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

 

HGIYG Banner (w score)_0Throughout 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

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Gov. Snyder Appoints Heidi Grether as DEQ Director |Thursday July 14, 2016

Governor Snyder appointed Heidi Grether as the new Director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Grether will replace the Interim Director, Keith Creagh, who took the position after  Dan Wyant resigned from his post in the wake of the Flint Water Crisis. Michigan LCV has consistently advocated for a new DEQ director that will make public health and the protection of the environment a top priority. This announcement seems to fly in the face of that vision. Grether worked in external affairs for BP America from 1993 to 2012, where she was a lobbyist and manager heavily involved in the oil company’s response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico. We are committed to working with Ms. Grether in this new role, but question the Governor’s priorities in appointing someone with deep ties to the oil industry to the task of rebuilding Michiganders’ trust in our state environmental protection agency. After the Flint water crisis clearly demonstrated there were cultural problems within the DEQ, this appointment is a concerning development. [Read More]

Gov. Snyder Signs Flint Appropriations Budget | Tuesday June 29, 2016

Governor Snyder signed a $38.6 billion dollar budget on June 29, 2016. This bill would more than triple the state spending on the Flint water crisis. Appropriations to help remedy the water crisis in Flint will total at least $240 million.  That is about $165 million more than the $75 million previously approved by the governor and lawmakers, according to a legislative fiscal analysis. In addition to this, $41 million more will come from the 2016-2017 fiscal budget. The funding for Flint is split between the current Fiscal Year 2016 and 2017. It included $5.4 million for infrastructure improvements, corrosion control, water quality testing and water service payments; $15.1 million to support nutritional services, lead investigations and lead abatement; and $25 million to help the Department of Education pay for childcare and intervention for children with developmental delays. This funding will also help the DEQ work with the city of Flint and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency on potential improvements at the Flint water treatment plant. Unfortunately, the state legislature scaled back the Governor’s original infrastructure and drinking water funding after receiving lower revenue estimates and denied amendments proposed by Senator Hopgood that would have provided $500,000 for staff training at the DEQ and would have included language to form a workgroup to look at procedures surrounding switching a water source which could have been two potential fixes for the broken culture at the DEQ. [Read More] [More]

 

 

 

Gov. Snyder Approves Waukesha Water Diversion From Lake Michigan | Tuesday June 21 2016

Governor Rick Snyder announced that he joined the other seven Great Lakes Governors and Premiers in approving Waukesha’s application to draw water from Lake Michigan. Waukesha is now the first community that lies outside of the Great Lakes Basin to be approved under the Great Lakes Compact for a water diversion.  Conditions were added to Waukesha’s application before the approval was finalized, including that water withdrawn by Waukesha must be treated and returned to the basin. Our focus on this deal has always been the protection of our Great Lakes and on ensuring a precedent was not set that would undermine the Great Lakes Compact. Work will continue to ensure that Waukesha holds to their commitments. [Read More]

Gov. Snyder Vetoes Bill Changing Fees For Constructing Private Harbors | Wednesday June 7, 2016

Governor Rick Snyder issued his a veto on Senate bill 363. His veto rejected legislation that would have dramatically reduced the fees for homeowners with property on the Great Lakes that want to create private harbors. This bill would have decreased the cost of leasing unpatented lake bottomlands to $10 or less if the shorefront property owner wants to install a breakwater to create a private, non-commercial harbor. Although the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has the authority to determine whether or not to grant a lease to an applicant, Governor Snyder was concerned that “the fees reduced by the bill will adversely impact the DEQ’s ability to process permits in the timely manner we have come to expect.” He has also asked that the DEQ review their fee schedule for these types of harbors, recommend changes and work on a more “focused bill… with [less] overly broad language.” [Read More

 

 

 

DEQ Approves Changes to Marathon Refinery’s Sulfur Dioxide Emissions | Friday May 27, 2016

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approved the changes to the issuance of new air pollution permits for Marathon’s Detroit refinery. Marathon initially proposed adding 22 additional tons of sulfur dioxide to the air each year — in an area that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has labeled a nonattainment area for federal air quality standards. After negotiations between Marathon, the residents of the surrounding communities, the city of Detroit and the DEQ, Marathon agreed to voluntary measures that will reduce emissions overall. Instead of 22 additional tons of sulfur dioxide being emitted, under the new permit Marathon will emit 71 tons fewer every year.  This is a needed first step towards curbing the emission of harmful air pollutants in Southeast Michigan. [Read More]

Governor Snyder Signs Bill Package to Increase and Improve Financing for Energy Efficiency Projects | Tuesday May 19, 2016

Governor Snyder signed House Bills 4990-4994. This package of bills, sponsored by Representative Pscholka, is a “common-sense solution that enables our locals to finance energy conservation project which will ultimately save taxpayer dollars.” These bills will collectively allow local governments 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. These bills would allow local governments to make energy conservation improvements to their facilities through a tax exempt lease-purchase agreement. Lease-purchase agreements allow the local unit of government to take title to the improvements when the lease is signed. The use of this new financing method will allow local governments 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 local units of government to use Lease Purchase Agreements as a method to finance energy efficiency upgrades in their facilities. [Read More]

