PWIR: The Assault on Pure Michigan

Tags: Beach Grooming, Bottle Bill, Dunes, Great Lakes, Pure Michigan, PWIR

Image Photo Michigan LCV Werder YoungDyke Political Week in Review Pure Michigan

As you drove Up North, lazed on beaches, hiked up sand dunes, and fished and canoed on rivers this weekend, I hope you enjoyed it. The Michigan Legislature clearly was not. If they were, they wouldn't be pursuing bills to strip protections from shoreline wetlands, erode protections for sand dunes, and allow pouch drink containers to litter roadsides and riverbanks. The Assault on Pure Michigan continues, and I'm not talking about the ad campaign.

In this edition of Political Week in Review:

 Fast-Tracked Bill Could Undo Bottle Deposit Success

Before Michigan's voter-initiated Bottle Bill was enacted in the mid-70's, Michigan's roadsides and riverbanks were covered with empty cans and bottles. Then Michigan voters approved the Bottle Bill to require a 10-cent deposit on certain beverage containers, and did two things: It reduced litter and trash and encouraged recycling. 

Now, however, some enterprising drink makers are selling pre-mixed drinks in foil CapriSun-style pouches. These drinks would fall under the Bottle Bill, but a fast moving bill in the state house would exempt them. HB 5660 was introduced on Tuesday, passed out of Committee on Wednesday, moved to a final vote on Thursday, and is up for a final vote today. Personally, I think the idea of pre-mixed, pre-frozen margaritas is disgusting enough to kill the bill, but apparently not. (Pass me an Oberon, please).

Supporters of the bill say that the packages shouldn't have to be recycled because they're hard to recycle. However, that just means that they'll end up as roadside litter, strewn about the banks of frequently-canoed rivers, and washed up on beaches. Exempting pouch drinks from the bottle deposit will encourage their use as a way to gain an unfair market advantage, resulting in more containers that won't be recycled. 

In short, exempting pouch drinks will undo the Bottle Bill in two ways: it will result in more drinks being sold in these hard-to-recycle packages rather than recyclable bottles and cans, and those empty pouches will end up right where we don't want them: in landfills and on the side of the road. Better get your Adopt-a-Highway group some extra orange vests and trash bags now.

State Senate Passes Beach Grooming Bill

On Wednesday, the Michigan Senate passed SB 1052, which would weaken protections for shoreline wetlands. The bill would allow mowing and removal of vegetation between the ordinary high-water mark and the water's edge, a zone which is considered part of the public trust.

Shoreline vegetation maintains water quality by acting as a filter and also provides important aquatic habitat during normal water levels. When water levels are low, like they are now, removing this vegetation destroys vital habitat.

Property owners can currently groom and maintain beaches in front of their property through a general permit, which is only two short pages long, by the way. An individual permit is required for actually removing vegetation.This short-sighted bill would eliminate permitting requirements for both and weaken the Department of Environmental Quality's (DEQ) ability to ensure that shoreline projects do no harm to aquatic shoreline habitat that is supposed to be protected for all of us.

At the moment, the bill is about to be taken up by the State House. We will keep fighting. Will you join us?

Bill to Erode Sand Dune Protections in Senate Natural Resources Committee

In related news on the continuing Assault on Pure Michigan, the Senate version of the bill to erode sand dune protections will be taken up by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Great Lakes and Environment. This is no surprise, since the bill is co-sponsored by half the the committee.

This is the bill which would remove the requirement that critical sand dunes be protected for the benefit of present and future generations and prohibit local townships from enacting more protective sand dune zoning regulations than the state. "Critical" sand dunes are those classified as our "highest and most spectacular," the iconic ones you plan vacations around on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Unfortunately, as of now, "critical" is beginning to sound more like the medical condition for their protections.

New Study: Wind Saves Ratepayers Money in the Long-Term

A new Massachusetts study finds that consumers could save up to $200 on their yearly electric costs by 2020 by adding more wind power to the grid. 

This is in stark contrast to another new report from the Michigan Public Service Commission, responsible for regulating energy use and production in Michigan. They just put out some news that will not make DTE Energy customers happy, myself included: Fellow DTE customers, our rates went up 13.5% over the past year; primarily due to the rising cost of coal.

Michigan's25% by 2025 Renewable Energy Standard ballot initiative could help assure that we're at the top of that savings range - saving hundreds rather than losing to spiking rates. The initiative will require Michigan utilities to provide 25% of our energy from renewable sources by 2025.

The consensus is growing: New wind is cheaper than new coal. Help spread the word by hitting the ground with us and talking to friends and neighbors by clicking here.

Green Gavels Gets Statewide Attention

Our new Green Gavels judicial accountability tool is getting statewide attention. Green Gavels, a cooperative project with the Environmental Law and Policy Program at the University of Michigan Law School, examines the last 30 years of Michigan Supreme Court environmental decisions, to which Michigan LCV applied green, red or yellow gavels to rate their conservation impact. 

On Wednesday, the Great Lakes Echo ran this article by Jennifer Kalish describing Green Gavels. On the same day, the Summer edition of Michigan Trout was released with a Green Gavels article written by our own Drew YoungeDyke. Then, on Saturday, published this Amy Biolchini article on Green Gavels. 

Why is Green Gavels getting so much attention? For one, it's the first time that a state supreme court has been evaluated like this on its environmental impact. For another, it's really cool...See for yourself!

Until next week, 

Ryan Werder

Political Director

Twitter: @rjwerder