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  W E E K L Y  U P D A T E  January 22 , 2018
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In Memoriam:
Long-Time NEMWI Policy Analyst
and Board Member 
Dies Unexpectedly, Draws Wide-Ranging Tributes

Charlie Bartsch, who served as a Policy Analyst at NEMWI and later as a member of the NEMWI Board of Directors, died unexpectedly last Wednesday, January 17.

Charlie was a highly respected leader in the policy community, serving both in government at the Environmental Protection Agency and prior to that as Senior Policy Analyst in the Revitalizing Older Cities Program at the Northeast-Midwest Institute.  He returned to the Northeast-Midwest Institute in August 2017, and for the past six months was Senior Fellow at the Institute.  Among his many contributions are his renowned contributions to the study and remediation of Brownfields, a term he helped coin more than 25 years ago.

Dr. Michael Goff, President and CEO at NEMWI, expressed the thoughts of so many who knew and valued their work and friendship with Charlie, noting, "Charlie Bartsch was incredibly knowledgeable and active advancing research and solutions to regional issues, especially in the field of urban policy and in particular Brownfields, where his work literally was path-breaking.  Even more, he was an incredible person who brought such warmth and caring to every person he worked with or met.  We are heart-broken at this loss, and will miss him every day."

Arrangements in Charlie's memory  include:  a visitation and gathering on Wednesday, January 24, from 3 to 8 p.m. at Gawler's Funeral Home, 5130 Wisconsin Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C.;  and a second visitation on Friday, January 26, from 3 to 9 p.m. at Lawn Funeral Home, Burbank (Chicago). The funeral service will be at Lawn Funeral Home on Saturday, January 27, at 11 a.m.

For more information, please email .
Briefing Planned on the Soo Locks
and the American Steel Industry

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at  2:30 PM
CVC Congressional Meeting Room North

A briefing by the Northeast-Midwest Institute on Wednesday, January 31, at 2:30 PM will examine the importance of the Soo Locks to American steel and manufacturing industries.

The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan serve as one of the nation's most economically vital systems, acting as a critical component in the American steel supply chain. More than 10,000 one-way trips and about 80 million tons of cargo annually pass through the Soo Locks, including nearly all of the iron ore that is mined for the American steel industry. According to a study released by the Department of Homeland Security, a six-month closure at the Soo Locks would lead to the loss of $1.1 trillion in gross domestic product and 11 million American jobs, directly impacting agriculture, appliances, automobiles, construction, and infrastructure industries.  
The briefing will focus on such issues as the Soo Locks' role in the steel supply chain, efforts to modernize the Soo Locks, and the direct impact the Soo Locks have on American manufacturing. Presenters will include:
  • Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Sugrue, Commander of Detroit District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  • Tom Dower, Senior Director, Government Relations, ArcelorMittal.
  • Matthew McKenna, Director of the Great Lakes Washington Program, Northeast-Midwest Institute.
For more information, please contact  Matthew McKenna , Director of the Great Lakes Washington Program at the Northeast-Midwest Institute.
Briefing Planned on the 2017
Hypoxia Task Force Report to Congress

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at 10:30 AM
Senate Visitor Center, Room 200

A briefing by the Northeast-Midwest Institute on Wednesday, January 31, at 10:30 AM will examine the conclusions of a recently-released report by the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force.

High nutrient loadings  from the agricultural landscape and discharged treated sewage entering the Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi River have created the largest recurring hypoxic zone in the United States, where oxygen becomes too depleted to support most marine life. This "dead zone" is disruptive to ecosystems and causes hundreds of millions of dollars in economic damage to fisheries by some estimates. Last summer, the dead zone was a record size: 22,720 square kilometers, or roughly the size of New Jersey. While this dead zone is a problem concentrated in the Gulf, the solutions involve the entire Mississippi River Basin.
In November 2017, the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force released a report describing progress towards attaining the goals of its own Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan of 2008. The Task Force is a collaboration of federal and state agencies, co-chaired by EPA and Iowa. The briefing is an opportunity to educate Congressional staff and oth er interested stakeholders of the important conclusions in the report which are relevant to several upcoming pieces of legislation. Presenters will include:
  • Katie Flahive, EPA Nonpoint Source Management Branch, federal co-chair of the Hypoxia Task Force Coordinating Committee.
  • Matt Lechtenberg, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Water Quality Initiative Coordinator.
  • Dr. Amanda Gumbert, University of Kentucky Extension Water Quality Specialist.
  • Dr. Beth Baker, Mississippi State University Assistant Extension Professor.
For more information, please contact Joe Vukovich , Senior Policy Analyst for the Mississippi River Basin Program at the Northeast-Midwest Institute.
House Committee Considers
Changing Superfund Program

The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing last week to consider changes to the Superfund Program, the program administered by the EPA to clean up sites that have been contaminated by toxic waste. Some of the options for reform that were discussed included increasing the budget for the program and making it easier for state and tribal governments to participate in cleanups.

As the EPA's map of sites on the Superfund National Priorities List shows, there are numerous sites around the country that have yet to be remediated, including in the Mississippi River Basin.

The Congressional focus on Superfund will likely be of interest to EPA Administrator Pruitt, who has vowed to prioritize Superfund-related work by the agency. However, Pruitt's work in this area has recently been criticized for lax recordkeeping, and Congress itself has questioned the EPA's methodology in selecting which sites to prioritize.

For more information, please contact Joe Vukovich, Senior Policy Analyst for the Mississippi River Basin Program at the Northeast-Midwest Institute.
EPA Reverses Ohio Decision to Exclude Lake Erie from Impaired Waters List

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reversed its approval of Ohio's decision not to include the open waters of Lake Erie on a list of impaired bodies of water. The State of Michigan had designated Lake Erie as impaired in 2016. In a letter sent to Ohio, the EPA determined that the state's original evaluation was not complete and that a new evaluation needed to be conducted. Western Lake Erie has seen a rapid growth in harmful algal blooms (HABs) that have largely been due to increased nutrient run-off into the Lake. Several Members of Congress, including Great Lakes Task Force Co-Chair Marcy Kaptur (OH) and Great Lakes Task Force member Debbie Dingell (MI), have continued to call on Ohio to reconsider its impairment status of the Lake. 

For more information, please contact  Matthew McKenna , Director of the Great Lakes Washington Program at the Northeast-Midwest Institute.
Great Lakes Oil Spill
Prevent Act Introduced

On January 12, Rep. Mike Bishop (MI) introduced the Great Lakes Oil Spill Prevention Act (H.R. 4774), a bill imposing new reporting and safety standards for pipelines that cross the Great Lakes, while also increasing liability for pipeline operators in the case of a pipeline leak or rupture. According Rep. Bishop's website, the bill would:
  • Improve pipeline safety and structural standards;
  • Increase the requirements for pipeline structure testing and reporting;
  • Set timelines and introduce penalties for delayed action on repairing suboptimal structural issues;
  • Increase financial liability and responsibility for pipeline operators; and
  • Limit the timeframe of pipeline operation under the Great Lakes to 50 years.
The bill has been referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

For more information, please contact  Matthew McKenna , Director of the Great Lakes Washington Program at the Northeast-Midwest Institute.
This Week on Capitol Hill

Today the Senate passed a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through Thursday, February 8. The resolution is expected to pass the House and be signed by the President in quick succession today.

The Senate Democratic caucus ended their filibuster of the continuing resolution with the understanding that immigration reform legislation that would address DACA would be put to a vote in the Senate before the February 8 deadline.

There is no Committee activity of interest this week.

For more information, please email .

NEMWI: Strengthening the Region that Sustains the Nation