 

 

 

Gov. Snyder Proposes New State Lead And Copper Rule Action Level Of 10 PPB | Friday April 15, 2016

Governor Snyder and the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee have proposed that Michigan adopt a new Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) that would make Michigan’s standards more strict that the Federal guidelines require. Creating more stringent standards for the LCR will help Michigan control the amounts of lead and copper in drinking water. The Flint water crisis highlighted that Michigan’s standards and enforcement of the current LCR were failing the residents of Michigan. On top of this adopting these changes to the LCR, the proposal included: requirements for lead testing in many of the most vulnerable facilities, creating a Water System Advisory Council for local oversight of public water systems, and defining proper water testing methods. [Read More]

 

 

 

DEQ Updates Permitting Rules, Rejects Calls to Reduce Oversight of Toxic Emissions | Monday April 4, 2016

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced today that it would reject the proposed changes to the toxic air contaminants (TACs) standards which would have deregulated hundreds of toxic chemicals. The current standards requiring regulation of  TACs that have little toxicological data, but still have the potential to harm the environment and public health. It is of vital importance that the chemicals released into the air are reviewed for their potential health and environmental effects. In light of recent public health issues, the DEQ needs to continue to demonstrate their commitment to providing clean air and water for Michigan’s residents and safeguarding public health by retaining strong regulatory programs such as the TACs. [Read More]

 

 

 

Gov. Snyder Signs Senate Bill to Create a Data collection System for Recycling Programs | Thursday March 29, 2016

Last year, Governor Snyder announced new recycling initiatives for the state that would update Michigan’s tracking systems, offer more local recycling programs and increase public education about recycling. The Governor had tasked Michigan with doubling its current rate of 15 percent. Today, Gov. Snyder signed Senator Mike Green’s SB 507 that will create a statewide data collection system so that Michigan can accurately track recycling programs and recycled material. This legislation will require that recycling facilities send their to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. This bill can show where Michigan’s current recycling rates are without any new recycling initiatives. Creating a tracking program in Michigan and having accurate data will allow the state to have a starting point to help understand how effective a new recycling program could be. Governor Snyder hopes that new recycling initiatives, aided by this Senate bill will help Michigan increase recycling and move up from 15% to at least the national average of 35%. [Read More

 

 

 

DEQ Fails to Submit a State Implementation Plan on Sulfur Dioxide Levels in Southeast Michigan | Friday March 11, 2016

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency formally designated a portion of Wayne County as a “nonattainment” area for having unsafe levels of sulfur dioxide in the air. This designation required the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to develop an air pollution abatement strategy, known as a State Implementation Plan (SIP), that outlines how the state will reduce harmful sulfur dioxide emissions in the region. Today the EPA formally announced that the DEQ had failed to submit a SIP by the official deadline. That announcement triggers a process that allows the EPA to potentially impose sanctions on the sources of SO2 in Wayne County and  impose funding moratoriums. If the DEQ continues to fail to submit a SIP, the EPA could eventually draft and impose a Federal Implementation Plan for sulfur dioxide in the region. Wayne County residents have long suffered from sulfur dioxide pollution levels that are harmful to human health. Sulfur dioxide is a neurotoxin that can cause serious respiratory problems, and is especially dangerous for those most vulnerable: children, seniors, and those with respiratory illnesses.[Read More]

Gov. Snyder proposes FY 2017-2018 DNR budget | Wednesday February 10, 2016

Governor Snyder delivered his Department of Natural Resources (DNR) budget recommendation for fiscal year 2017 recommends total funding of $397.9 million, of which $39.6 million is general fund. This includes one-time funding of $8.7 million, of which $1.3 million is general fund. The recommendation for fiscal year 2018 is $388.7 million, of which
$38.3 million is general fund. The highlights of this proposed budget includes increased funding for: the restricted forest development fund, replacing aging forest fire equipment; enhancing the Vegetative Management System which provides a more efficient system for administering timber sales; hiring 7 new staff to help increase the supply of sustainable timber; overhauling the land ownership tracking system; preventing and controlling invasive species; the creation of a real-time electronic system for state-licensed commercial and tribal fishers and wholesale dealers to report harvest and transaction information; and, the creation of a coolwater fish production facility and upgrade critical fish life support systems at Michigan hatcheries. Although minor, the DNR’s funding in the 2017-2018 proposed budget has been cut from the 2016-2017 FY by around 3%. [Read More]

