Dear Michigan LCV Family,
Welcome to the December 24th edition of Three Things Thursday. This week’s edition provides a quick recap of 2020, a peek at the good and bad of the Lame Duck legislative session, and–yes–a word or two about an acronym that has, unfortunately, become part of our vernacular: PFAS.
1. Year-End Recap — What Were We Able to Accomplish?
As we look back on 2020, I want to thank you. This has been a year beyond compare. I am very grateful for your friendship, trust and support. Despite the unprecedented challenges we faced due to COVID-19, we made critical progress in protecting Michigan’s land, air, water and public health. Although we know 2021 will bring more challenges, as we deal with our ongoing drinking water issues and the climate crisis, it’s important to acknowledge accomplishments.
To celebrate the work that we did this year, Zach Simón — a member of our communications team — created this video. I urge you to take a look.
Here are some of the other highlights:
- Working closely with key allies, we passed Michigan’s first drinking water standards for PFAS, which will protect the health of Michigan communities.
- After years of advocacy and partnership with a number of organizations, Gov. Whitmer ordered the dangerous, 67-year-old Line 5 Pipeline to be shut down by May 2021.
- Understanding the critical importance of taking bold action to address climate change, Gov. Whitmer set Michigan’s boldest climate initiative ever with the MI Healthy Climate Plan , which will achieve 100% carbon neutrality by 2050.
- With support and leadership from the MI Congressional Delegation, the Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law, providing permanent funding for our parks and public lands.
- Michigan LCV, along with partner organizations, helped hold utility companies accountable, with thousands of Michiganders weighing in with the Public Service Commission to keep rooftop solar fair and accessible, bring down rates and boost clean energy.
- We went “virtual” with our People Planet Public Health Webinar Series, holding more than 20 virtual events and engaging tens of thousands of Michiganders.
- Through Michigan LCV Education Fund, we recruited more than 8,000 poll workers and made more than 1 million calls to voters informing them how to register and urging them to cast their votes safely by mail.
- And, not at all least important, we helped elect an amazing array of champions to office up and down the ballot! From our partnership with national LCV, which focused on the Presidential, US Senate and Congressional races, to our work at the state and local level, which resulted in state House, Michigan Supreme Court and county commission victories, our work made a real difference. Whom we elect really does matter!
That’s a lot of really good stuff in the middle of a global pandemic!
2. Lame Duck Recap
It’s been busy in Lansing the last few weeks as legislation moved through the Capitol during the Lame Duck session. Because you took action and used your voice to contact your lawmakers, we achieved one incredibly important “win” and stopped a bunch of terrible stuff, which is something to celebrate given the chaos and disastrous decision-making that historically defines the final, frantic legislative weeks of the year.
Here is our Lame Duck victory:
- Made sure that there will be running water in Michigan households during the pandemic
- The bill: Water Shut Off Moratorium (SB 241)
- Summary: Senate Bill 241 codifies the moratorium on water shut offs to ensure all Michiganders have access to running water in their homes during the pandemic through March 31.
- Outcome: Governor Whitmer signed the bill on Dec. 22.
Governor Whitmer signing legislation.
Source: Michigan Executive Office of the Governor
And, then the Michigan LCV team curtailed a number of terrible bills. We…
- Stopped a bill that would have stripped local governments of their authority to oversee gravel mining operations that can cause environmental damage in their communities
- The bill: Aggregate Mining (SB 431)
- Summary: Senate Bill 431 would have removed local governments’ oversight over sand and gravel mining operations in their communities, which threatens water supplies and the surrounding environment. This legislation would allow the aggregate mining industry to operate with little oversight at any level of government, putting the mining companies’ profits over the health and quality of life of our communities. Stopping this bill protects the land and soil, and protects drinking water sources from harmful pollutants.
