Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pollution law enforcement in Michigan: Waiting to see how the Snyder/Wyant agenda plays out

Dan Wyant
Dan Wyant is the new chief of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

During this interview with the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) Wyant touched on numerous topics of interest for those who want fair, firm and uniform enforcement of laws protecting Michigan’s lakes, woods, cities and people.

Some of Wyant’s answers to MEC’s questions are reassuring. For instance, he said the administration has no intention of rolling back regulations on factory farm pollution.

Some raise yellow flags: He’s big on “voluntary” compliance programs for those same farms (that’s fine as long as “voluntary” isn’t code for replacing enforcement of mandatory laws).

On other answers, he punts to his boss, Gov. Rick Snyder: Wyant’s position on the wisdom of new coal-burning power plants  will come from Snyder. So, we’ll wait and see.

The most important aspect of Wyant’s DEQ leadership will be the message that he and Gov. Snyder send to DEQ staff. The staff must hear that the administration has their backs when they enforce pollution laws fairly and firmly – whether the violator is the corner dry cleaners or a powerful international company.

There is a lot of pressure from interests that would like Michigan’s environmental regulators to back off and stand down. Some in the anti-government crowd were even hoping that Snyder would eliminate the DEQ entirely. That’s not going to happen.

Both Snyder and Wyant have said publicly that Michigan's splendid natural resources are drivers for our economy -- both in terms of tourism and the quality of life that makes people want to live, work, raise families and build businesses here. They've also said they want to cut red tape, speed issuance of permits to pollute and remove regulatory hurdles for business.

Doing both -- firmly enforcing pollution laws while reducing regulatory red tape -- is possible. It will take determination, quality leadership and buy in from the DEQ staff. 


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Michigan's House Dem leadership shows how NOT to reinvigorate Michigan's economy, or their beleagured political party

While we're at it, let's build this too!
Demand for electricity has dropped to a 12-year low in much of Michigan – scuttling plans for power plants like Consumers Energy’s shelved Bay City plant.

Renewable energy and energy efficiency savings – part of the energy reforms passed by the State Legislature in 2008 – are finally kicking into gear bringing jobs and revitalizing industry. Green jobs (pdf) was among the only sector of Michigan’s economy to expand during the economic despair of the past eight years.

The landscape is such that Michigan’s Public Service Commission has concluded
 that no new coal-fired power generating plants are needed for at least 12 years. Across the nation, 138 proposed coal plants have been dropped or put on indefinite hold in the past three years.

So what visionary move was announced today by the brand-spanking new leadership of the Michigan House of Representatives Democratic caucus and their chief, House Minority Leader Rep. Richard Hammel?

Why, construction of a new coal-fired power plant of course. What better way to stimulate the economy than raising electricity rates, undermining the growth of clean energy industries and forcing ratepayers to mail $9 billion to other states to buy coal over the next 40 years to generate electricity the experts say we won't need until 2022 or later?

Folks, we’re not making this stuff up.

Here’s what the environmental community had to say about the Dem plan.

Many of the House Democrats were not on board with the coal plant plank in the leadership’s job creation platform,. which included other proposals like construction of the DRIC bridge over the Detroit River. They stayed away, or on the fringes, of the press conference today. And the Democrats on the Senate side – what’s left of them after the midterm elections –  decided not to join their colleagues in such nonsense.

If I were one of the Democratic reps among the 90 freshmen legislators feeling their way along the corridors of power this week, I’d be mighty uneasy with my leadership right now. Kicking off 2011 by supporting dirty, antiquated, expensive and unnecessary power technologies hardly seems a good start to revitalizing Michigan. Or the Democratic Party.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

End of an era: North Woods Call's Glen Sheppard's commanding, combative voice for Michigan's natural resources is stilled

Mitten State is back from an exhilarating two weeks vacationing in animal-dense Costa Rica where surf, sun and wildlife were in abundance.

We’ll be back in the saddle soon, but wanted to share the sad – if belated – news of the passing of North Woods Call editor Glen Sheppard. I won’t carry on about Shep, since Gerald Volgenau captured his essence so genuinely in this piece he wrote in 2009,

Both ‘bulldog’ and ‘legend’ are words that have been trivialized by overuse. Shep – through is relentless reporting and crusading for the integrity of the state’s woods, water and wildlife, deserves both of them. As the Call's masthead says, it is an "admittedly biased newspaper....there is only one side to any issue involving natural resources: Nature's!" RIP Shep. And be certain that some of us will carry on the fight – though perhaps never so fully and purely as you have…….