Gov. Snyder Proposed FY 2017-2018 DEQ Budget | Wednesday February 10, 2016

Governor Snyder delivered his Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) budget recommendation for the 2017-2018 fiscal year (FY), which recommends total funding of $513.5 million, of which $47.7 million is general fund. This includes one-time funding of $13.1 million, of which $12.4 million in general fund. The recommendation for fiscal year 2018 is $486.7 million, of which $35.3 million is general fund. This proposed budget focuses on water quality. It includes both funding for the issues facing the city of Flint as well as funding for environmental stewardship. This draft budget includes an expansion of funding for the federal drinking water revolving fund program and would allocate $5.4 million one-time general fund for the Flint water emergency. Funding will be used to pay for the city of Flint to stay on the Great Lakes Water Authority water system until the Flint system is updated and in use. In addition, funding will be used to support staff, local health department contracts, testing, and lab equipment to ensure water safety of the city. In addition, the Governor also recommended one time funding of $4 million to offset the Oil and Gas Program’s declining revenue, increasing funding for the remediation of contaminated sites and for the Clean Michigan Initiative programs to address contaminated sediments in Southeast Michigan. [Read More]

Governor Signs Emergency Supplemental Funding for Flint | Tuesday February 2, 2016

The day after the State of the State address, the Governor officially announced his supplemental spending bill for the city of Flint and stated that it “would not be his last budget request for Flint.” The legislature unanimously approved this bill. The money comes from a multi-point relief package outlined by Snyder during his state of the state address last week. The official supplemental appropriation is $28.03 million with an additional $22.63 million coming out of the General fund. These funds go towards funding new public health and school programs, such as, hiring school nurses and psychologists, funding healthy food options in the schools, setting up field operations for the Department of Health and Human Services, etc.; replacing aging infrastructure in key areas in the city; continuing to provide bottled water, water filters and replacement cartridges; paying for the National Guard’s role for three months and funding the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee. This funding will be a good first step towards healing the city of Flint and Genesee County however more resources are needed. We hope that in the Governor’s scheduled budget address on February 10, 2016, he will address the details of his long term funding intentions.

 

 

 

State of the State Address - Flint Water Solutions | Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Governor Snyder delivered his State of the State address with an emphasis on his solutions to the Flint water crisis. He began the speech by apologizing to the residents of Flint, laying out a timeline documenting how the Flint crisis happened, and shared his next steps. He agreed to release all of his 2014 and 2015 e-mails and will put in a request to the Legislature for $28 million in one-time funding for Flint. While these are steps in the right direction, ultimately the Governor’s response is too little too late. The Governor failed to provide a comprehensive plan for the residents that were affected by this crisis. Additionally, he claimed that the “buck stopped with him,” but then repeatedly laid blame for the crisis on local officials, agency staff, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The Great Lake State faces numerous troubling water quality challenges and, unfortunately, the Flint crisis is only the most glaring example of this administration’s failure to adequately protect clean water. From lead contamination in Flint, to toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie, to mercury pollution from our aging coal power plants, Governor Snyder hasn’t stepped up. We urge Governor Snyder and his administration to now lay out immediate, tangible steps toward ensuring Michigan’s water is fully protected. [Read More]

State of the State - Energy Policy | Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Governor Snyder failed to touch on energy policy in his State of the State Address. Michigan’s 10 percent renewable energy standard plateaued at the end of last year and no new comprehensive clean energy plan was enacted to guide Michigan’s energy future. Governor Snyder should have given a nod to the importance of renewable energy and energy efficiency for Michigan’s air and economy and pushed the legislature to come to agreement around a new energy vision that continues to build off of our current successful clean energy standards.

State of the State - Infrastructure Commission | Tuesday January 19, 2016

Governor Snyder started a discussion highlighting Michigan’s aging infrastructure and the challenges they pose for our state. Challenges best exemplified by the water crisis in Flint. Governor Snyder also pointed to critical issues like the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, energy infrastructure, and sewer water overflows. Additionally, the Governor created an infrastructure commission to study what upgrades are needed and to make recommendations for how to fund needed infrastructure projects. However, the Governor offered few concrete details. Going forward Michigan LCV will keep an eye on the newly created commission in order to ensure we see real results and real action. [Read More]

Gov. Snyder Reveals that Flint’s water is Connected to the increase in Legionnaires’ Disease | Saturday January 16, 2016

Governor Snyder and Michigan Public Health officials reveal that the Flint area experienced a spike in Legionnaires beginning in summer 2014 that resulted in 10 deaths in 18 months. However, Michigan officials knew that the switch to the Flint River had been identified as a potential source of Legionnaires’ disease 15 months ago, but the residents of Flint and Genesee County, were not made aware until this week. Legionnaires’ disease is a severe, often lethal, form of pneumonia which is caused by bacteria found in water. The administration and public health officials now state that there is currently no solid evidence to prove that the increased levels in Legionella and the decision to use the Flint River as the city’s source of drinking water were linked. [Read More

Governor Snyder Activates National Guard to Help in Flint | Friday January 15, 2016

Governor Snyder activates the National Guard to assist with the ongoing crisis of the lead contamination of Flint’s drinking water. More than thirty members of the National Guard will be distributing bottles of water and water filters to the residents of Flint and Genesee County. Snyder continues to face criticism that he and his administration did not respond to the crisis in a timely manner and were not transparent about their awareness of the issues in Flint. The Governor also asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for support and made a formal request to the President Barack Obama to declare Flint a disaster area. This declaration would ensure millions of dollars from the Federal government and would allow the city to pay for clean water, filters and other public health programs.  President Obama turned down Snyder’s appeal for a disaster declaration but gave $5 million to the state to assist the residents of Flint. [Read More

