How Green is Governor Snyder?
“It’s time to be bold. We should not walk away from high expectations, it is time to deliver on high expectations.”
– Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Inauguration Speech, Jan. 1, 2011
Throughout his campaign, Michigan LCV watched Rick Snyder campaign on a conservation platform. It is now Governor Snyder’s time to turn his promises into actions, because actions always speak louder than words.
As Governor Snyder works to make Michigan the “comeback state,” we will continue to keep a close eye on him and his administration through this tool — “How Green is Your Governor?”
Michigan LCV’s “How Green is Your Governor?” tracks and grades all of the actions of Governor Snyder, his administration, and the statewide departments he directs as decisions are made on issues that are vital to re-energizing our economy, protecting our environment and moving Michigan forward. Monitoring the Governor is vital to assuring that the “buck stops with him” and the administration is held accountable for protecting clean air, water and all of our natural resources. Review the most recent actions we’ve tracked and scored below.
The Big Picture
Gov. Snyder Makes deal with Enbridge Despite the Company’s Track Record of Deceit | Monday November 27, 2017
Gov. Rick Snyder announced a legal agreement with Enbridge requiring the company to: replace a section of Line 5 that runs underneath the St. Clair River, conduct a new study on replacing the entire pipeline with a new one in a tunnel, temporarily shut down portions of the line in extreme weather and look into new safety technology. A final decision about whether to shut down or replace the pipeline will be made in August 2018 but this deal is insufficient. Our largest concerns are as follows: that the agreement favors the building of a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac and tasks Enbridge with completing the tunnel, that the agreement states that ‘In adverse weather conditions, we’ll shut down,’ but the proposed weather conditions are rare and nearly impossible to meet, and that the Pipeline Advisory Board was not holistically consulted before the Governor finalized this deal with Enbridge. Michigan does not need Line 5 for the transportation of oil, gas or propane. In its current condition, the risks associated with continuing to allow Line 5 to operate far outweigh any benefits. [Read More]
State of Michigan Forgives Flint's Drinking Water Loans | Thursday November 16, 2017
The state has forgiven $20 million in loans to Flint in a step to ease and help stabilize the city’s finances. The $20 million was borrowed through a series of four loans made between 1999 and 2003 and used by Flint make upgrades to its water treatment plant. The forgiveness is allowed under the federal 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) directed that the loans be forgiven under the federal act’s authority. DEQ Director Heidi Grether said the department will continue to work with Flint to “address critical water and infrastructure needs.” [Read More]
Executive Order Creates Multi-agency PFAS Pollution Response Team | Monday November 13, 2017
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has created a multi-agency response effort to address the growing problem of toxic fluorocarbon pollution that has contaminated drinking water supplies in communities around the state. In his press release announcing the executive order (EO), the Governor said, “To safeguard Michiganders from this emerging contaminant, it’s critical that responding agencies at all levels are effectively communicating and coordinating efforts. This team will be instrumental in establishing protocols and best practices that will allow all partners to comprehensively address these contaminants across Michigan.” The Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) will be led by former Michigan deputy attorney general Carol Isaacs and Brown University School of Public Health epidemiology professor David Savitz, who will be the team’s academic advisor. The EO establishes an administration-wide framework for the type of contamination response already underway in Kent County. MPART will be tasked with enhancing cooperation and coordination among local, state and federal agencies grappling with widespread ground and surface water contamination by PFAS, (also called perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs). No funding was included in the EO but a spokesperson for the Governor stated that each agency will be asking the legislature for additional funding for MPART. [Read More]
Michigan Agencies Call for Full Status Report on Line 5 | Monday November 13, 2017
The Michigan Agency for Energy, Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Natural Resources, and Governor Snyder called on Enbridge Energy Partners LP to give the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) a full accounting of the status of the Line 5 pipeline in light of new information released by Enbridge that additional coating gaps were discovered during the company’s most recent inspection of the pipelines. Governor Snyder put out this statement, “Enbridge’s announcement today about Line 5 is deeply concerning. While it does not indicate any imminent danger for the Great Lakes, this causes significant concern for the long term. I am no longer satisfied with the operational activities and public information tactics that have become status quo for Enbridge.” Enbridge will be expected to report on the Status at the PSAB meeting in December, 2017. [Read More]
Michigan Agencies Call for Immediate Repair of Coating on Line 5 | Wednesday August 30, 2017