- Outcome: Died in the Senate
- Dodged a bill that would prevent small electric vehicle manufacturers from making direct sales in Michigan
- The bill: Anti-EV Legislation (HB 6233)
- Summary: HB 6233 would have created significant barriers for the direct sale of electric vehicles in Michigan. Previously, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel settled a lawsuit allowing Tesla (and potentially other advanced electric vehicle manufacturers) to sell automobiles directly to consumers in Michigan. This bill redefines the definition of ‘sale’ to prevent those direct sales. Increasing Michigan’s EV fleet will help us meet our goals in the MI Healthy Climate Plan, and this bill would have hampered growth in our state’s EV sector.
- Outcome: Died in the Senate
- Struck down the “broken bottle bill,” which would have stripped funding from contaminated site cleanup efforts
- The bill: Broken Bottle Bill (HB 5423)
- Summary: This bill would have originally stripped money away from contaminated site cleanup. Having blocked the original bad legislation, Michigan LCV and other environmental groups agreed to a deal dedicating a small, capped portion of these funds to bottle bill fraud study and prevention — a policy that purportedly would return more funds than it would cost.
- Outcome: Died in the House; contaminated site cleanup funding will continue in an unaltered manner.
- Suspended a bill that would have allowed property owners to bypass permits put in place to protect the shoreline
- The bill: Temporary Erosion Structure Permit Removal (SB 714)
- Summary: Originally, this bill would have allowed shoreline property owners to bypass the state permitting process that ensures ecologically friendly and hydrologically sound shoreline stabilization construction practices. An improved, amended version found support from Michigan’s Department of Great Lakes, Energy, and the Environment, but an insufficient number of lawmakers supported it.
- Outcome: Died in the House
Unfortunately, there were a few bad outcomes from this year’s Lame Duck, as well:
- An effort for increased recycling statewide died in the House
- The bill: Part 115 Recycling (HB 5812 – HB 5817)
- Summary: This bill package would have shifted the focus to seeing solid waste as a resource and ensuring recycling access for all Michigan citizens, increasing the recycling rate across the state.
- Outcome: Died in the House
- Underhanded efforts to allow transportation of hazardous materials across the Ambassador Bridge, piggybacking off the COVID Relief Bill, passed
- The bill: COVID Relief Bill (SB 748)
- Summary: Some dangerous language slipped through the cracks on the heels of Senate Bill 748, a needed and positive COVID relief bill, that passed yesterday with added language allowing for hazardous materials to be transported across the Ambassador Bridge. It’s an unfortunate consequence of Lame Duck, when legislation is passed quickly with little time to deliberate, and public transparency in short supply.
- Outcome: This bill passed and awaits the Governor’s signature
In relation to the last bill, members of our Congressional delegation have been alerted and, thanks to Congresswomen Dingell and Tlaib, there is conversation underway on how to take federal action to address the Ambassador Bridge issue.
3. Continued Progress on Addressing Toxic PFAS
On Monday, EGLE announced new PFAS standards for groundwater and cleanup criteria. The new standards add five (5) additional PFAS chemicals to the list. These new standards stem from and build upon Michigan’s first drinking water standards for PFAS, which were enacted in August.
These continue the trend of Michigan having some of the strongest and most comprehensive protections for PFAS in the country. That said, much more work needs to be done to protect people and wildlife from this dangerous family of chemicals.
Michigan LCV issued a statement about EGLE’s announcement, which you can read here.
I invite you to check out a couple of recent articles on PFAS, one published in the Traverse City Record-Eagle linking COVID-19 to PFAS; the other published in the Detroit Free Press teeing up an argument for much-needed funding to address the large number of contaminated sites across Michigan.
Finally, please know that EGLE has posted a dataset of PFAS testing results for surface water and foam. If you are interested — and if they have been sampled and posted — you can now get details about PFAS concentrations in your favorite Michigan river or lake. Here’s the link: https://www.michigan.gov/
As we all take a break for a few days to be with family and celebrate the holidays, remember how I started this message: lots of good things happened this year in the midst of chaos, sadness, isolation and fear. Let’s hold onto those things. Let’s hold onto hope, and strive — together — to make this state, nation and planet a better, more just, equitable and sustainable place to live.
With deep gratitude and best wishes…and for those who celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas!!