Welcome to the March 11, 2021 edition of Three Things Thursday. This week’s edition includes a look at the latest attempt by the beverage industry to do damage to Michigan’s landmark Bottle Deposit Law, Michigan LCV’s work surrounding the recent “30 By ‘30” nationwide mayoral pledge, and yet another update on the Line 5 saga.
1. Another Broken Bottle Bill
For Michiganders, bottle deposits are just a part of living in Michigan. Saving your empty bottles and cans to return for ten cents each at your local supermarket provides a nice recycling incentive and puts a little bit of change back in your pocket. I don’t imagine many of us think about or know what happens to the millions of bottles and cans that are not returned each year, or what happens to the unclaimed deposits.
Michigan’s Bottle Deposit law, passed overwhelmingly in 1976 with two-thirds of Michiganders supporting the ballot measure. Along with expansions to recycling in Michigan, the law includes provisions for how the money from unclaimed deposits is allocated, totaling tens of millions of dollars annually. Currently, the money related to unclaimed deposits is split, with about 75% of the money going to the Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) to fund cleanup programs for contaminated sites across the state. The remaining funds are allocated to the beverage industry and distributors.
Last year we saw multiple, thinly-veiled attempts by bottle distributors and the beverage industry to pass legislation that would change how the funds from unclaimed deposits are allocated every year. In the legislation that was shot down in Lansing, the proposed changes centered around decreasing the amount of money allocated to EGLE for contaminated site clean up every year and increasing the sum to the beverage industry, lining the pockets of executives. (You can refresh your memory by reading this Crain’s op-ed by Michigan LCV Deputy Director Bob Allison.)
Fast forward to early 2021 and here we are again, with the beverage industry and their lobbyists back to their old tricks. Given their influence in both the Republican and Democratic caucuses in Lansing, the beverage industry is gaining momentum with their Broken Bottle Bill legislation at a time when protecting our water and the health of Michigan communities is more important than ever.
For decades, Michigan’s Bottle Deposit Law has been a model program that provides continuous, integral funding for contaminated site cleanup. Michigan has more than 24,000 registered contaminated sites across the state as a result of pollution from corporations and businesses, accidental contamination, and more. Just last year, Michigan added more than 150 sites to the ever-growing list that are sites contaminated by toxic PFAS chemicals, which are known to cause cancer and other auto-immune diseases.
As we continue to battle COVID-19, it makes absolutely no sense to strip money from programs that protect the health safety of Michiganders. Changing Michigan’s Bottle Deposit Law will only decrease the capacity of EGLE and other state agencies to remediate contamination in our communities.
It’s very important that we all make our voices heard. Please send a message to your lawmaker telling them how short-sighted House Bills 4443 and 4444 are and why protecting our water should be priority number one. To take action, follow this link and send a message to your elected official.
2. Michigan mayors pledge to protect 30 percent of our land and water by 2030
Over the past many months, Michigan LCV has been heavily involved in the growing 30×30 movement — an international effort to protect and preserve 30 percent of the planet’s land and water by the year 2030 to combat the global “nature crisis.” Guided by science, the 30×30 goal would achieve several necessary objectives at once, from conserving species, protecting biodiversity, restoring habitats, and preserving ecosystems in order to store carbon and build climate change resiliency. The movement ramped up last December when then President-Elect Biden pledged to conserve 30 percent of the nation’s lands, waters, and oceans over the next four years.
Since taking office, President Biden has taken serious, decisive action to address issues related to climate change, conservation and environmental justice, including putting the 30×30 conservation plan at the forefront in one of his new executive orders. New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland, President Biden’s nominee for Secretary of the Interior (who, when confirmed this week, will be the first Native American Cabinet member), was instrumental in launching a congressional resolution laying out the ambitious, yet necessary, goal. Our partners at national LCV were instrumental in catalyzing this movement and it has gained quite a bit of attention.
Team Michigan LCV has been involved all along the way, working to garner support for 30×30 right here in Michigan. Our team has been working quietly on both a mayoral and legislative front, finding success in both areas. We recruited five mayors out the gate who then played a key role in the recently announced bipartisan coalition of more than 70 mayors across the country who have signed on to the 30×30 pledge.