The Michigan Agency for Energy, Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Natural Resources, State Police and Governor Snyder expressed concerns today about new information confirming there are gaps in the protective coating on a portion of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac, at least one of which was apparently caused during the installation of supportive pipe anchors. In response to the findings, the state called for the immediate inspection of the areas around all of the support anchors along Line 5, a report to the DNR and DEQ of any findings from the inspections, a copy of the video of the recent work performed on the pipeline, and for the company to repair within 30 days any damage to the pipeline’s coating. Withholding key information and misinforming state regulators fits a pattern of behavior for Enbridge and further reinforces the need to shut down this out-dated, poorly maintained, and dangerous pipeline. [Read More]
DEQ announces lead levels in Flint's water have tested below action level | Wednesday July 26, 2017
Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) officials announced that for the second consecutive six month period, the city of Flint’s drinking water has lead levels well below the federal action level. This statement is their strongest vote of confidence in the city’s water supply since the water crisis erupted almost two years ago but even so, DEQ officials continue to recommend the use of filters, both as an extra layer of caution and because of the ongoing pipe replacement work in the city. The latest round of testing showed 90 percent of Tier I samples collected are at or below 7 parts per billion. The federal action level is 15 parts per billion. The state can now begin closing the community points of distribution, the free bottled water sites. The state will close two of the less trafficked sites this summer. After the summer, the state will indefinitely keep one site open in each corner of the city. [Read More]
Gov. Snyder signs bill to bolster investments in natural resources, outdoor recreation development | Thursday July 13, 2017
Although Michigan LCV was originally opposed to Senate Bill 76 (see previous post), the administration fought against the unconstitutional use of the Trust Fund monies and ended up with a “clean” appropriation bill that will increase funds for outdoor recreation development and land acquisition projects. Senate Bill 76 appropriates a total of $47,610,900 from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) for acquisition and development of projects in 87 communities across the state recommended by the MNRTF Board. These projects will be funded with state restricted revenue from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. “Michigan’s natural resources are one of our state’s greatest assets, and it’s important that we continue to make smart investments to strengthen, develop and protect these resources,” Snyder said. [Read More]
State terminates independent contractor analyzing Line 5 risks | Wednesday June 21, 2017
Multiple agencies announced that they had terminated a contract with Det Norske Veritas, Inc., the firm preparing a risk analysis report on the Line 5 pipeline below the Straits of Mackinac. The contract was terminated prior to the draft report being delivered to the state’s project team. Within the past month, the state’s project team became aware that an employee who had worked on the risk analysis at DNV GL subsequently worked on another project for Enbridge Energy Co., Inc., which owns the Line 5 pipeline, while the risk analysis was being completed. This is a violation of conflict of interest prohibitions contained in the contract. [Read More]
DNR and NRTF Board Oppose Senate Bill 76 | Wednesday June 7, 2017
The Natural Resources Trust Fund Board (NTRF) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director, Keith Creagh spoke in committee opposing Senate 76. The two offices said that they had constitutional concerns with SB 76 and had requested a formal opinion from Attorney General Bill Schuette. Senate Bill 76 would have appropriated funds for local recreation and land acquisition projects that were not approved by the NRTF board for 2017. Although, Michigan LCV supports the acquisition of public lands and creation of recreational opportunities for the citizens of the state of Michigan, the NRTF board was constitutionally created as a non-partisan, group of experts, posed with recommending which projects would be funded in any given fiscal year. Senate Bill 76 was an attempt by the legislature to skirt around the NRTF board’s authority and set a precedent that would have allowed legislators to appropriate for pet projects without board approval. Voters elected to constitutionally give the NRTF board the powers of recommending problems to avoid politicization of our public lands and the appropriation process. [Read More]
DNR and NRTF Board Oppose Senate Bill 280 | Wednesday June 7, 2017
The Natural Resources Trust Fund Board (NTRF) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director, Keith Creagh spoke in committee opposing Senate 280. The two offices said that they had constitutional concerns with SB 280 and had requested a formal opinion from Attorney General Bill Schuette. Senate Bill 280 would have made changes to the statute governing how the NRTF is expended. Taken together the bill’s provisions would skew more NRTF expenditures towards development projects by creating numerous loopholes that would push the NRTF board to fund as many recreation development projects as possible. This is a shift away from the original intent of voters for the NRTF to serve primarily as a land acquisition fund. In addition, this bill would allow for the use of the NRTF monies to re-buy or provide “reimbursement” for land that is already in public ownership or is already providing public recreational benefit. Finally, this bill would require that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) pursue NRTF funding prior to seeking any other funding source for a project. Voters constitutionally protected the NRTF because they recognized the importance of public lands to Michigan’s economy and quality of life. This bill would undermine the efficacy of Michigan’s primary sustainable funding source for public land acquisition. [Read More]
