The Minnesota Environmental Partnership, along with 29 other organizations from across the Great Lakes region, signed on to a December 1, 2014 letter to the Great Lakes Commission raising serious concerns about a draft report on oil transportation in the Great Lakes.
The best policy decisions develop from quality, unbiased information. So when the Great Lakes Commission decided to recommend policies about oil transportation through the Great Lakes region, their first step was to draft a report providing the background information.
That’s the good news. Any state, province or federal government considering new pipeline or new crude oil terminal will gain from a well-done report. The bad news is that the initial draft of the report was full of misleading and biased information, or in many cases important information was completely missing.
Along with many of our member organizations, MEP is concerned by recent proposals to ship crude oil on Lake Superior. Most of MEP’s contributions to that letter focused on vessel shipping.
The draft report incorrectly assumes that oil transportation and production will increase. Despite population gains, demand for refined petroleum products is down by 20% in Minnesota and down 5% across the Midwest. The report included bold statements like “The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River region is particularly dependent on petroleum products” without any documentation.
The sign-on letter, organized by the Council of Canadians, points out that spill response on both sides of the border is inadequate at this time. As the sign-on letter points out, two critical issues were completely unaddressed in the report: there were no references to indigenous communities, and not a single mention of climate change. The sign-on letter also asks that oil transport not be allowed to place environmentally sensitive areas, such as Isle Royale National Park, at risk of a spill in the Great Lakes.
It’s a good thing the Great Lakes Commission looked for comments on the draft of their report, because that first draft wasn’t very good. Hopefully their final report will be a more accurate and complete description of the issues surrounding oil transportation. MEP and the Council of Canadians are working to see that the right information is in the final report. Then good policy recommendations might actually be developed.