the north face overhead luggage Constitutional ban on drilling in Great Lakes could come before Michigan voters this November
Michigan voters could be asked in November to approve a constitutional ban on drilling in the Great Lakes if a package of bills announced today makes its way through the Legislature.
State Reps. Rebekah Warren, D Ann Arbor, and Pam Byrnes, D Lyndon Township, joined their colleagues in the state House to make the enthusiastic announcement, calling it a plan to protect the Great Lakes by permanently banning drilling.
President Barack Obama walks with Alabama Gov. Bob Riley past oil containment booms being cleaned during a tour of the Theodore Staging Facility in Theodore, Ala., Monday. He was visiting the Gulf Coast region affected by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Charles Dharapak The Associated Press
“If we’ve learned anything from what’s happened in the Gulf, it’s that no matter how sophisticated we think we are with technology, and no matter how precise we are, things can go wrong,” Warren said.
Byrnes said a permanent ban on drilling in Michigan’s waters would help keep the Great Lakes from becoming BP’s next victim.
“No amount of oil is worth risking the health of our Great Lakes,” she said. “A permanent ban on drilling is the only way to prevent a catastrophic oil spill like the one in the Gulf from happening here. Workers and communities across our state depend on our waters for everything from their health to their jobs things we can’t jeopardize to drill for oil.”
If the initiative is successful, Michigan would be the first Great Lakes state to enact a permanent ban on drilling.
Drilling in the Great Lakes already is against state law, but the Michigan Legislature and governor could change that at any time. The plan is to get voters to add the ban to the state constitution.
Michigan shares ownership of Great Lakes waters with seven other states and two Canadian provinces. Only three other Great Lakes states Ohio,
New York and Wisconsin currently prohibit drilling in the Great Lakes.
Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Pennsylvania allow drilling. In addition, Canadian law permits both onshore and offshore drilling in the Great Lakes.
Warren, who chairs the House Great Lakes and Environment Committee, said the drilling ban will be the first part of a series of water related bills to come through her committee. State Rep. Dan Scripps, D Northport, will be the primary sponsor, but others will be co sponsors, she said.
Warren said she’s expecting strong support in the House. The initiative also will need a two thirds vote of support in the state Senate.
“We’re stewards of a pretty special natural resource, so I think we do have to take that seriously,” Warren said.
The April 20 explosion of the BP owned Deepwater Horizon oil rig caused a massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico that remains out of control. The gushing oil has caused billions of dollars in economic damage, paralyzing fishing, boating and tourism industries from New Orleans to Key West.
Byrnes said a similar accident in the Great Lakes would have a disastrous effect on businesses along Michigan’s more than 3,000 miles of coastline. She said it would devastate the Great Lakes’ $7 billion fishing and $9 billion boating industries and the hundreds of thousands of jobs associated with them,
while destroying the state’s vital tourism industry.