Senator Stabenow Announces Stop Nuclear Waste by Our Lakes ActMonday, August 10, 2015
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow today announced legislation to require the State Department to invoke the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 and mandate that the International Joint Commission (IJC) study the risks to the Great Lakes from the proposed Canadian nuclear waste site on Lake Huron. The Stop Nuclear Waste by Our Lakes Act would also require the State Department to undertake negotiations with the Government of Canada to wait for the study results before approving any waste site located on the Great Lakes. Senator Gary Peters is cosponsoring the legislation in the Senate and Congressman Dan Kildee is introducing companion legislation in the U.S. House.
Sen. Stabenow announced her legislation in Detroit during the first of a series of statewide meetings with community leaders and stakeholders on efforts to protect our Great Lakes and waterways.
"Our Great Lakes face many tough challenges," said Senator Stabenow. "This treaty provides an important mechanism for studying and resolving disputes with Canada over our shared waters. Given what is at stake, invoking this treaty to require a thorough review by the International Joint Commission and a process to resolve this critical issue is a reasonable solution."
"The Great Lakes are critical to Michigan's way of life, supporting our vital shipping and tourism industries, and we must ensure that Michigan's concerns are taken into consideration," said Senator Peters. "I'm proud to help introduce this legislation that will give the United States a greater say in determining how this nuclear waste site could impact our environment and our economy. I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Stabenow and Congressman Kildee to protect our Great Lakes for generations to come."
"Canada's plan to permanently store nuclear waste on the shores of Lake Huron is an unnecessary threat to both the U.S. and Canada's shared water resources," Congressman Kildee said. "Invoking the Waters Treaty is the latest action to protect our Great Lakes and to ensure that a thorough review is done in order to know all of the risks associated with this plan. The Great Lakes are the world's largest freshwater body source and we must act to protect them from harm, whether from invasive species or nuclear waste, now and for future generations."
Senator Stabenow is working on Great Lakes issues in a number of roles - as Co-Chair of the bipartisan Senate Great Lakes Task Force, as a leader of Michigan's Congressional delegation and as Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. She is meeting with Michigan stakeholders to discuss threats to our Great Lakes including nuclear waste, algae blooms, pipeline safety, invasive species, microbeads, harbor maintenance, and sufficient funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
Background on the Stop Nuclear Waste by Our Lakes Act:
The U.S. and Canada are parties to the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, which provides mechanisms for resolving disputes over transboundary waters -- including issues related to water quality, water levels, and ecological health of the Great Lakes. Articles IX and X of the treaty outline actions the U.S. or Canada may take when questions or differences about the shared waters arise. Article IX enables either country to request an IJC study, while Article X provides a binding mechanism for studying and resolving a dispute.
The Stop Nuclear Waste by Our Lakes Act would require the State Department to invoke Article IX of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 and require the IJC to study the risks to the Great Lakes from the proposed Deep Geologic Repository in Kincardine, Ontario. The bill would require the State Department to urge the Canadian Government to wait for the study to be completed before rendering the decision.
The Stop Nuclear Waste by Our Lakes Act also requires the State Department to invoke Article X and involve the IJC in the event the Canadians select a site for high-grade nuclear waste storage in the Great Lakes Basin. The bill also requires the Secretary of State to undertake negotiations with the Government of Canada to agree to bring the case to the IJC under Article X.
Ontario Power Generation has proposed to build a permanent repository for nuclear waste less than a mile from Lake Huron in Kincardine, Ontario. This close proximity to the lake, Senator Stabenow argues, could be disastrous if an accidental spill were ever to occur. Over 40 million people in Canada and the United States get their drinking water from the Great Lakes and the highly toxic waste could take tens of thousands of years to decompose to safe levels.
In April, Senators Stabenow and Peters introduced a U.S. Senate resolution that urged the President and Secretary of State to work with their counterparts to prevent a permanent nuclear waste repository from being built within the Great Lakes Basin. The measure is a companion resolution to one introduced by Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI) in the U.S. House.
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