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Dear Michigan LCV Family,

Welcome to the Earth Day 2021 edition of Three Things Thursday! Today, as we near the end of yet another incredibly fast-paced, intense week, the Michigan LCV team invites you to take a moment to celebrate our amazing planet while recognizing the myriad of challenges confronting our air, land and water. 

But, before I dive in, it’s important to note that this week has been full of emotion and reflection as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty (on all counts) of the murder of George Floyd. The verdict, announced on Tuesday, was followed by what felt like a collective sigh of relief around the globe, and a growing understanding of how much work remains to be done to dismantle the racist system that underpins every facet of our daily lives.  

As many will agree, “no justice, no peace.”  This verdict does not erase the violence and prejudice that have existed for centuries in this country, nor the trauma inflicted upon Black and Brown bodies that has been passed down across generations. 

The outcome of the Chauvin trial provides an opportunity to deeply reflect: how can each and every one of us embrace a commitment to addressing racism as it rears its ugly head in our communities. Michigan LCV remains steadfast in our organizational commitment to equity, justice, and anti-racism in all aspects of our work, from climate change to water quality/affordability and efforts to ensure a fully functioning democracy.  

Now, onto this week’s edition of Three Things Thursday, which covers: Earth Day 2021; recent news re: PFAS contamination in Oscoda & Traverse City; and Line 5–another hearing and the May 12th shutdown deadline, which looms large for Enbridge.

1. So, how IS our beautiful planet as we celebrate Earth Day?

If the last year has been for you anything like it’s been for me, I’ve gotten to know the trees and flowers in my yard and my neighbors’ yards a whole better than I ever knew possible. I have also watched the ebb and flow of PFAS foam in the Huron River (on my early morning runs and dog walks); and come to better understand the dire consequences of human behavior (i.e. expanding international wildlife trades and markets) in the establishment of deadly viruses (like coronavirus) and the growing impacts of our changing climate.  

Earth Day was created in 1970 by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson when there were no regulatory mechanisms in place at the federal (or state) level to protect our air, our land or our water. Established as a day of education, Earth Day offers us a chance to reflect and learn, taking stock of what is needed to protect and preserve this glorious planet for future generations. And

Earth Day 2021 brings us face-t0-face with the reality that humanity is facing the biggest challenge we have ever faced in climate change.

Throughout the previous presidential administration, climate change and all issues related to air, land and water protections were not only pushed to the back burner, but systematically dismantled at an unprecedented pace. The Biden administration has (re)centered the climate crisis, sustainability, and environmental justice within its agenda and, as a result, Earth Day 2021 represents a turning point that we must capitalize on to focus on our collective future. 

President Biden recently announced an infrastructure plan that would invest $2 trillion in our country’s crumbling transportation infrastructure and energy grid, helping us transition to a carbon neutral economy while creating jobs and helping build back from the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Jobs Plan is exactly the type of action that we need to address both the climate and economic crises impacting so many Americans. 

It’s important to note that the American Jobs Plan aligns almost perfectly with Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan and MI Clean Water Plan, both of which she announced in the Fall of 2020. Governor Whitmer’s two plans focus on helping Michigan transition to a clean energy economy by 2050 by investing in clean energy alternatives and overhauling our water service infrastructure, creating thousands of Michigan jobs while protecting the health of our communities.

Both President Biden and Governor Whitmer made important announcements today:

  • President Biden announced an aggressive plan to cut U.S. carbon emissions in half by 2030, based upon 2005 levels. The announcement marks the commencement of a global summit on climate change that Biden is hosting this week, and goes a long way to establishing the United States as a global leader in tackling the climate crisis. The plan also aligns with President Biden’s decision to reenter the U.S. into the Paris Climate Agreement, which was made earlier this year. 
  • Governor Whitmer announced that:  
    • State-owned facilities would transition to 100% renewable energy sources by 2025, building off of the MI Healthy Climate Plan and establishing concrete goals for the State in its commitment to carbon neutrality.  The transition will be achievable thanks to partnerships between the State and three major utility companies:  DTE Energy, Consumers Energy, and the Lansing Board of Water and Light. In turn, the companies will be able to expand their renewable energy portfolios and accelerate their own transition to carbon neutrality.
    • She will establish an interagency team within state departments to monitor Michigan’s potential solar footprint and find new ways to deploy and expand solar on state-owned land.  

So, on Earth Day 2021, I invite you to think carefully about where we find ourselves, about what leadership to address the existential crisis of our time looks like, and about how you, personally, can make a difference.  Here are a couple of simple suggestions: 

  • Send a Michigan LCV Earth Day e-Card with a personalized message to friends and family telling them how much you care about them and our planet. Proceeds help our team continue our work to protect our land, air, water, and public health. 
  • Get involved with the Michigan LCV team! We are always looking for volunteers and members to get engaged with our work and make a difference. Whether that is volunteering with our field team or sending your lawmaker a message about the importance of a certain issue, your involvement makes a difference. Visit our Take Action page to learn more about how to take action and get involved. 

2. Recent updates on PFAS in Oscoda & Traverse City 

For those of you who regularly read Three Things Thursday, you know that PFAS is a widespread and growing problem in Michigan.  Since my post last week there have been several developments surrounding the PFAS crisis in Michigan, some of which show promise of meaningful change.  

Earlier this week, several members of Michigan’s congressional delegation called on the Air Force to step up, take responsibility and follow Michigan’s PFAS standards as the remediation process for PFAS contamination stemming from the former Wurtsmith Air Force base is being planned. U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, along with U.S. Representatives Dan Kildee and Elissa Slotkin, released a joint letter to Air Force officials calling on the Pentagon and Air Force to take more substantive steps to address and remediate the toxic PFAS from firefighting foam at the decommissioned base, which has contaminated land, drinking water, and wildlife in Clark’s Marsh, the Au Sable River, and around the Oscoda community. 