Snyder Creates Committee for Long-term Flint Response | Friday January 15, 2016

Faced with continued criticism for his administration’s delayed response to the Flint water crisis, Governor Snyder creates a 17 person, inter-agency committee, known as the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee. This committee will look for long-term solutions for the city, analyze the long term effects of high lead levels and recommend a long term action plan. Snyder said that this committee will be “made up of experts from the government and the Flint community… and carry on longer after the emergency declaration expires.” He also stated that their work will be in addition to the continued distribution of bottled water and water filters and arranging blood tests for children who may have been exposed to lead poisoning. [Read More

DEQ's Toxic Algae & Lake Erie Implementation Plan | Thursday January 14, 2016

The Lake Erie Implementation Plan was created to outline the actions that Michigan will take to combat the toxic algae plaguing Lake Erie. The purpose was to develop an action plan that would reduce phosphorus- the main driver fueling the growth of toxic algal blooms- into Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025. In the final plan, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) failed to address any of the numerous major shortcomings in the draft plan that Michigan LCV and others identified through public comment. The plan fails to outline how Michigan will reduce runoff pollution from the agricultural sector and fails to account for needed reductions in dissolved reactive phosphorus. the  algae bloom in 2015 was the most severe ever recorded on Lake Erie. Michigan needs new strategies to solve this chronic problem that continues to threaten the health of the thousands of Michiganders who depend on Lake Erie for their drinking water. [Read More

Appointment of Interim DEQ Director | Wednesday, December 30, 2015

 

Governor Snyder names the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) director Keith Creagh as the interim head of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Creagh assumed the interim DEQ Director position after Dan Wyant offered his resignation from the post as a result of the fallout from the Flint water crisis. Creagh has served at the DNR director since July 2012 and prior to that served as the director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Creagh brings knowledge of land conservation and agency administration to his new position, but he does not bring any specific public health or water quality expertise, which is sorely needed given the DEQ’s negligence in addressing poisoned tap water in the City of Flint. The serious nature of the challenges confronting Flint and Michigan’s environment more broadly warrant the appointment of a DEQ Director with a strong knowledge of environmental and public health policy, as well as a commitment to rebuilding Michiganders’ trust in the agency’s ability to carry out its core mission. [Read more]

Failure to Act on the Flint Water Crisis | Tuesday, December 29, 2015

As the Great Lakes State, fresh water is our most valuable resource. Michigan should be leading the charge in protecting our lakes, rivers and streams while ensuring that all Michiganders have access to clean, safe water. Our administration has failed at assisting the citizens of Flint during the water crisis in a timely, efficient manner. Governor Rick Snyder issues an apology, accepts the resignations of Michigan DEQ Director Dan Wyant and DEQ Public Information Officer Brad Wurfel, and declares a state of emergency for Flint and Genesee counties, all part of a delayed response to the drinking water crisis in Flint that left families and children poisoned by lead and without access to safe drinking water. In April of 2014, Flint switched its drinking water source from Lake Huron water supplied through the Detroit Water and Sewage Department to the Flint River. Even after numerous complaints and testing, the state failed to acknowledge and report to the public that Flint’s aging infrastructure and corrosive water source had left residents with drinking water tainted with lead, which can cause irreversible damage especially on children’s health. This crisis unfolded over more than a year without any significant, serious action being taken on the part of the Administration. Governor Snyder’s announcement of a state of emergency happened on the same day that the US Attorney’s office launched an investigation into the Administration’s handling of the crisis. Snyder said that offering additional assistance and shifting personnel are the “initial steps” his office is taking to protect the residents of Flint, and has yet to release a long-term plan of action to address the irreversible health impacts of lead poisoning and permanent need for safe drinking water. Although the Governor has taken some immediate, necessary steps to address this crisis, the administration’s delay in action, coupled with the ongoing lack of disclosure and a comprehensive, long-term plan to adequately address the drinking water crisis led to undue, irreversible harm on the citizens of Flint. [Read more]

DEQ announces $450,000 available for residential recycling | Friday, December 17, 2015

As part of Governor Rick Snyder’s initiative to double Michigan’s residential recycling rate, the Governor and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) report that they are offering $450,000 to cities, villages, townships, charter townships, counties, tribal governments, and municipal solid waste or resource recovery authorities interested in expanding their local recycling program. Communities that are interested in purchasing recycling carts for their residents can apply for grants from the DEQ. In addition to this, there are programs that offer technical assistance and educational resources to assist in implementing the programs. Switching to recycling carts generally increases recycling rates in communities and can lead to 400-500 pounds of recyclable material being recovered from a single household in a year. [Read more]

Appointment for the Natural Resource Commission | Friday, December 11, 2015

As part of Governor Rick Snyder’s initiative to double Michigan’s residential recycling rate, the Governor and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) report that they are offering $450,000 to cities, villages, townships, charter townships, counties, tribal governments, and municipal solid waste or resource recovery authorities interested in expanding their local recycling program. Communities that are interested in purchasing recycling carts for their residents can apply for grants from the DEQ. In addition to this, there are programs that offer technical assistance and educational resources to assist in implementing the programs. Switching to recycling carts generally increases recycling rates in communities and can lead to 400-500 pounds of recyclable material being recovered from a single household in a year. [Read more]