Gov. Snyder develops a recycling strategy for Fall of 2017 | Friday May 19, 2017
Michigan’s current recycling rate is among the lowest in the country and Governor Snyder has pledged for many years to double our current rate from 15% to 30%. This week, he pledged that he will spend the summer months developing a recycling strategy to be rolled out in the fall. The Governor’s proposed strategy is supposed to increase recycling opportunities for residents and businesses and increase funding for recycling statewide. [Read More]
Gov. Snyder signs a supplemental appropriation to give Flint $20 million toward resolving the water crisis | Tuesday May 10, 2017
Governor Snyder signed a supplemental appropriation to give Flint another $20 million towards resolving the water crisis. This $20 million was needed as a matching fund in order to receive an additional $100 million in federal funding for Flint. This funding will be designated largely for replacing lead water lines around the city but will also include funding for the city’s water treatment plant upgrades, distribution system and transmission main improvements, water meter replacements and technical assistance for the city. [Read More]
Gov. Snyder Signs Bill to Increase/Improve Financing for Energy Efficiency Projects for School Districts | Thursday April 27, 2017
Governor Snyder signed House Bill 4880, sponsored by Representative Griffin. This bill is a common-sense solution that enables schools to finance energy conservation projects. This bill will collectively allow school districts to better facilitate energy efficiency by authorizing an additional financing method for energy conservation projects, increasing the financing period for energy conservation projects, and expanding the types of energy conservation projects that qualify. This bill allows school districts to make energy conservation improvements to their facilities through a tax exempt lease-purchase agreement. Lease-purchase agreements allow the districts to take title to the improvements when the lease is signed. The use of this new financing method will allow school districts to undertake needed energy efficiency projects without incurring substantial long-term debt. Additionally, the bills would extend the installation contract and financing period for qualified energy conservation projects from 10 years to 20 years and allow school districts to use Lease Purchase Agreements as a method to finance energy efficiency upgrades in their facilities.
MSFB and MEDC approve $20.3 Million in tax credits for chronic polluter AK Steel’s Dearborn Works facility | Tuesday April 24, 2017
The Michigan Strategic Fund Board (MSFB) awarded AK Steel’s Dearborn Works $20,363,905 in phased out tax credits over the next six years. This agreement was reached after AK Steel failed to gain legislative approval last session for an estimated $55 to $60 million in phased out MEGA credits. Despite some improvements since AK Steel assumed ownership of the plant in 2014 from OAO Severstal, the Dearborn plant continues to violate its air quality permits and receives regular notices from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality documenting clear violations of air quality protections. Instead of using this opportunity to pressure one of the state’s biggest violators of air quality standards to clean up its act, the MSFB awarded $20 million in tax breaks to AK Steel, no strings attached. [Read More] [More]
DEQ Issues the surface water discharge permit for the Back Forty Mining project in Menominee County | Wednesday April 5, 2017
Toronto-based Aquila Resources Inc. is proposing a sulfide mine as close as 150 feet to the Menominee River which travels along the Michigan — Wisconsin border. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has issued the surface water discharge permit for the Back Forty Project in Menominee County. The mine would be nearly 2,500 feet long and more than 2,000 feet wide, plunging more than 700 feet below the surface, and removing millions of tons of rock over the project’s 16 year lifespan. This is problematic because the site contains sulfide deposits, which produce acidic water when exposed to air or water. The sulfuric acid produced in this chemical reaction often leach and spill into surrounding waterways, where it can have harmful impacts on the health of aquatic ecosystems and water quality. Any mine-related water contamination would further threaten the health of the Menominee’s world class smallmouth bass and lake sturgeon populations and could harm both Michigan and Wisconsin’s recreational fishing industry. [Read More]
Gov. Snyder praises the U.S. District Court’s decision to approve the settlement for the citizens of Flint | Tuesday March 28, 2017
Judge David Lawson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan approved a settlement reached between several parties in a lawsuit filed in January 2016 against the state of Michigan and city of Flint. The settlement agreed to and signed by the Governor includes the following responsibilities for the State of Michigan: Allocation of $87 million to fund continued service-line replacements for residences in the city of Flint; continuation of the Community Outreach and Resident Education program (CORE), with workers going door-to-door every day to inspect faucet filters and inform residents about available services, including faucet fixture replacement; provision of free faucet filters for residents while the city’s pipe replacement program is ongoing; continued delivery of bottled water within 24 hours to Flint residents by request; operation of at least two community water resource sites until Sept. 1, 2017 and, payment of plaintiffs’ attorney fees in the amount of $895,000.
