Dear Michigan LCV Family,
Welcome to the February 3, 2022 edition of Three Things Thursday! I hope this week’s edition finds you warm, safe and enjoying the beautiful snow!
Before jumping into this week’s Three Things, I want to remind you that the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) is seeking input from the public to help improve the draft MI Healthy Climate Plan. With a huge outpouring of feedback over the past several weeks, EGLE has extended the deadline to submit feedback on the draft plan until March 14, 2022. The final plan will now be released on April 22, 2022.
While the draft plan is a good start, the final MI Healthy Climate Plan must be strengthened to include concrete, timed plans for implementation of clean energy solutions that will get our economy to 100% clean energy.
You can help improve the final MI Healthy Climate Plan by providing EGLE with written or verbal feedback and we’ve made that easy for you through the creation of Michigan LCV’s MI Healthy Climate Plan Digital Toolkit. Here are three things you can do:
Now on to this week’s Three Things, which includes an update on the latest PFAS hotspot in Michigan, the look at the new “Promote the Vote 2022” ballot petition, and an introduction to a new Michigan LCV board member: Lana Pollack! Let’s jump in!
1. PFAS rears its ugly head yet again
Last week, the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team issued a consumption advisory for beef from the Grostic Cattle Company farm near Hartland, MI after high levels of toxic PFAS chemicals were found in the meat. Toxic PFAS chemicals – also known as “forever chemicals” due to the thousands of years it takes for them to break down – have been found across Michigan in recent years, contaminating drinking water and soil in places like Oscoda, Belmont, and Traverse City, and causing severe health impacts, such as infertility, bladder and kidney disease, and cancer. Per the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), as many as 1.5 million Michiganders have been drinking water contaminated with PFAS from as many as 11,300 sites in Michigan where the chemicals were potentially used.
As PFAS contamination has intensified into a crisis not only in Michigan, but across the country, addressing this family of chemicals in our water and protecting the health of our communities has become a top-tier priority for Michigan LCV and partner organizations, like the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network (GLPAN) – a coalition of individuals impacted by PFAS contamination – which our team helped launch last year. Now, along with the disastrous threats PFAS chemicals pose to our drinking water, the chemicals are finding their way into livestock and food, opening up another front in the battle to address this crisis.
In the case of the Grostic Cattle Company farm, the PFAS contamination is tied to biosolids, or wastewater treated by-products, applied to crops, which were then fed to the livestock. The biosolids originated from a municipal wastewater treatment plant in Wixom. Unfortunately, using biosolids to fertilize crops is common in the agricultural community, with approximately 7,000 sites in Michigan known to use this practice. If you don’t already routinely think about where your meat comes from, this story may just be the impetus for doing so.
This latest chapter in the growing PFAS tragedy is eerily similar to Michigan’s Polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) crisis in the 1970s when the highly toxic, chemical-based fire retardant was mistakenly mixed into livestock feed. As many of you may remember first-hand, thousands of farm animals were sickened, resulting in contaminated meat, poultry and dairy products that were consumed by thousands of Michiganders. This led to PBB being found in breast milk and one of the worst mass poisonings in our country’s history.
One of Michigan LCV’s dear friends, and co-founder of the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network, Tony Spaniola remembers the PBB crisis well. Tony’s father, Bus Spaniola, was a state legislator at the time. Tony thought he had seen the worst of things when he was kid, watching (and supporting) his father as he led the charge to regulate PBB and tackle the crisis. Fast forward 40 years and Tony finds himself doing the very same thing, this time in relation to a family of over 8,000 chemicals that is wreaking havoc on our nation.