Appointment for the Natural Resource Commission | Friday, December 11, 2015

Governor Snyder reappoints Rex Schlaybaugh to the Natural Resources Commission (NRC), a body within the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that is responsible for programs and policies that connect Michigan citizens to state natural resources. Schlaybaugh is currently the Chairman Emeritus at Dykema Law Firm where he has been a member for 38 years and previously served as CEO. Schlaybaugh is an avid angler with connections to multiple conservation organizations and has served on many civics boards throughout his life. He will serve a four year term that will expire on December 31, 2019. [Read more]

DEQ announces plans to move Flint back to Detroit Water | Thursday, October 8, 2015

Governor Snyder and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) acknowledge that lead levels among Flint’s children and residents have increased and announce plans to move Flint back to the Detroit water system. Despite the mounting evidence to the contrary, state officials had for months repeatedly denied that there was a lead contamination problem with Flint’s drinking water. In April 2014, while Flint was operating under an Emergency Manager appointed by Governor Snyder, the city switched from sourcing its drinking water from Detroit to pulling water from the Flint River. The move was a temporary cost saving method expected to last until a new regional water authority was established and a new water pipeline from Lake Huron was brought online. By June of 2014, Flint residents began to call attention to the troubling discoloration and odor of the city’s new drinking water and reported rashes and other health problems after exposure to the water. Shortly thereafter, an internal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) memo raised alarm bells about high lead levels in drinking water and the complete lack of control measures to minimize corrosion of Flint’s lead pipes. Elevated levels of lead contamination were additionally confirmed by an independent study from researchers at Virginia Technical University working in coordination with Michigan ACLU and then again by an analysis of children’s lead blood levels conducted by doctors at Hurley’s Children’s Hospital in Flint. Instead of immediately responding to the crisis, the DEQ continued to claim city water was safe and attempted to discredit the research–saying that “anyone who is concerned about lead in the drinking water in Flint can relax” and claiming the controversy was becoming “near-hysteria.” As it turns out, it was the DEQ–not the independent researchers and not the local residents–that got it wrong. The human and economic costs of their missteps and mismanagement of this crisis will be felt for years to come. Tragically, it will be Flint’s children that will be most affected by their mistakes. Children six or younger are particularly susceptible to the adverse and irreversible health impacts caused by lead exposure, issues including behavior and learning problems, lower IQ and hyperactivity, slowed growth, and hearing problems. Governor Snyder and his administration’s late response to the crisis in Flint is grossly inadequate and the repeated denials and efforts to discredit outside research has impeded swift action to solve the problem. The crisis began while Flint was under state emergency management and the Governor oversees the state agencies responsible for safeguarding our drinking water and our health. In addition to quickly and completely rectifying the problem, the Governor Snyder and his state agencies should be held accountable for the slipshod government oversight that led to this public health crisis. [Read More]

Executive Order Establishes Pipeline Safety Advisory Board | Thursday, September 3, 2015

Governor Snyder issues an executive order establishing a fifteen member Pipeline Safety Advisory Board and announces an agreement with Enbridge Energy Co. prohibiting the transport of heavy crude through the Line 5 pipelines running under the Straits of Mackinac. The advisory board consists of members of the public and representatives from state agencies, industry, and environmental and conservation groups and is charged with advising state agencies on pipeline routing, construction, operation, and maintenance as well as increasing transparency and public oversight of existing pipeline infrastructure. Establishing the board and reaching a binding agreement on heavy crude transport are both good first steps to enacting two of the recommendations outlined in a report on Line 5 issued in July by a special Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force. However, given the risk that Line 5 poses to the Straits, more action should be taken as soon as possible to fully protect Michigan’s environment and economy from oil spills. The Michigan League of Conservation Voters urges Governor Snyder to issue a clear timeline for fully implementing the Petroleum Pipeline Task Force recommendations and a process for shutting down Line 5 through the Straits. [Read More]

MAE and DEQ support Clean Power Plan | Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Michigan Agency for Energy (MAE) and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announce support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which establishes the first-ever carbon pollution limits on existing power plants and addresses climate change. Michigan will create a plan to achieve a 32 percent reduction of carbon pollution by 2030, which will transition our state from dirty, expensive coal-fired power plants to cleaner sources of energy, reduce pollution that contributes to respiratory diseases like asthma, and curb a significant contributor to climate change. Under the Clean Power Plan, states are given flexibility to design their own strategy to meet a national carbon reduction goal. Michigan LCV looks forward to working with the Snyder Administration to design and execute a state implementation plan that accelerates our transition to renewable and efficient sources of energy and reduces harmful pollution in our air, land and water.  [Read More]

