(Note: On March 16, 2006, Diane S. Katz, the Mackinac
Center’s director of science, environment and technology, testified before the
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works about the condition of the
Great Lakes. The above video clip of her testimony is six minutes and 30 seconds
long. The following article appeared in the Summer 2006 issue of "Mackinac
The halls of the U.S. Senate echoed with new ideas on March
16, when Diane S. Katz, the Mackinac Center’s director of science, environment
and technology policy, testified to a Senate committee about the state of the
Great Lakes. Katz marshaled an impressive array of scientific and public policy
data to shed light on costly new legislation — and she politely but firmly stood
her ground when challenged.
The legislative proposal, titled the Great Lakes Regional
Collaboration Strategy, would provide $20 billion in new federal funds for the
"restoration" of the Great Lakes. The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment &
Public Works took testimony on the bill from Michigan Sens. Carl Levin and
Debbie Stabenow; Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine; Stephen Johnson, administrator of the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; George Kuper, president of the Council of
Great Lakes Industries; Andy Buchsbaum of the National Wildlife Federation; and
Katz, who was invited by the committee staff.
Among the witnesses, Katz was alone in challenging the
bill’s underlying assumption that the Great Lakes are on the verge of collapse.
Citing a variety of scientific sources, Katz described dramatic improvements in
Great Lakes water quality and wildlife recovery in recent decades.
Katz was also alone in challenging the notion that Congress
and the states have failed to devote sufficient resources to Great Lakes
protection. Recent Mackinac Center research has discovered the existence of more
than 200 government programs to improve the Great Lakes ecosystem, Katz told the
committee. The programs are not coordinated to maximize environmental
improvements, she added, and most lack measurable goals.
"The shortcomings of the current approach stem not from any
lack of regulation or resources," Katz testified. "On the contrary, the problem
is the excess of well-intended but ill-conceived programs that fall under
disjointed regulatory agencies at the international, federal, state, provincial
and local levels. Unfortunately, the problem will not be remedied by more
unwieldy and inefficient regulation."
Having delivered good news about the Great Lakes and bad
news about government oversight, Katz offered recommendations for improving
Great Lakes stewardship. Ironically, she had some difficulty in delivering this
last, most important part of her testimony, because a senator temporarily
presiding over the committee interrupted her before her allotted time was up.
She nevertheless pressed for permission to continue, suggesting that Congress
consider eliminating inefficient programs; using property rights and
market-based incentives to revive designated "areas of concern"; seeking
private-sector involvement in crafting policy; and developing a basinwide
database of ecological conditions to help set restoration priorities.
During the question-and-answer session, Katz encountered
hostility from two of the senators, who claimed that she was misguided and who
invited other witnesses to challenge her. Katz deftly defended herself, however,
and cited verifiable scientific sources for her conclusions. "That part was
easy," she notes, "since on this issue, I was right, and they were wrong."
The overall reaction to Katz’s testimony was highly
favorable. Her remarks particularly impressed the committee’s staff members, who
invited her to submit written testimony in response to additional questions
posed by the committee members. Her second submission, replete with charts and
references to peer-reviewed scientific research, also drew praise, with a senior
committee staff member writing Katz: "Diane, this is great! Thank you so very
Both rounds of Katz’s testimony have been posted to the
Center’s Web site (visit
www.mackinac.org/7700). Katz plans to track the progress of the legislation
and weigh in as necessary — but whatever the bill’s outcome, it’s unlikely the
Senate committee will forget her testimony.
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