In the wake of the Grostic Cattle Company news, the Michigan LCV team has been working with our Great Lakes PFAS Action Network partners to elevate the issue and increase the call for action. In response to the news, GLPAN issued a statement in which co-chair Tony Spaniola said:
We know there is a PFAS contamination crisis in our state, and it is unfortunately no surprise that food and crops can be impacted. Virtually all of us are impacted by PFAS, and that’s why we need to continue to ramp up state and federal efforts to clean up and rein in the use of these harmful chemicals. We extend our gratitude to Grostic Cattle Co. for its courageous efforts in this very difficult time. Our state is a better and safer place because of these efforts.”
The Grostic Cattle Company farm is a small, family-run farm that has supplied beef to the Livingston County community for decades. The family is fully cooperating with state and federal officials for investigation and remediation purposes, and they are devastated. The impact of a consumption advisory is no doubt a huge blow to their bottom line and livelihood as a business, and they realize they have been providing contaminated meat to their family, friends, neighbors and their broader community.
In an opinion editorial that was published just today in the Detroit Free Press, I highlighted the urgent need to invest in protecting Michigan’s drinking water from PFAS, lead and other harmful contaminants, as well making our stormwater infrastructure more resilient to the effects of climate change and addressing serious water affordability issues that Michiganders are dealing with.
With Michigan’s water woes at the forefront, state leaders in the Legislature must make investing in our water and protecting the health of Michigan communities their top priority as they head back to Lansing to debate how to spend billions in surplus money.”
Investing in our water and protecting our communities must be Michigan’s top priority, and while threats to our water persist, we have the chance to address them and change course moving forward.
In terms of immediate potential action, Senate Bill 565, which will invest $3.3 billion in our drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater infrastructure, currently sits in the State House of Representatives awaiting a final vote that would move the legislation to Gov. Whitmer’s desk for her signature. This bill is a strong start in the right direction to protect Michigan’s water. The Grostic PFAS discovery, however, is a stark example of how much more needs to be done. Knowing that billions of dollars in additional state funds remain in Lansing thus far unallocated, there is an immensely compelling argument that the state legislature must expand and strengthen Senate Bill 565, broadening it to include additional critical funding to further address toxic PFAS contamination in our state.
You can help us get SB 565 across the finish line by making your voice heard to your lawmakers in Lansing. I encourage you to use our one-step advocacy tool to send a message to your state representative, urging them to add additional funding to Senate Bill 565 and keep our communities safe.
NOTE: The application of sludge on farm fields is common throughout the U.S. In Maine, it appears that farmers have begun taking things into their own hands, testing their own crops and voluntarily taking their products off the market. The voter pressure in Maine also resulted in movement in the state legislature to potentially ban spreading wastewater sludge as fertilizer. Check out this February 1, 2022 article in which Republican State Senator Rick Bennett is quoted as saying:
We cannot in my view continue to spread contaminants on agricultural land and elsewhere. We need to stop it.”
2. Promote the Vote 2022 petition launches
On Monday, a rekindled Promote the Vote coalition announced the launch of an important new petition called “Promote the Vote 2022,” which aims to ensure secure, accessible elections and protect the freedom to vote for Michigan voters and the health of our democracy.
Promote the Vote is the same organization that ran the successful 2018 Proposal 3 ballot initiative, which Michigan voters overwhelmingly passed, establishing no-excuse absentee voting and same-day voter registration. Building upon the 2018 ballot initiative, “Promote the Vote 2022” will expand access to the ballot while making sure Michigan voters can count on free, fair and secure elections.
In response to the announcement, Michigan LCV and a number of pro-democracy partner organizations across the state voiced strong support for the new petition. In Michigan LCV’s statement, Democracy For All Director Clare Allenson described how beneficial the petition’s proposed measures will be for Michigan voters and our democracy:
In 2020, Michiganders took advantage of our many options for casting ballots, leading to record turnout and this Promote the Vote 2022 petition expands on that success. We will ensure secure and fair elections by implementing common sense practices for absentee voting, early voting and ballot tracking, as well as preserving Michigan’s existing photo ID and affidavit requirements. These measures will help protect the voices of all Michigan voters and promote strong voter participation and a healthy democracy into the future.”