DEQ Releases Draft Rules to Deregulate Toxic Chemicals | Thursday, July 16, 2015
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) releases a draft of rules that would significantly revise Michigan’s air pollution control program and deregulate hundred of toxic chemicals. Currently in Michigan any company that proposes emitting a toxic air contaminant must first quantify the amount of the emission, the toxicity of the chemical, and then preform a community health risk assessment using that information to evaluate the potential impact that a chemical emission may have on the nearby community. The proposed rule eliminates regulation of chemicals that have not been tested for their impacts on public health. Under this provision the DEQ could allow a chemical to be emitted without knowing if it is a human carcinogen, thus making the communities located near to factories the testing grounds for potential impacts. The proposed rules would further eliminate the least toxic 25 percent of chemicals from regulation regardless of the quantity of the chemical emitted. Although these chemicals are classified as low-toxicity non-carcinogens, they still have been shown to have long-term impacts on human health. Hardest hit by the proposed deregulation will be Michigan’s urban communities, where industrial plants are concentrated and where residents are already over-burdened by poor air quality. [Read More]
Gov. Snyder, Gov. Kasich of Ohio & Premier Wynee of Ontario Pledge to Work Together to Address Aquatic Invasive Species | Saturday, June 13, 2015

Governor Snyder signs pledge to increase collaboration with Ohio Governor John Kasich, and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, to launch a pilot project with the aim of better coordinating strategies to address aquatic invasive species. Water is critical to Michigan’s economy, environment, and quality of life. Aquatic invasive species are already damaging the ecosystem health of our Great Lakes and potential future invasive introductions like Asian Carp pose a large threat to our waterways. The aquatic invasive species challenge is regional in nature and requires strong coordination amongst regional partners. This pledge is an important public statement in support of harmonizing efforts, however more details are needed on how this pilot program will differ from the work of the Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force and what the pilot program will entail. [Read More]

DEQ Releases Draft of Michigan’s Water Strategy | Tuesday, June 9, 2015

 

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality: Office of the Great Lakes releases a draft of Michigan’s Water Strategy. The Water Strategy charts a 30 year vision for the management, protection, and use of Michigan’s water resources. The strategy lays out recommendations to minimize major threats to Michigan’s clean water and calls for the implementation of watershed-scale approaches and solutions to address those threats. In particular, the strategy makes critical recommendations to address nutrient pollution and harmful algae blooms. The report calls for a 40 percent reduction in the amount of phosphorous flowing into the western Lake Erie Basin and for state, local, and regional partners to develop a comprehensive strategy to prevent harmful algae blooms. The strategy is a comprehensive document that goes beyond nutrient pollution and touches on a broad range of water issues, including water conservation, water based tourism and recreation, drinking water protection, water quality monitoring, and septic waste and legacy contaminants. The strategy is an important first step to outlining solid recommendations to prioritize the protection and smart use of Michigan’s clean water. However, we look forward to seeing a more concrete action plan detailing how the Snyder Administration will make these recommendations a reality. [Read More]

DEQ Releases More Stringent Permit Regulations for CAFOs | Monday, May 4, 2015

 

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) releases the 2015 version of the general permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). The CAFO permit is administered by the DEQ as part of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System and establishes standards and practices to avoid harmful discharges of pollutants into Michigan waterways. Michigan LCV and partner organizations called on the DEQ to ban the application of manure on frozen fields under the permit because manure often contains phosphorous and other contaminants that pollute our lakes, rivers and streams. Application of manure on frozen or snow covered fields poses a high risk for run off because the frozen ground cannot uptake the manure and snow melt and spring thaw carries the waste into nearby streams and rivers.  The new CAFO permit did not ban frozen field application, but the DEQ did take a small step to impose restrictions on non-CAFO owners that buy and take manure waste from CAFOs. People who receive waste from CAFOs must now follow the same restrictions on frozen ground application as the CAFO. This is a small step in the right direction, but much more must be done to address the large volume of nutrients flowing into our clean water. [Read More]

DNR Approves Application for Mining Operation on Public Lands | Friday, April 3, 2015
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) approves Eagle Mine’s application for a mineral lease on a 40 acre parcel of public land along the Yellow Dog River, which is a federally designated “Wild and Scenic” River. The 40 acre parcel is home to many recreational trails and endangered species. Michigan LCV partnered with Upper Peninsula environmental groups Save the Wild UP and Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve to submit a petition to the DNR requesting a public hearing on the mineral lease application. More than 1,400 Michiganders signed onto that petition, but the DNR did not offer a public hearing. Instead, the DNR’s approval of the permit puts a nationally renown river and ecologically significant public land open to mining activity that has the potential to leave permanent damage.  [Read More]
DEQ Grants Permit for Groundwater Discharge for Mining Operation | Friday, March 27, 2015
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) grants a permit renewal for groundwater discharge at Eagle Mine, a sulfide mining operation near Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula. Eagle Mine’s original discharge permit expired in 2013. The renewed permit makes several changes including increasing the total discharge volume to 504,000 gallons of waste water per day, despite the fact that levels of dangerous chemicals like vanadium and uranium have increased in the groundwater surrounding Eagle Mine. While the permit renewal requires additional water testing and adds new provisions for investigating elevated concentrations of pollution, it does not directly or sufficiently address chemicals like uranium, vanadium, copper, molybdenum, silver, lead and arsenic that are already present in surrounding lakes, rivers and streams. [Read More]
DNR Grants $350,000 for Dam Management Projects | Monday,March 23, 2015

