Congress Protects Great Lakes…Sort Of

After four years of work by Great Lake states, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday ratified a compact to protect the Great Lakes against water depletion by a vote of 390-25. The Senate approved the measure in August and President Bush has already said he would sign it. The Great Lakes contain more than 90 percent of fresh water in the United States; Ontario and Quebec have already implemented similar measures. According to the AP, "Under the agreement, countries or remote states are barred from tapping into the lakes from their natural drainage basin with rare exceptions. It also requires states to regulate their own large-scale water use and promote conservation." But all good measures aren't without their loopholes, which is why Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak (Dem.) opposed the bill: it still allows for diversion for containers smaller than 5.7 gallons (i.e., bottled water). Worried that the courts could still "declare the waters an economic commodity," Stupak said, "I do not know how any member in good conscience could vote to approve legislation that may unintentionally open the Great Lakes water to diversions."

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