This effort with congressional leaders was enhanced by a similar letter led by impacted community members with Need Our Water Oscoda (and supported by Michigan LCV and others) to the Air Force that garnered over 200 signers. Both of these letters align with and support Gov. Whitmer’s recent announcement that she intends to use a clause in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that will force the Air Force to comply with Michigan’s PFAS standards for contamination and drinking water.

Yet, even after this strong engagement from the community and congressional leaders, last night the Air Force essentially ran out the clock on a three hour meeting and prevented the public from providing verbal comments on the Air Force plans. With the military’s dismal track record, the actions taken by Michigan’s leaders to force accountability to remediate the PFAS plaguing the Oscoda community is a step that will hopefully facilitate meaningful change. 

In related news, one of Michigan’s fiercest PFAS activists, Tony Spaniola, participated in a video press conference this afternoon featuring Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D, NY), Congressmen Kildee (D-MI-05) and Dean (D-PA-04), Rob Bilot (the environmental attorney who inspired Dark Waters), and actor Mark Ruffalo (who starred in Dark Waters) to announce the Gillibrand/Dean/Kildee landmark PFAS Accountability Act, which would create a federal cause of action and improved legal pathways to award medical monitoring for PFAS contamination. 

The proposed legislation would allow a private right of action for people exposed to PFAS chemicals, giving them the right to pursue legal action in order to get health studies and medical research funded on their exposure. This is a big step in the right direction as Michiganders, and people around the country, are dealing with severe health complications as a result of PFAS exposure, including deadly cancer.

Finally, the Michigan LCV team is deeply involved with the PFAS crisis that is unfolding in Traverse City. Next week, our team will be holding a virtual town hall event, along with partner organizations, like For Love of Water (FLOW) and others, to facilitate conversation and learning about the PFAS contamination found in the Pine Grove neighborhood in East Bay Township and elsewhere. 

The conversation will focus on what has happened as PFAS has been found in the Pine Grove community, as well as at the Traverse City airport and the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station, and the need for Michigan’s Dept. of Environment Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) to improve transparency and public access to information, as well as address the contamination itself through meaningful strategies for remediation.  If you are interested, please consider joining us on April 29, 2021 at 7 PM for this virtual event. Register today to reserve your spot!

3. Line 5: Tuesday’s hearing on the dilapidated pipeline & what is on the horizon as Gov. Whitmer’s May 13 shutdown deadline looms for Enbridge

The future of the Line 5 oil pipeline hangs in the balance as the May 12th shutdown deadline date that Gov. Whitmer imposed last year is fast approaching. 

Last November, Gov. Whitmer revoked the easement agreement between Michigan and Enbridge Energy, the Canadian oil company that owns Line 5 and was responsible for the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil disaster, the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history. After Gov. Whitmer announced her decision to revoke the easement, Enbridge quickly pushed things to the courts in an effort to protect their bottom line. 

While the shutdown battle continues, a parallel conversation related to Enbridge’s so-called “oil pipeline tunnel project” continues in other arenas. Earlier this week, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) overturned half of an Administrative Law Judge’s ruling that there would be no consideration given to the potential climate impacts of Enbridge’s proposed tunnel project in the Straits. While the MPSC won’t reconsider the public need for the Line 5 pipeline, as a whole, they have decided to consider the climate impacts of the tunnel, including emissions resulting from the oil and gas products being transported through the new system. That decision is a historic win for the analysis of climate impacts in general, recognizing that extending the life of Line 5 up to another 99 years (which would be allowed if the tunnel moves forward) would be a disaster for the climate crisis.  Allowing the transportation of 500,000 barrels of tar sands oil through the Straits every day, indefinitely, is antithetical to tackling the crisis of our time and will prevent the Governor from meeting her robust climate change goals.  

I am proud to say that the MPSC decision would have never happened without the work of the Michigan LCV team and our many allies. Through education and public engagement, we have catapulted this dangerous pipeline and the associated bad corporate actor into the public eye. We have worked tirelessly to elect champions to office who will make important decisions, protecting people, planet and public health.  One of those leaders is Governor Whitmer who has not only taken strong executive actions, but has appointed all three of the current Public Service Commissioners. #ElectionsMatter. 

As we prepare for the May 12th shutdown deadline, we will be hosting the second installment of our 2021 People, Planet, Public Health webinar series, which will focus on the current state of Line 5 affairs.  I hope you will join us on May 4th at 5 PM for a conversation entitled “Line 5: Shutting Down the Ticking Time Bomb.” I will be joined by a number of key experts, including author and Oakland University Professor Jeff Insko, Bay Mills Indian Community President Whitney Gravelle, and acclaimed attorney (and Michigan LCV board member) Riyaz Kanji. You can register for the event and reserve your spot today, here

As always, thank you so much for your belief in our work. Until next week…

Onward!

Lisa

P.S. Avalon International Breads’ Earth Day Loraxathon 

Our friends at Avalon International Breads hold a Loraxathon every year in celebration of Earth Day. As you probably guessed, a Loraxathon is hours and hours of Lorax readings. This year, their Loraxathon is taking place on April 24th from 8 AM to 3 PM.  There will be readings with beloved community members at their bakery on Willis Ave. Both live and pre-recorded readings will be streamed on their FB page throughout the day.  A portion of their sales on the 24th, and any donations, will go to Keep Growing Detroit to help them purchase their farm at Eastern Market. A schedule of readers can be found here.  And, here’s a preview of our contribution: a Michigan LCV team effort in the reading of the Lorax

 

Remember: 

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,

Nothing is going to get better. 

It’s not.