While the Governor’s office originally opposed the lawsuit, the Governor announced in a press release that, “the settlement represents the best path forward for Flint’s full recovery… While the settlement provides for commitments to many different resources, the state will continue striving to work on many priorities to ensure the city of Flint has a positive future, including economic development, job placement, and riverfront revitalization…As long as we continue working together to find solutions, Flint’s recovery will continue on a solid path.” [Read More]
Gov. Snyder re-appoints Rachael Eubanks to the MPSC | Friday March 17, 2017
Governor Snyder re-appointed Rachael Eubanks to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) for a new six year term ending in 2023. The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), a body that is responsible for ensuring safe, reliable, and accessible energy and telecommunications services at reasonable rates for Michigan’s residents. Eubanks will continue to serve as an Independent on the commission. Prior to joining the commission, Eubanks was the Director of Public Finance for Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. [Read More]
In term swap, Gov. Snyder extends term of MPSC Chair Sally Talberg to 2021 | Friday March 17, 2017
Governor Snyder announced that he would swap terms between two of his Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) members, allowing Chairwoman Sally Talberg to serve until 2021 and Norm Saari to step off of the commission in 2019. Previously Chairwoman Talberg’s time on the MPSC board was to end in 2019. Prior to her appointment, Talberg worked in the public and private sectors with a focus on energy policy and utility regulation. Most recently, she served as a senior consultant at Public Sector Consultants focusing on energy policy issues and was president of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). The Governor swapped these two members after a request for a shorter term from MPSC member Saari. [Read More]
Gov. Snyder signs an Executive Order to create the Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission | Thursday March 16, 2017
Governor Snyder signed an executive order to create the Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission. This commission was a recommendation from the Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board (CLPSB). This commission will focus on the implementation of the CLPSB’s recommendations and will monitor the state’s efforts to eliminate lead exposure in children. This commission is comprised of government officials appointed by the Governor as well as public health, environmental, education and social science experts from throughout the state. [Read More]
Gov. Snyder rolls out stricter state standards for the LCR and recommends policy and rule changes | Thursday March 16, 2017
Governor Snyder announced that he would spearhead action on strengthening Michigan’s Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) to protect Michigan’s citizens. The Governor slammed the federal government for not altering the federal LCR and announced that Michigan will prepare to follow strengthened state standards while continuing to push for improvements to the federal rule. These proposed reforms could be used as a model for other states to follow. These actions will be held by both the administration and the legislature to complete. That being said, securing these changes remains an uphill battle. Already Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-Olive Township) has said his Republican colleagues do not support lowering the state’s LCR. [Read More]
Governor Snyder’s recommendations to the administrative rules are:
→ Require the establishment of Water System Advisory Councils for most community public water systems to assure citizen membership, input, and access. The councils will develop plans for community outreach and education, and collaborate with community groups to assure correct implementation of the LCR. The councils will assure access to information regarding corrosion control, testing results, remediation processes, educational efforts and general water safety.
→ Require public water systems to perform a full system inventory identifying materials used, such as lead service lines.
→ Phase in a reduction in the Lead Action Level from 15 ppb to 10 ppb by 2020.
Governor Snyder’s recommendations that require a change in statute by the state Legislature are:
→ Strengthen sampling methods and require annual testing at state licensed facilities involving children and vulnerable adults, including schools, day care facilities, nursing homes, health facilities, and adult foster care facilities.
→ Require public disclosure of testing results or filters on every drinking water faucet in state licensed facilities involving children and vulnerable adults. Facilities exceeding standards will be required to take remedial action.
→ Prohibit partial lead service line replacements.
→ Require landowners and property sellers to disclose to renters or new homeowners of any service lines or plumbing that are known to contain lead.
