Unexplainably, the U.S. Supreme Court denied discussion of a motion regarding a pertinent, multi-state environmental issue yesterday, without any justification for the ruling. The appeal, filed by Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, petitioned for an injunction against the state of Illinois, requesting that it be ordered to close the locks that separate the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal from Lake Michigan. Cox’s argument stems from a long battle over stopping Asian carp — currently located in Illinois waterways — from invading the Great Lakes. The Supreme Court needs to address this time-sensitive issue and ensure that the state of Illinois is protecting the environment instead of its own interests.
Asian carp is an invasive species that eats well beyond its fair share of food and, as a result, disrupts local ecosystems. Carp are currently located in parts of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, which connect to the Great Lakes. On Jan. 12, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported that it had discovered carp DNA past the electric barriers intended to keep the fish out of the Lakes. The state of Michigan called for an injunction along with Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York and Pennsylvania, arguing that the carp’s entrance would endanger fishing industries. The Supreme Court dismissed the injunction, and didn’t state when it would rule again on the issue.
For Michigan, specifically, the invasion would be detrimental to the tourism industry. And the Great Lakes thrive off of a $7 billion fishing industry, which the carp would decimate as they consume resources other species, like trout and salmon, need to survive. The states that depend upon the Great Lakes are in danger of losing their greatest resource. If the federal government doesn’t intervene and force Illinois to close its waterways, the damage will range beyond just one state.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D–Ill.) hosted Illinois officials on Thursday to discuss the issue, and assured the Huffington Post that the state is “not in denial” of the threat. But it seems unlikely that Illinois will take proper action to prevent the carp’s migration into the Great Lakes. Illinois has argued that closing the waterways will be costly for Chicago’s commercial shipping industry, even though this would help protect the largest chain of freshwater lakes in the country. Illinois is ignoring the pressing and realistic concerns of other Great Lakes’ states in favor of its own.
In order to resolve competing state interests, the federal government needs to defend the Great Lakes states — but it hasn’t been impartial. U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan asked the Supreme Court to reject the lawsuit, in defense of Illinois, arguing that the DNA found was the product of experimental testing. This makes it seem that President Barack Obama’s administration is simply siding with his home state in the battle, rather than giving the issue the serious consideration it demands. This is exactly the circumstance that calls for federal intervention. And it is the responsibility of the Supreme Court to hear the case fairly. A ruling by the Supreme Court is the best way to certify that the waterways will be closed. The Court needs to address the issue immediately.
The threat of the carp is real, and Illinois is in no place to make decisions that will ultimately be detrimental to the other Great Lakes states.