Lame Duck Threatens Environmental Standards

Washtenaw legislators attempt to improve bill that weakens cleanup standards
Tuesday, December 16, 2014

LANSING — Senate Bill 891, on the brink of passage in the Michigan House, would make numerous revisions to the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. In general, SB 891 would weaken hazardous waste release and cleanup procedures in Michigan. Among other changes to Michigan’s landmark environmental law, SB 891 would:

• Lower cleanup standards for parks and playgrounds by excluding these properties from the definition of residential;

• Eliminate the requirement for polluters to develop a contaminated aquifer plan when leaving behind a contaminated aquifer;

• Remove the language giving preference to cleaning up pollution rather than managing human exposure to pollution left behind; and

• Remove the requirement that polluters address the source of pollution.

Washtenaw Representatives Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline) offered amendments on the House floor in an attempt to provide better protections for public health, but none were adopted. You can watch their attempts to improve SB 891 here and here. SB 891 is on third reading, and it is expected to come up for a vote in the House this week.

“We shouldn’t let polluters off the hook by reducing the stringency and the quality of toxic cleanups in Michigan,” Rep. Irwin said. “Michigan’s environment is too important to leave to the whims of lame duck politics when accountability is at its absolute minimum.”

“This bill will require non-polluting property holders and taxpayers to carry the financial burden that historically has been the responsibility of the polluters,” Rep. Driskell said.

Already, the House has moved to redefine burning trash and tires as a renewable energy source (HB 5205), and the Senate voted to stop the Department of Natural Resources from considering biodiversity when making decisions about forest management (SB 78).

Together, these measures will undermine wildlife protection, roll back Michigan’s gains in renewable energy, and leave a legacy of greater pollution for future generations. Rep. Irwin concluded, “These three bills should be defeated to preserve our natural resources and protect public health.”