 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources grants $350,000 for dam management projects in Allegan, Berrien, Crawford and Ontonagon counties. The grants are from the DNR’s Dam Management Grant Program, which was launched in late 2012 under the Snyder Administration. The goal of the Dam Management Grant program is to help enhance river ecosystems and aquatic resources by provide funding and technical assistance to local and state units of government, non-profit groups and individuals to manage dam removal, repair and major maintenance projects. The program also aims to reduce the long-term costs associated with infrastructure development. [Read More]

DNR Approved the Graymont Mining Operation on Public Lands | Thursday, March 19, 2015
On March 19, the Director of the Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh approved the Graymont limestone land exchange application. Under the final deal, which is the largest public land sale in Michigan history, Graymont (a Canadian mining company) will purchase 1,806 acres of land, 7,026 acres of mineral rights and acquire an additional 830 acres of state-owned land through a land exchange. The DNR Director’s approval was the green light Graymont needed to construct a vast 13,000 acre limestone mine operation in the Upper Peninsula. Construction and operation of the large-scale mine poses huge risks to large tracks of critical continuous forest land and fragile wetlands. The lands Graymont acquired are currently open to public recreation, hunting, and timber harvesting. The mine would obstruct public accessibility to the land near the mineral extraction site and hamper valuable tourism and forestry revenue for the local economy. [Read More]
Gov. Snyder Issues Executive Order Creating the Michigan Agency of Energy | Wednesday, March 18, 2015

 

Governor Snyder issued an executive order creating the Michigan Agency for Energy. The new agency will house the Director of Air Policy, the Michigan Energy Office, the Energy Advisory Committee, and the Michigan Public Service Commission. Valerie Brader, currently serving as Governor Snyder’s Deputy Legal Counsel and Senior Policy Adviser specializing in energy, will head the agency as Executive Director. The Governor’s creation of an energy agency is a step in the right direction for increased coordination and oversight of administrative work on energy policy, but many details remain unclear. Michigan LCV will continue to track the development and implementation of the agency in the coming months. The executive order establishing theMichigan Agency for Energy goes into effect 60 days from March 18, 2015. [Read More]

Gov. Snyder Delivers Message on Energy | Friday, March 13, 2015

 

Governor Snyder delivers a Special Message on Energy that follows his three pillars of energy policy — reliability, affordability and environmental protection. The Governor calls for eliminating energy waste by 15% over a 10 year period, opening up on-bill financing to all utility customers and eliminating the spending cap on utility energy efficiency programs. The Governor also pushes for meeting between 30% and 40% of Michigan’s energy supply with renewable energy and increased energy efficiency by 2025. His plan would entail either maintaining the current 9% renewables level and mixing in 21% energy waste elimination and efficiency, or increasing renewables to 19% and again mixing in 21% energy waste elimination and efficiency. The Governor does not include any specific standards for renewable energy or energy efficiency to ensure progress towards the 30% to 40% figures. Michigan LCV remains encouraged to see the Governor release numeric goals for renewable energy and reducing energy waste. However, in the absence of clear support from the Administration for (deleted ‘required’) renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, it remains unclear how the Governor plans to reach the goals announced today. To continue to build on the clean, renewable energy success we have seen in Michigan, we need to put pen to paper on a plan that will turn these goals into numeric goals in statute. [Read More]

Gov. Snyder Writes to President Obama Fighting Changes on the NAAQS | Monday, March 2, 2015

Governor Snyder writes a letter to President Obama’s administration urging them to reconsider proposed changes to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. In November 2014 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a plan to strengthen national standards for ground level ozone, commonly known as “smog.” The EPA’s plan proposed lowering the allowable ozone standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a range of 65 to 70 ppb. Smog is a major contributor to asthma and other respiratory diseases. Ground level ozone is also a heat-trapping gas that contributes to climate change. In his letter, Governor Snyder said that adopting the proposed changes could “thwart growth in business development,” but businesses’ bottom lines should not come at the expense of the quality of the air we breathe. The Governor’s letter to the Obama administration is a step in the wrong direction for our public health, clean air and Great Lakes. [Read More]

Gov. Snyder Issues Executive Order Cutting Funding for Michigan’s Water Pollution Control Program, Drinking Water Fund and Funding for State Parks and Trails | Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Governor Snyder issues an executive order that cuts nearly $103 million from the current budget as part of a larger plan to address the state’s budget shortfall. The executive order decreases funding for the Water Pollution Control and Drinking Water Revolving Fund by $2.75 million. The executive order also cuts $1.5 million from programs dedicated to supporting Michigan’s state parks and trail system.

