Three Things Thursday: May 20, 2021
Dear Michigan LCV Family,
Welcome to the May 20, 2021 edition of Three Things Thursday. After a busy week last week, which included Gov. Whitmer’s shutdown deadline for Line 5, the Michigan LCV team continues to work diligently on a number of important issues. This week’s Three Things includes yet another update on Enbridge’s shenanigans; an update on the American Jobs Plan and our team’s work to promote this important recovery package during President Biden’s visit to Michigan; and a look at the State Budget and how Michigan’s $8.5 billion in federal stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan could be allocated.
Here are this week’s Three Things:
1. Line 5 and Enbridge’s future in Michigan
Over the past several weeks, the Michigan LCV team and many of our partner organizations have been closely monitoring the standoff between Gov. Whitmer and Enbridge Energy, the Candian oil company that owns the Line 5 pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac.
As you know, Gov. Whitmer issued an order late last year revoking the easement agreement between the State and Enbridge, giving the company 180 days (until May 12, 2021) to cease operations, shutting down a pipeline that is the single greatest threat to our Great Lakes, Michigan’s economy, and our way of life in the Great Lakes State.
Last week, Gov. Whitmer’s shutdown deadline passed and Enbridge continued operations in direct defiance of the Governor’s authority and Michigan’s sovereignty.
This didn’t surprise the Michigan LCV team given Enbridge’s egregious track record and public statements. We were well prepared for this moment, actively engaging our members, via email and our People, Planet, Public Health webinar series, and working hand-in-glove with a myriad of partner organizations, including the National Wildlife Federation, FLOW (For Love of Water), the Oil & Water Don’t Mix coalition, and all of Michigan’s federally recognized tribal nations, notably the Bay Mills Indian Community.
Our team took direct action in a number of powerful and meaningful ways, making it clear that Enbridge’s neglect of Michigan’s water, land and our Great Lakes will not be tolerated. Bentley Johnson, our Senior Partnerships Manager, joined more than 100 people in Lansing who gathered on the Capitol Lawn to protest Enbridge’s audacity in ignoring the Governor’s shutdown order. The Lansing crowd marched not only to the lobby firm representing Enbridge to deliver an eviction notice, but to the Governor’s office where they dropped off a “thank you” card.
Crowd on the state Capitol steps; Andy Buchsbaum and Michigan LCV’s own Bentley Johnson.
In Mackinaw City, hundreds of protesters, including members of the Michigan LCV Board of Directors, leaders of several of our partner organizations and many Tribes, gathered to deliver a parallel eviction notice to Enbridge. Samantha Schubert, our Creative Content Manager and videographer extraordinaire, was part of the action in the north. Samantha was able to capture some amazing footage and create a compelling video, which you can check out here.
Following the shutdown deadline, Gov. Whitmer authored an opinion editorial in the Washington Post, entitled Why I’m trying to shut down an underwater oil pipeline that threatens the Great Lakes. The Governor writes:
“The two aging, 4.5-mile sections of underwater pipeline are a ticking time bomb. I’m taking every action I can to shut them down, to protect two Great Lakes and the jobs that depend on them.”
If you haven’t seen it yet, the editorial is definitely worth a read.
Now that the shutdown deadline has passed, the battle is taking place in the courts. If you want more information on Line 5 pipeline and Enbridge’s legacy of neglect and lack of accountability in Michigan, make sure to visit our Line 5 page on our website. If you want to take action and make your voice heard, our team has created a one-click advocacy tool that you can use to send a message to President Biden and our leaders in Washington, D.C., urging them to support Governor Whitmer’s order in the courts and the public square. Please know we will keep you very well informed on this critical issue in the days, weeks and months ahead.
2. The American Jobs Plan: President Biden visits Michigan
As you may remember, in late March, President Biden announced the American Jobs Plan, a transformational investment plan aimed at not only bolstering the economy, but investing in our country’s infrastructure and rebuilding for a clean energy future.
The Michigan LCV team, in coordination with state and federal partners, has been working hard to promote and elevate the Biden administration’s plan to get our country back on track, not only from an economic standpoint, but also in terms of investing in our health, drinking water, and a clean energy future for generations to come.
On Tuesday, President Biden took his bold vision on the road, visiting the Ford electric vehicle plant in Dearborn, which has unveiled its brand new, all-electric Ford F-150 pickup truck. While the President’s test drive of the new truck might have stolen the show in terms of press coverage, the President also laid out his case for the American Jobs Plan and how Michigan stands to be at the epicenter of the electric vehicle revolution.
The other great announcement made during the President’s visit was Ford’s new partnership with SunRun, the leading solar energy company for batteries and at-home energy services. SunRun will provide the Ford Intelligent Backup Power, the electric component in the new F-150 Lightning, as well as produce charging stations and home integration systems. The partnership will not only help facilitate increased manufacturing of electric vehicles right here in Michigan, but also promote residential solar installation, all helping in the transition to a clean energy future.