Gov. Snyder creates an Environmental Justice Work Group | Friday February 17, 2017
Governor Snyder established a work group on environmental justice. The work group was created following a recommendation from the Flint Water Advisory Task Force and the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee’s Policy Subcommittee. The new group was tasked with examining policy issues and developing guidance, training, and curriculum for state and local agencies. While it is critical that Michigan makes progress on environmental justice issues, the workgroup has raised some concerns. Michigan does have an existing environmental justice plan, which was issued in 2010, but never implemented by the Snyder Administration. In addition, the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition has objected to the appointments to the workgroup because the Governor did not reserve a seat at the table for a resident of a community who is directly impacted by environmental injustice. [Read More]
Gov. Snyder's proposed FY 2018-2019 DEQ budget | Wednesday February 8, 2017
Governor Snyder delivered his Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) budget recommendation for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, which saw an increase from the previous year’s budget. The Governor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 recommended total funding of $510.8 million, of which $51.3 million was general fund. This included one-time funding of $15.9 million, of which $1 million was general fund. The recommendation for fiscal year 2019 is $432.9 million, of which $50.3 million is general fund. The fiscal year 2018 Executive Budget Recommendation highlighted the Governor’s focus on protecting Michigan’s water quality, promoting redevelopment of contaminated sites, safeguarding human health and the environment, and supporting compliance assistance to minimize environmental risks. This proposed budget focused on water quality, loans & grants, remediation & redevelopment, including a $1 million one-time, general fund allocation for the Flint water emergency. [Read More]
Gov. Snyder's proposed FY 2018-2019 DNR budget | Wednesday February 8, 2017
Governor Snyder delivered his Department of Natural Resources (DNR) budget recommendation for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, which saw an increase from the previous year’s budget. The Governor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 recommended total funding of $416.4 million, of which $64 million was general fund. This included one-time funding of $23.8 million, of which $22.8 million was general fund. The recommendation for fiscal year 2019 was $392.6 million, of which $41.3 million was general fund. The fiscal year 2018 Executive Budget Recommendation highlighted the Governor’s focus on conservation, protection, management, accessible use, and enjoyment of our state’s natural and cultural resources. This funding primarily focused on parks & recreation, wildlife & fisheries enforcement, and forest resources.
Gov. Snyder ends water credits for residents and funding for connection to Detroit water | Thursday February 9, 2017
After Flint’s drinking water was contaminated by lead, Michigan began providing a credit to assist Flint residents with their water bill. On February 9, 2017, the city of Flint was notified by a letter that the State planned to end water credits for Flint water customers by March 1, 2017. The changes came as state officials touted improving water quality. However, city residents still did not have access to safe, clean drinking water. In addition to the credits ending, the State informed residents that it would no longer provide funding for the City of Flint’s connection to the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), which amounted to about $1.2 million a month. This financial support should have continued until every resident in Flint had access to clean drinking water
DNR approves exploratory copper mining in Porcupine Mountain State Park | Tuesday February 7, 2017
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources issued a permit to Highland Copper, a Canadian copper mining company for exploratory drilling in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Porcupine Mountains, Michigan’s largest state park, stretches across 60,000 acres of the western Upper Peninsula and offers miles of hiking and biking trails with views of the mountains and of Lake Superior. It was recently hailed as an outdoor recreation gem by national media outlets. The permit allowed the company to drill 12 mining exploration holes within park boundaries. If sufficient copper ore is found under the parkland, Highland could conduct another feasibility study and access the ore from adjacent land outside the park through underground tunnels. [Read More]
Gov. Snyder authorizes disaster funding for Macomb sinkhole | Friday February 3, 2017
Governor Rick Snyder authorized the opening of the Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund to aid communities affected by the sewer collapse and resulting sinkhole in Macomb County. In doing so, Governor Snyder made up to $100,000 in state resources available to impacted local governments in order to help aid recovery efforts. [Read More] [Read More]
Gov. Snyder’s State of the State address barely mentioned the ongoing public health crisis in Flint | Tuesday January 17, 2017
In his 2017 State of the State address, Governor Snyder spoke only briefly about the Flint water crisis and the continued plight of the citizens of Flint. Remarkably, it took him 35 mins to mention the word “Flint,” which was shocking given that most of the pipes in the city still needed to be replaced, residents still needed filters for every faucet in their homes, and it had been over 1,000 days since the Flint water had been safe to drink. There were no specific plans articulated about how the state intended to move forward to ensure a more rapid response to Flint’s continued crisis, nor concrete plans on the means by which to address our infrastructure challenges throughout the state. He spoke of the crisis as a dark chapter in Michigan’s history and of the work that the State, Federal, and local governments had done to help Flint over the past year, but did not press the continued urgency of bringing clean, safe, drinking water back to the citizens of Flint. [Read More]
For How Green is Your Governor? posts prior to 2015 please reference our Gubernatorial Report Cards, which compile all actions we’ve tracked and scored and provide overall grades for the Governor every two years.