great Lakes would have a devastating impact on millions of Canadians, officials and environmental groups said on Thursday [3/16].
“The White House’s 2018 budget proposal would, if approved by Congress, gut the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a federal program that has helped to remove water pollution and harmful algae on both sides of the border. The issue could become one more point of friction between the United States and Canada, already divided over trade and immigration.
“The budget proposal, which reflects President Trump’s wish to drastically reduce the size and scope of the Environmental Protection Agency, has dismayed the Canadian government, which cooperates with the United States to clean up and protect the Great Lakes. The lakes are the source of drinking water for 45 million people — including 10 million in Ontario, about 90 percent of its population. Ontario has the largest shoreline on the Great Lakes of any jurisdiction in Canada and the United States.
“‘Canada has a long history of working collaboratively with the U.S. and invests significant resources in restoring and protecting the Great Lakes,’ Catherine McKenna, Canada’s environment and climate change minister, said on Thursday [3/16]. ‘We have done so to protect the health and economies of communities around the Great Lakes. We must now pursue that commitment to keep protecting this precious resource.’
“Ms. McKenna was in Washington on Thursday to press her American counterparts to maintain United States funding for the program, about $300 million annually. Since it was established in 2009 by President Barack Obama, over $2.2 billion has gone to fund more than 2,000 projects across eight states. The projects have been aimed at removing toxic waste, restoring wildlife habitats and girding against invasive species such as the Asian Carp in the vast freshwater bodies, which hold one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water. Canada contributes over $13 million in annual funding for Great Lakes restoration, government officials said.
“Although the budget cuts would target projects in the United States, Canadian towns and cities that rely on the lake system would also be affected, advocates say. These include five binational Areas of Concern, like the Detroit River, a long-polluted waterway between Ontario and Michigan, as well as nutrient management projects in Lake Erie that focus on preventing algae blooms triggered by industrial contaminants.” New York Times, March 16th.
I don’t live on the Great Lakes. I live in a state that is going to fight Trump’s horrific environmental policies with everything we’ve got. But Trump sits above the EPA, has a deep impact on environmental policies, but sits on a cabinet that is exceptionally doctrinaire and unscientific… and mostly wildly ignorant and incorrect on environmental issues, out-of-step with both most of the rest of the world and the relevant scientific community. The damage Trump can inflict on our plant could either take decades to reverse… or may push global climate change past an irreversible tipping point. I pray that Canada fights hard enough to win at least the battle of the Great Lakes.
I’m Peter Dekom, but who is going to fight for the rest of us Americans to insure our air is safe to breathe, our waterways are safe to use and our climate will not slam this nation into a serious of powerful natural disasters?