It was an honor to have the President in Michigan and especially for team Michigan LCV given the focus on much-needed investments in clean energy, infrastructure and clean, safe drinking water.
In addition to the President’s visit, our Political & Outreach team has been working on a number of fronts to connect the dots between the needs in Michigan communities and the American Jobs Plan. On Monday, May 24th at 3 p.m. we will be co-hosting an event with For Our Future, We The People of Detroit and Clean Water Action, with special guest State Representative Rachel Hood (D – Grand Rapids). The event will be focused on how we can advance equitable local and federal solutions to reinvesting in our state’s infrastructure and ensure all Michiganders have access to safe, affordable water. West Michigan Regional Coordinator Hudson Villeneuve and Regional Organizer Abigail Barker will be speaking on behalf of Michigan LCV. You can RSVP to tune in here.
And, finally, today is the last day of the first-ever State of Michigan Environmental Justice Conference, which is connected in so many ways to the American Jobs Plan given that a key tenant of the Plan is a just and equitable transition to a cleaner, healthier economy. The inaugural conference included some amazing speakers, including Gov. Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Gilchrist, as well as several prominent Biden administration officials, such as CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan.
If you are interested in learning more about the conference, there are a host of resources linked here.
3. How should Michigan spend $8.5 billion federal stimulus money from the American Rescue Plan?
A new report from the Senate Fiscal Agency found Michigan could see $4.7 billion in budget surpluses this year thanks, in large part, to passage of the American Rescue Plan, which allocated $18 billion to Michigan for COVID relief and stimulus payments to individuals that boosted tax revenue.
The extra revenue from the federal stimulus provides Michigan with the opportunity to put this money to use investing in public health and our infrastructure, which recently received a D+ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
As noted in previous Three Things, how this money is allocated will be up to Gov. Whitmer and the Michigan Legislature who, admittedly, have not been seeing eye-to-eye on almost anything recently.
Please know that Michigan LCV’s Government Affairs Team has been hard at work diving into the needs of our state and identifying key priorities for this funding. The American Rescue Plan provides a truly transformational opportunity to begin to build a healthy, just and equitable future. It is our position that these funds should be used to increase local investment in our water infrastructure and anticipate the American Jobs Plan, where the rubber will meet the road on long-term investment in our infrastructure. Below are some highlights from our recommendations to the Governor’s office for how this money should be spent:
Tear out and replace lead pipes – $1 billion
Michigan has a lead problem. A significant portion of this funding should go to lead pipe removal and replacement, providing lead removal filters to households impacted by replacements and prioritizing funding in overburdened communities.
Fix our wastewater and stormwater infrastructure – $500 million
Our water systems are in need of repair. This funding would go toward fixing wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, with the primary purpose of protecting human health, decreasing stormwater and nutrient runoff pollution that cause toxic algae blooms, and preventing sewer system leaks.
Clean up contaminated sites – $35 million annually
With more than 24,000 contaminated sites across Michigan, there’s a lot of work to be done to clean up toxic contamination to protect the health of surrounding communities. Money should be allocated to expand EGLE’s Contaminated Site Cleanup Program, hiring more staff and prioritizing cleanup of sites that represent the most urgent threat to health and drinking water sources.
Fix our aging dams – $437 million
We all remember the impacts when the Edenville Dam collapsed, causing massive flooding in Mid-Michigan; and, we also know that dams pose serious risks for the health of our state’s rivers and fish habitats. The impacts of climate change are only going to put more pressure on our outdated dams infrastructure and our water resources, which is why we need to invest now. This money should be used to create a revolving loan program that provides grants and low-interest loans to repair, maintain, and remove dams wherever possible based on guidance from the Dam Safety Task Force.
Restore failing septic systems – $400 million; $20 million over 20 years
Failing septic systems pose a number of threats to our health and our drinking water. We propose these funds go toward grants to County Health Departments to administer low or no-interest septic loan programs for their residents with the goal of replacing 10% of failing septic systems over the next four years, building off that in the years to come.
Install water filters in schools impacted by lead contamination – $55 million
While we work to remove lead pipes across the state, it’s critical we ensure children have safe, lead-free water at school. These funds would support a “filter first” approach to provide clean drinking water in schools and childcare centers impacted by lead by installing filtration systems at every drinking fountain.
As always, thank you for all you do to support our work. Be safe. Be well….
PS: Check out the latest edition of our Michigan LCV Family Stories Series – Featuring Michigan LCV Ed Fund Board Member Salah Ali
As part of the The Michigan LCV Family: Stories from Water & Climate Justice, Public Health, and Voting Rights Leaders series, Michigan LCV Education Fund board member Salah Ali was highlighted last week.
As an engineer for Ford, Salah works every day to find solutions to complex problems and, as a member of the Education Fund board, he does the same outside of the office through his advocacy. Keeping his family at the center of his life, Salah is deeply dedicated to finding solutions to environmental injustices, pollution, and climate change. I encourage you to read Salah’s powerful story!