Here are the five amazing Michigan mayors:
- Lois Allen-Richardson, Ypsilanti
- Rosalynn Bliss, Grand Rapids
- Jim Carruthers, Traverse City
- Aaron Stephens, East Lansing
- Christopher Taylor, Ann Arbor
We also led an effort in the Michigan state House of Representatives to introduce a bipartisan resolution to conserve 30% of our land and water by 2030. The language urges the Governor to (1) establish a statewide goal of conserving at least 30 percent of land and 30 percent of water in the state by the year 2030, mirroring the nationwide 30×30 effort, and (2) update the state land management plan accordingly. The resolution is led by Republican Sarah Lightner (HD-65), and the original sponsors are split between 4 Republicans and 4 Democrats, demonstrating the potential of conservation issues to bridge partisan divides and build cooperation and consensus.
Our team also worked closely with Rep. Padma Kuppa — one of the resolution sponsors — to assist with the placement of her opinion editorial, which ran in the Oakland Press recently.
From collaboration with local and state elected officials to consistent messaging on the importance of this conservation plan, the Michigan LCV team has had a hand in growing the 30×30 movement in Michigan and will continue to do so as we work to implement preservation practices in the days, weeks and months ahead.
3. Line 5 update: Hidden carbon emissions of pipelines
Finally, I provide another update on the Line 5 saga, noting that this dangerous, antiquated pipeline is both a threat to our drinking water/Great Lakes and directly connected to the climate crisis.
Here is a quick recap of where we stand:
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced last year her decision to revoke the easement agreement with Enbridge Energy for the Line 5 pipeline running under the Straits of Mackinac. The decision came after intense legal battles throughout 2020 between Enbridge and the state, with Attorney General Dana Nessel ordering shut downs of the pipeline during the summer and then operation commencing once again. Since Gov. Whitmer’s announcement, Enbridge, as well as Canadian officials, have voiced their disagreement with the decision and taken their battle to the courts.
As the day of reckoning draws closer, Enbridge has made it abundantly clear that they have no intention of complying with Gov. Whitmer’s order and will, instead, continue operating the old, damaged pipeline illegally, without any regard for the safety of our Great Lakes and drinking water. Better yet (?!), the Canadian energy company has taken up the offensive, attacking the Governor’s decision and falsely claiming that the natural gas liquids (which are turned into propane) transported by Line 5 are integral to the Upper Peninsula’s heating and energy needs. Basically, Enbridge has blatantly said they are planning to break the law and are spending large sums of money to propagate lies about the role Line 5 plays in the overall provision of Michigan’s energy.
Here are the facts:
- The UP only gets a fraction of its propane and energy from Line 5 — and the state already has measures in place (and in the works) to make sure that there will be no disruption to homes that rely on propane.
- Replacing the dangerous Line 5 pipeline with other modes of transportation for natural gas liquids will NOT significantly raise propane costs. (We don’t need to use an oil pipeline to move natural gas liquids when there are plenty of other ways to get propane to the customers that need them.)
- Most of the product transported by Line 5 flows back into Canada near Sarnia, Ontario, across from Port Huron.
- Enbridge’s claims and attacks are feeble attempts to change the narrative, but the bottom line is that this damaged pipeline is well past its lifespan and a ticking time bomb in the Straits of Mackinac, where an oil spill would affect more than 700 miles of Great Lakes shoreline. Remember: this is the company that said in 2010 that their Line 6b pipeline was safe just before it ruptured and spilled over a million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River in one of the worst oil spill disasters in our nation’s history.
In addition to the threat of a catastrophic oil spill, Line 5 is also an enormous contributor to the climate crisis. In a recent article from EOS, journalist Sarah Derouin writes about the surprising sources of the most carbon emissions, pointing to oil and natural gas pipelines as the worst of the worst when it comes to polluting our air and contributing to climate change.
The article cites a recent study conducted by Michigan Technological University, which used a method called “bottleneck” analysis to determine the total amount of carbon emissions corporations and companies emit when conducting their work. This means that every instance of carbon emissions, from construction to transportation and beyond, are tallied and summed up to total carbon emissions for any given business operation. The study revealed that oil and gas pipelines surpass even coal mines when it comes to how much carbon they release into the atmosphere.
As we continue the collective fight to shut down Line 5 once and for all, knowing that we have a pipeline running through the Great Lakes that is damaged and dangerous AND produces more carbon than mining operations in the UP or coal fired power plants in the Lower Peninsula puts the seriousness of the issue into perspective. As Governor Whitmer and team work towards carbon neutrality, and as President Biden begins work from a federal perspective to tackle the climate crisis, pipelines like Line 5 are massive roadblocks to their bold and terribly important goals.
Enbridge must be held accountable for their track record, their lies, their ongoing impact to our planet and their patent disregard of the law should they continue to operate beyond May 12th. Please know Michigan LCV is on top of all of this, and we will keep you posted every step of the way.
As always, thank you for all you do to support our work. Please stay safe and healthy. Mask up!