Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Michigan Senate cave dwellers vote to cripple Great Lakes protection, strip governor's powers

SB 272 sponsors
Back in the 1970s Lake Erie was dying and Michigan’s waterways were choked with weeks and algae. Phosphorus from laundry detergents was identified as a major culprit in the problems. But the state legislature and federal regulators – under intense industry pressure – were paralyzed with inaction.

Michigan Gov. William Milliken put on his big boy pants and took a stand in 1976, using his power to ban phosphorus. It was the beginning of a steep decline in Great Lakes phosphorus and the recovery of Lake Erie. Other states followed suit. It wasn’t until 2008 that Michigan’s legislature affirmed the Milliken-era ban.

Now Michigan Senate Republicans – under the treacherous guise of reducing regulatory burdens – want to strip Michigan’s governor of his power to protect the lakes and other natural resources. Senate Bill 272 was passed last week. It forbids the governor's environmental regulators to exceed any federal environmental standard. 

That means Republicans believe that water protection laws in places like Arizona and New Mexico are a good fit for Michigan, where we are stewards of the greatest freshwater resource on planet Earth. It means Republicans, erstwhile protectors of state’s rights, believe Washington bureaucrats know what’s best for Michigan. And it means they want to strip Michigan governors of a key power they’ve held for decades.

The bill is part of an onerous package of legislation that seeks to intimidate state regulators into tepid enforcement of environmental laws. 

Here’s hoping that – if these cavemen and women get their way in the State House of Representatives – Gov. Rick Snyder will veto the bills. If he cares about the lakes, he will. And if he’s offended that the legislature is seeking to strip him of the power to enforce the law, he will too.

You can help. Find your state representative and tell them a vote for SB 272 and the rest of this package ensures your vote will go to someone else in 2012.

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