Lipinski Helps Lead Bipartisan Effort to Protect the Great Lakes
In a bipartisan effort to protect Lake Michigan, Congressman Dan Lipinski and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk were joined today by Sen. Dick Durbin and Congressman Robert Dold (R-Kenilworth) to announce they will introduce legislation that will increase fines for dumping sewage into the Great Lakes. Congressman Lipinski has worked with Sen. Kirk on similar legislation over the last two Congresses.
"After working on this legislation over the past two Congresses, I believe we've assembled a strong, bipartisan core of support that will enable us to see it signed into law," Lipinski said at a press conference at the Shedd Aquarium. "The Great Lakes are our region's most precious natural resource, providing drinking water for 30 million people, unmatched recreational opportunities, and a livelihood for many. Yet each year brings news of more beach closings and swimming bans. We can't allow the dumping of billions of gallons of raw sewage into the same waters that we use for drinking, swimming, boating and fishing. We need to deter polluters while investing in projects that improve water quality, and this bill accomplishes that."
The Great Lakes Water Protection Act would more than double fines for sewage dumping to $100,000 a day per violation and make it harder for offenders to avoid fines. Money collected from fines would flow to a Great Lakes Clean-Up Fund created by the legislation to generate financial resources for the Great Lakes states to improve wastewater treatment options, habitat protection, and wastewater treatment systems.
"By joining forces on this important piece of legislation, we believe we can keep our Great Lakes—the crown jewel of the Midwest — clean and safe," Sen. Kirk said. "Not only does Lake Michigan provide millions of us with our drinking water, it is a vital economic engine to the entire region."
"Our duty to future generations of Illinoisans is to protect the environment in which we live," Rep. Dold said. "There is much we can do right here at home by protecting Lake Michigan and its ecosystem. I'm proud to join with Congressman Lipinski and Senators Kirk and Durbin to work in a bipartisan manner to ensure our Great Lakes remain the crown jewel of the Midwest."
Great Lakes beaches had over 3,000 days worth of closings and advisories last year, and Illinois beaches had warnings or closings 10 percent of the time. Chicago has taken many steps to limit sewer overflow, including such projects as the Deep Tunnel. Other cities dump directly into the Great Lakes. Detroit traditionally has been one of the worst offenders, dumping an estimated 13 billion gallons of sewage into the Great Lakes annually, figures show.
"On Monday, I invited Rep. Dold to cross the aisle and sit with me during the State of the Union next week, and he readily agreed," Congressman Lipinski said. "That same spirit of unity and bipartisanship is what brought us all together to work on this bill. The American people want to see partisan bickering replaced with productive debate and problem-solving. Democrats and Republicans will always have their differences, but we must find ways to work together for the good of the country. This bill shows that bipartisan cooperation on substantive issues is very much possible."
(January 21, 2011)
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