Three Things Thursday: Conversation with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Line 5 saga continues, and some things Michigan LCV Board Members are up to this election cycle
Dear Michigan LCV Family,
Welcome to the September 10th edition of Three Things Thursday. Yet another week has come and gone, and fall is (almost officially) upon us. With the weather starting to change here in Michigan, Election Day (now Election Month!) 2020 continues to get closer. As we reach for sweaters and sweatshirts in our closets, I implore everyone to remain focused and keep up all of the great work, which is so incredibly necessary to ensure victories up and down the ballot.
This week’s Three Things covers a recent conversation with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, updates on the long, drawn out Line 5 saga; and a snapshot of what some of our wonderful board members are up to in their free time as we approach Election Day.
- Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha on WEMU’s 1st Friday Focus on the Environment
As many of you know, I have the distinct privilege of co-hosting a monthly radio show, called “1st Friday Focus on the Environment” on 89.1 WEMU, with News Director David Fair. Last week, Dave and I were honored to have Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha as a return guest on the show to discuss recent developments surrounding the Flint Water Crisis, connections between the crisis and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and much more
Dr. Hanna-Attisha is the founder and director of the Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital’s Public Health Initiative and — as you probably know — was instrumental in exposing the Flint disaster in 2014. Conversing with Dr. Hanna-Attisha is always inspiring and informative, and the timing of our interview last week was especially pertinent given the recent announcement by the state of Michigan that a $6 million settlement had been reached in the civil case (against the state) surrounding the Flint crisis. As Dr. Hanna-Attisha outlined during our conversation, the majority of this money will go to the families and children directly impacted by the lead-filled drinking water and it’s one important step in bringing justice to the people of Flint.
The Flint Water Crisis put a spotlight on structural racism while also catapulting to the forefront of people’s minds the importance of public health protections and science-based approaches to decision-making. COVID-19 has taken that understanding a step further, illustrating in vivid, painful and terrifying ways how structural racism is directly related to the disproportionate exposure to contaminated air and water, and the lack of access to healthy foods, leading to higher levels of chronic lung disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and immune deficiencies and — thus– increased vulnerability to deadly viruses.
As part of her work in Flint, where she continues to practice as a pediatrician, Dr. Hanna-Attisha has encouraged Flint residents to sign up for the Flint Registry, public health infrastructure that allows residents access to health care, as well as mental health and educational resources, to help in the healing and rebuilding process following the lead poisoning of an entire city that brought the eyes of the world to Michigan. As it turns out, the Flint Registry has been an essential part of the public health infrastructure as the residents of Flint grapple with COVID-19.
In the latter part of our conversation, Dr. Hanna-Attisha spoke about kids all over the state who are starting to go back to school this month, some physically returning to school buildings. She emphasized that there must be measures taken to make absolutely sure the water children drink and the air they breathe in the classroom are clean and safe.
The good news is that legislation has been introduced in Lansing called “Filter First”, which would require water filtration stations be installed in schools all across Michigan. This would provide immediate protection for kids who go to schools found to have lead in the drinking water. The Michigan LCV team has rolled up our sleeves around this important legislation , working hard to make it a priority for lawmakers. The bad news is that for many elected officials — notably those who do not represent urban areas — this legislation does not appear to be a priority. (More on this in the weeks ahead.)
Dr. Hanna-Attisha is not only a top notch pediatrician; she’s an incredible champion, gaining well-deserved national and international recognition for her determination to stand up and fight for the kids in Flint. Most recently, she was named one of USA Today’s “influential women of the century” among a host of tremendous female leaders spanning the fields of mathematics, education, science and more. It was an immense treat to have her on WEMU.
You can listen to our interview here.
2.The Line 5 saga continues
As you might remember from previous Line 5 updates, Enbridge Energy is interested in building an “oil tunnel” under the Straits of Mackinac to replace their antiquated, dangerous, dilapidated Line 5. We happen to think this is a terrible idea for a number of reasons, one of which is that investing in fossil fuel infrastructure undercuts our state’s ability to make progress in achieving a clean energy future and further exacerbates climate change.
The Michigan Department of Environment and Great Lakes (EGLE) and the Michigan Public Commission Service (MPSC) began holding informational sessions about Enbridge’s permit applications (there are more than one) associated with the potential construction and operation of the proposed “tunnel”.
Enbridge is seeking approval from EGLE, MPSC, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build this oil “tunnel”, which would leave wetlands impaired and millions of gallons of wastewater discharged into Lake Michigan. The more we analyze the permit applications, the more we are alarmed that they are incomplete and likely to be dangerously flawed. If granted, these permits will authorize Enbridge to literally pollute and detrimentally impact our most treasured natural resource: our fresh water.
If EGLE and MPSC give a nod, the Michigan Straits Corridor Authority, which is within the Department of Transportation, will be in charge of overseeing the construction and operation of said “tunnel” — and will eventually “own” the tunnel, leasing it back to Enbridge for up to 99 years!