Gov. Snyder Proposes Cutting Funds for the DEQ by $14.7 Million | Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Governor Snyder delivers his budget recommendation for the 2016 fiscal year, which proposes cutting funding for the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) by $14.7 million. The proposed budget would cut state match funding for the Drinking Water Revolving Fund, which provides resources for local governments to make much-needed infrastructure improvements to their drinking water systems. In addition, the proposal does not include enough funding to fully support a recycling program that would significantly increase Michigan’s recycling rate — a plan proposed by the Governor himself. On the plus side, the budget recommendation does propose an increase in the fee for Michigan’s Renewable Operating Permit Program. Additional revenue would support companies with large-scale air emissions meet new federal requirements for air quality.  Overall, the Governor’s budget recommendation cuts too much from the state agency charged with protecting Michigan’s environment.  [Read More]
Gov. Snyder Proposes Increasing DNR Funding by $4.8 Million | Wednesday, February 11, 2015

In his proposed budget for the 2016 fiscal year, Governor Snyder recommends increasing funding for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) by $4.8 million. The increase in funding would put $500,000 toward the Local Public Recreation Facilities Funds, which provide grants for local communities to improve recreation opportunities. The Governor also proposes a $2.2 million increase in funding for the restoration, conservation, enhancement, and management of wildlife habitat. The Governor also recommends $12.2 million for infrastructure improvements in Michigan’s state parks and recreation areas. The proposed executive budget also maintains funding for the detection and eradication of invasive species. [Read More]

Gov. Snyder Delivers 2015 State of the State Address | Tuesday, January 20, 2015

 

Governor Snyder delivers his State of the State address, acknowledging that Michigan needs a long-term comprehensive energy plan that includes renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. Governor Snyder started a constructive conversation about creating an energy agency to coordinate work on energy affordability and reliability while protecting the environment. However, the Governor offered few concrete details about what an energy plan will entail, and omitted mention of many other pressing challenges confronting Michigan’s clean air and water. The Governor did give nods to important work being done to increase Michigan’s recycling rate and to combat invasive species. Now it will be up to his administration and the state legislature to take action, most immediately by crafting a clean energy plan that prioritizes renewable energy and energy efficiency. [Read More]

Gov. Snyder Signs Bill to Weaken Standards on the Clean Up of Contaminated Sites | Thursday, January 15, 2015
On January 15 ,2015, Governor Snyder signed into law Senate Bill 891, which was introduced by Senator Thomas Casperson [R-Escanaba]. Senate Bill 891 weakens standards for the clean up of contaminated sites in Michigan.  The bill removes the requirement for a monitoring plan for a contaminated aquifer, and it eliminates a requirement that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) provide justification for not requiring the clean up of contaminated groundwater. It reclassifies recreation areas, like parks, and natural areas from “residential” to “non-residential,” allowing them to be cleaned up to a weaker standard then residential areas. It also removes the current preference for a cleanup that fully removes hazardous substances over a cleanup that just limits exposure. SB 891 will, in effect, allow more hazardous substances to be left in places like parks, groundwater aquifers, and open spaces where they can continue to pose a risk to our families, our water, and our natural resources. Senate Bill 891 has been assigned Public Act 542 of 2014. [Read More]
Gov. Snyder Vetoed Bill that would have Eliminated Biodiversity as a Reason to Protect Public Lands | Thursday, January 15, 2015

 

On January 15, 2015, Governor Snyder vetoed Senate Bill 78, introduced by Senator Thomas Casperson [R-Escanaba], which would have eliminated biodiversity as a legitimate reason to protect public land. Restricting the promotion of biodiversity in land management decisions would hamstring the Michigan Department of Natural Resources from doing its job, and gut the implementation of Michigan’s Endangered Species Act. Moreover, it would have put in jeopardy the $22 million in federal dollars and sustainable forestry certificates that cover 3.9 million acres of land across the state. Thanks to the Governor’s veto, Michiganders and visitors alike will continue to enjoy the high quality of our state parks and state forests. [Read More]

Gov. Snyder Signed Bill Package to Generate Funding for Roads | Monday, January 12, 2015

 

On January 12, 2015, Governor Snyder signed a package of bills that would generate more funding for roads through an increase in the state’s sales tax. By preserving the current transportation funding equation, the bills will not only generate over a billion dollars annually for roads, but also at least $107 million a year for the Comprehensive Transportation Fund, which supports public transit and passenger rail systems. In order for it to take full effect, the proposal will need to be approved by Michigan voters. If the ballot initiative is approved, it would be Michigan’s first structural increase in funding for public transportation since the late 1980s. [Read More…]

Gov. Snyder Signed Bill that will Increase Payback Period for Energy Efficiency Upgrades at Community Colleges | Saturday, January 10, 2015

 

On January 10, 2015, Governor Snyder signed into law House Bill 5806, introduced by Representative Pscholka [R-Stevensville]. HB 5806 increases the payback period for energy efficiency upgrades at community colleges to 25 years and eliminates the requirement that savings generated from the upgrades fully cover the cost of the project. Before the bill was signed into law, community colleges were only provided with a payback period of 10 years and only allowed to enter into energy efficiency contracts if the savings that resulted from the improvements paid for the upgrades. House Bill 5806 has been assigned Public Act 485 of 2014. [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.