Proposed Great Lakes Authority could boost region’s infrastructure efforts

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An ambitious plan to create a trade and development authority involving all eight US states and parts of Canada located in the Great Lakes basin was implemented by US Representative Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat from Toledo.

Its goal is to create a snack that can work together to strengthen water conservation and secure some of the federal infrastructure dollars proposed being debated in Congress.

“There is a need for a large organization to handle the infrastructure construction, financing and management of the Great Lakes because our region has no such thing under the aegis of federal development,” Kaptur said, whose district extends from Toledo to the western suburbs of Cleveland.

The Great Lakes Basin encompasses the coastal region of the eight states bordering the five lakes – Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – as well as the province of Ontario, Canada.

Kaptur, who chairs the House supply subcommittee on energy and water development, said the proposed Great Lakes Authority would be an economic development organization created by the federal government and authorized to establish a regional infrastructure bank; set up a university research consortium; and is home to the 18th National Laboratory of the US Department of Energy. The Great Lakes Authority is in its infancy, but Kaptur said it has the support of members of the U.S. Great Lakes Task Force to pursue federal legislative path for its creation.

“The plan is to help rebuild our transportation, energy, water and wastewater systems and pave the way for regional economic development, including in cooperation with Canadians, our most great business partner, ”Kaptur said.

It highlights the formation of other regional groups – notably the Tennessee Valley Authority, created by Congress in 1933 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to deal with flooding in seven southern states, and the Commission Appalachian Region, which has 13 states, an economic development arm of the federal government created by President John F. Kennedy in the early 1960s – as models for his 21st century regional development plan.

“We’re going to find a way to put together a business model that will work for us,” Kaptur said.

The Great Lakes Authority would provide both dedicated federal credits as well as permission to work across state borders and internationally on infrastructure and trade projects. With the international alliance component, Kaptur said a wishlist of previously seemingly impossible projects – like a hydroelectric program with Canada or the construction of a Cleveland-Chicago rail corridor – is at hand.

“There are ideas out there, but they require things like federal money and a lot more US-Canadian cooperation,” she said.

Grant Goodrich, executive director of the Great Lakes Energy Institute (GLEI) at Case Western Reserve University, said what Kaptur is proposing could pave the way for northeast Ohio and other parts of the Great Lakes to compete for the ‘one of the four hydrogen hub projects proposed in the Federal Infrastructure Bill.

These “regional clean hydrogen centers,” Goodrich said, are part of an Energy Department commitment to help utilities produce, sell and store hydrogen as part of the construction of a national network of clean hydrogen.

The federal government’s proposal allocates $ 2 billion per hub for facilities across the country that generate electricity from fossil fuels, renewable energy sources and nuclear power to develop this hydrogen capacity.

“This is the Biden administration’s version of the ‘moon shot’, (but) it’s the ‘hydrogen shot’, with the aim of reducing the cost of hydrogen over the next decade.” , Goodrich said.

There are 30 nuclear reactors in operation at 12 plants at 11 sites in the Great Lakes Basin. Goodrich and his GLEI partners were considering how the region could benefit from this huge infrastructure program that would connect these facilities.

“There’s a good chance that northeast Ohio would be part of the Hydrogen Hub initiative, but it was clear that we needed a pseudo-government agency to act as an organizer or broker for set up a project of this scale, “he said.

There are few entities that could handle the development and construction of a multi-state project, Goodrich said, but an organization such as the Great Lakes Authority could take the lead in bringing in a hub. of hydrogen in the region.

Kaptur said the Great Lakes Authority would be able to take advantage of federal bond rates, which are cheaper and have longer durations than a typical bond offering. Under the Great Lakes Authority, cities could be eligible for the 50- and 100-year bonds that U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently backed.

Kaptur proposes that the Great Lakes Authority be headed by a Cabinet-level official appointed by the President and confirmed by the US Senate, with a five-person bipartisan board appointed by the leadership of the US House and Senate . The appointees would serve five-year terms and be limited to residents of the Great Lakes region who are currently active as CEO of corporate manufacturing, head of a large financial institution, president of a grant university. of land or CEO of a large distribution company, she mentioned.

It remains to be seen whether the plan will be successful, but Kaptur said she was determined to ensure the people she represents do not lose the federal government’s plan to “build back better.”

“There’s a whole new America that’s going to be built,” she said. “And we have to be a part of it.”


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