Have I peaked your interest? If so, you may find the dates and times of the informational sessions and public hearings here. We are encouraging residents throughout the state to (1) listen in to make sure Enbridge is held accountable and (2) urge EGLE and MPSC to oppose Enbridge’s proposals.
The team at Michigan LCV continues to organize around this issue through our online action portal. Because the MPSC is overseeing the permitting process, Enbridge’s “tunnel” proposal is a contested case, which means members of the public can weigh in. Our online portal directs all messages to the MPSC. I invite you to click here to submit a public comment.
As a reminder, Governor Whitmer has the power to indefinitely shut down Line 5 by revoking Enbridge’s easement agreement with the state of Michigan. Even though an Ingham County Judge just gave the go-ahead for Enbridge to resume full operation after significant damage was discovered a few months ago, we know the pipeline was, and remains, in bad shape. Enbridge has shown they cannot be trusted to continue pumping millions of gallons of oil each day through the heart of our most important natural resource.
Mike Shriberg, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation, crafted a strong case for why Governor Whitmer should act now in a recent column published in Bridge Magazine. I encourage you to read the column and then send a message to the Governor through our online portal, which you can find here.
- A few examples of what our amazing board is up to these days.
I’ve written many times about the work we are doing to support Michigan LCV-endorsed candidates all across the state.
Today, I want to take a moment to recognize the important work on the part of many members of our board, all acting independently outside their official capacity on the board, to support candidates running for office, from the US House and Senate to the Michigan Supreme Court.
Numerous members of our board (and broader community) are actively supporting Senator Gary Peters in his re-election campaign. Senator Peters has been a tough, determined and effective voice in DC on behalf of the residents of Michigan, working to protect our Great Lakes, our drinking water and our public health.
Senator Peters has a tough race, with an opponent who has invested heavily in negative and misleading ads. The attack ads are so egregious, in fact, that the Detroit Free Press and other publications, have published fact checks on the ads, exposing the misleading claims.
Here are just a few reasons why Gary Peters is the right choice for Michigan:
- He joined forces with Senator Stabenow, Congressman Kildee, and many others to shepherd a relief package of resources for the people of Flint (during the Flint water crisis) and provisions to prevent lead contamination in the future. This legislation included $100 million in funding to help fix Flint’s drinking water infrastructure, funding to activate at least $200 million in low-interest loans to upgrade water infrastructure in communities in Michigan and across the country, and $50 million to address the health care needs of children who have been exposed to lead.
- He has been a steadfast advocate for PFAS protections, working to secure $13.5 million in federal funding for cleanup in Oscoda and holding the Air Force accountable for actually doing the cleanup.
- He continues to push for better air quality in places like Detroit and Downriver, calling on the EPA to take action on dangerously high sulfur dioxide levels, holding Marathon Petroleum accountable for their harmful piles of pet coke (a refinery byproduct) along the Detroit River, and pressing the Trump administration on policy changes that harm underserved black and brown communities already vulnerable to Covid-19.
For all of these reasons and more, our board members have been actively involved in Senator Peters’ re-election. On September 15th, Janis Bobrin, Riyaz Kanji and Bill Phillips are sponsoring a virtual event in SE Michigan. If you would like to RSVP for this event, you can do so by calling Sasha Greer at 248-877-2116 or responding online here.
Board members have also been very active in relation to congressional races, notably Elissa Slotkin’s, Haley Stevens’ and Gretchen Driskell’s campaigns. There are virtual events coming up for Stevens and Driskell this Sunday, September 13th. In fact, I’m the special guest speaker on the latter. You can sign up for the Driskell event here.
And, if you are interested in supporting a former Michigan LCV board member in her run for the Michigan Supreme Court, I would be thrilled to have you join a fundraiser for the one and only Elizabeth Welch on Oct. 7th, which will be hosted by our board members Phil Roos, Bruce Wallace, Janis Bobrin, and Mike O’Donnell…and yours truly! If you’d like to sign up to attend, sponsor or host, you can do so here.
And, finally, I encourage you to visit givegreen.com if you wish to see the amazing list of candidates who have been identified as environmental champions and support their campaigns.
Thank you for all you do! Be safe. Be well. Until next week….
PS: Free COVID testing for anyone 12 and older in the Detroit area
Please know that in efforts to increase statewide accessibility to COVID testing, several free neighborhood testing sites are now available in the Detroit area every week. I would appreciate it if you would spread the word.
|Historic King Solomon
6100 14th St
Detroit, MI 48208
|WCCC NW Campus
8200 Outer Dr. W.
Detroit, MI 48219
15801 Joy Rd.
Detroit MI, 48228
You can schedule an appointment by calling the COVID-19 hotline at 888-535-6136 or go online at Michigan.gov/CoronavirusTest