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Millions of people rely on the Great Lakes for their drinking water. But for a short time in early August, about 500,000 of those people — in the Ohio town of Toledo —were told not to use it due to an algae-related contamination. The problem of algal blooms is nothing new in western Lake Erie (the shallowest of the Great Lakes), but as Joel Brammeier of the Alliance for the Great Lakes notes, the incident in Toledo still served as a wake-up call.

Only 3 percent of the world’s water is fresh, with 2 percent locked up in glaciers and polar ice caps. The remaining 1 percent that is available for human and animal uses has seemed, in the past, to be an inexhaustible, yet vital, resource. Abundant water for drinking, sanitation, industry, irrigation, transportation and recreation has been a hallmark of much of the South. Development pressures, changes in precipitation patterns and transitioning priorities and consumption levels, however, have caused a shift in this situation.

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With the passage of SB 2727, Illinois has become the first U.S. state to ban the manufacture and sale of personal care products and over-the-counter drugs that contain plastic microbeads. The bill is in large part a response to arecent two-year survey of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. It found that microbeads (tiny particles often too small to be captured by wastewater systems) account for the highest count of plastic pollution in the freshwater system. 
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The millions of people going to a Great Lakes beach might not see and probably don’t want to think about the E. coli bacteria present in the freshwater system’s near-shore waters. But the bacteria are there — and sometimes at counts that exceed a standard for swimmer safety set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Bacteria counts, in fact, are more likely to be higher on a beach in the Great Lakes than in any other coastal region of the country, according to “Testing the Waters,” a June report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The study was based on a survey of nearly 3,500 beaches in 30 different states.
Thirteen percent of the water samples taken at Great Lakes beaches exceed the Beach Action Value, the EPA’s most protective benchmark for swimmer safety. That compares to the national average of 10 percent.
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The millions of people going to a Great Lakes beach might not see and probably don’t want to think about the E. coli bacteria present in the freshwater system’s near-shore waters. But the bacteria are there — and sometimes at counts that exceed a standard for swimmer safety set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Bacteria counts, in fact, are more likely to be higher on a beach in the Great Lakes than in any other coastal region of the country, according to “Testing the Waters,” a June report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The study was based on a survey of nearly 3,500 beaches in 30 different states.
Thirteen percent of the water samples taken at Great Lakes beaches exceed the Beach Action Value, the EPA’s most protective benchmark for swimmer safety. That compares to the national average of 10 percent.
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Bees are in trouble. The major pollinator of our fruit, vegetable and nut crops, they are also responsible for such agricultural staples as alfalfa, canola and sunflower. What role can states and provinces play in helping save the population of their — and the continent’s and the world’s — pollinators?
The region’s legislators explored this question in July during a session of the Midwestern Legislative Conference Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee meeting, and learned how one state, Minnesota, already took significant steps in 2014.

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, as co-regulators of water resources, states should be fully consulted and engaged in any process that may affect the management of their waters;

and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The Council of State Governments urges the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to defer adopting any redefinition of the waters of the U.S. rule until: the Science Advisory Board concludes its review and the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers incorporates the conclusions of the Science Advisory Board review; and an economic analysis is completed that addresses the full economic impact of the rule and uses properly updated data.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that The Council of State Governments urges the executive branch and Congress to establish a national energy policy that encourages access to and removal of impediments to all available domestic sources of energy; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The Council of State Governments encourages the U.S. EPA to recognize the sovereign power of state regulators to avoid costly litigation; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The Council of State Governments recommends state policymakers work closely with their environmental commissioners, informed by electricity providers and other stakeholders, this resolution and the states’ previous recommendations, to develop comments and where appropriate comments with other states addressing the legal, economic, employment, timing, achievability, affordability, implementation scheduling and reliability issues in the proposed regulations for their state and file them by U.S. EPA’s comment deadline and to stay engaged with U.S. EPA and other relevant federal agencies after the comment period ends and the regulation is finalized to eliminate or minimize the risks and consequences from U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The Council of State Governments encourages states to inform their congressional delegations on their evaluations and comments and encourage these representatives to help resolve issues by reducing or eliminating negative consequences from U.S. EPA’s proposed regulation;

What happens in the Arctic doesn’t necessarily stay in the Arctic.

That was the theme Saturday at the CSG West WESTRENDS Board meeting, where legislators, academics and private sector representatives came together to discuss the challenges and opportunities for the region as it experiences significant change, as well as the implications for other states and neighboring countries.

“Alaska makes this country an Arctic nation. All states should have an interest in the Arctic, because it will benefit all states,” said Alaska Rep. Bob Herron.

Climate change is a global problem in need of global solutions, said Cal Dallas, minister of international and intergovernmental relations for the government of Alberta.

“There’s not a person in this room who needs to be convinced that we must continue to develop better policies to balance economic growth with protection of the environment,” Dallas said Sunday at the CSG West Canada Relations Committee. “We are all citizens of the world. We have an obligation to move toward a lower carbon future.”

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