The new petition does the following:
- Ensures the freedom to vote without harassment, intimidation or interference is a fundamental right protected by Michigan’s Constitution
- Allows Michigan voters to request an absentee ballot be mailed to them for every future election
- Establishes true early voting options for statewide elections
- Provides access to local clerks for state-funded postage for absentee applications and ballots, secure drop boxes, and ballot tracking
- Maintains Michigan’s current voter ID laws, which allow voters to cast their ballots by signing a sworn affidavit in lieu of photo identification
- Establishes a requirement that election audits cannot be conducted behind closed doors, but rather in public view by state and county election officials
With enough signatures, the “Promote the Vote 2022” petition will be on the ballot in November.
3. New Michigan LCV board member profile: Lana Pollack
Every year, the Michigan LCV and Michigan LCV Education Fund boards of directors invite in a few new members. In December, board elections brought three new members to the Michigan LCV Education Fund board and two new members to the Michigan LCV board. Over the course of the next few weeks, I am going to share a little bit about each of them.
This week, I’d like to introduce you to Lana Pollack, an environmental champion who really needs no introduction at all!
Lana is no stranger to Michigan LCV. Indeed, Lana was a key part of putting Michigan LCV officially on the map way back in 1999. At the time, Lana was the president of the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) and she saw, along with a number of others, a gaping hole in the Michigan political/environmental infrastructure. Lana rolled up her sleeves and, serving as a founding board member, launched what is now this mighty state League.
The Michigan LCV board enthusiastically welcomed Lana back to the organization following two (more) decades of distinguished work at the state and federal levels fighting for the protection of our Great Lakes, freshwater, and public lands, and real action to address the climate crisis. This is a true homecoming!
Prior to her first stint on the board, Lana served three terms as a state senator in Michigan and ran for federal office before leading the MEC for 12 years. While in office as a state senator, Lana was instrumental in developing and implementing Michigan’s 1990 polluter pay law, which held polluters accountable for the cost of cleanup of toxic waste… until the law was basically eviscerated during the Engler Administration. President Barack Obama appointed Lana as Chair of the U.S. Section of the International Joint Commission, where she served for many years, advising government leaders on issues related to the shared border waters between the U.S. and Canada. Lana is a two-time graduate of the University of Michigan, where she earned both her Bachelors in political science and Masters in education.
Lana brings unique perspectives to the Michigan LCV board given her amazing depth and breadth of experience. As a Ludington native turned Ann Arbor resident, Lana is deeply familiar with Michigan and the threats that face our precious Great Lakes. She has first-hand experience dealing with the impact of climate change through extensive global travel, much of which she has done with her amazing husband, Henry, who is a climate change expert. The Michigan LCV team is thrilled that Lana has decided to join the board this year. We are excited to have her on our team as our family of organizations continues to grow, tackling the global challenges that we feel right here at home. Welcome back, Lana!
Thank you so much for your support of our work! Until next week, please stay safe, healthy and warm…and go out and enjoy the beautiful snow, if you are so inclined! Guapo sure loves it!
P.S. 1st Friday Focus on the Environment returns & the Michigan LCV January recap video!
Following an extended medical leave, WEMU Program Director David Fair is back in the swing of things, which means the 1st Friday Focus on the Environment program is back on the air. Tomorrow, David and I have the great pleasure of talking with Dianne Byrum – former state Representative and Senator, partner at Byrum Fisk Communications, and MSU Trustee – about Governor Whitmer’s 2022 State of the State Address. I invite you to tune in to WEMU 89.1 FM at 6:49 or 8:49 AM to hear the interview.
As our team continues to work to catalyze climate action, protect our freedom to vote, and grow our family of organizations, I encourage you to check out our new January recap video showcasing our recent work! Big thanks to Samantha Schubert, our Visual Storytelling Manager, for her work producing amazing video content.