Michigan Currents - Spring | Summer 2016

June 10, 2016
Michigan Currents - Spring Summer 2016

Inside this issue

A New Direction for Flint

Over the past several months, Clean Water Action staff and volunteers have been working with Flint Rising, a local coalition, and others to help find solutions to address the impacts of the Flint Water Crisis.

Clean Water’s field canvass has collected over 5,000 hand-written letters from voters across the state that were personally delivered to all 110 State House members.

Additionally, Clean Water members and staff have volunteered on the weekends, knocking on doors in Flint and engaging impacted residents.

The coalition is calling state lawmakers in Michigan to:

  • Invest in infrastructure improvements, including but not limited to replacing other lead service lines in the city of Flint and developing a comprehensive plan to replace lead service lines statewide.
  • Demand improved corrosion control, lead monitoring and public notification. Our elected officials need to ensure that Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is effectively implementing all programs to control lead in water and that Michigan becomes a leader in protection from lead exposure.
  • Fight to change state budget priorities. Michigan’s budget is a statement of our collective values. We need a budget that works for everyone, not just corporations and wealthy special interests.

The Flint Water Crisis will continue long after the media stops paying attention. It’s time to hold lawmakers accountable and demand that they help solve this crisis and restore clean, drinkable water to all Flint residents.

Make your voice heard on this issue, click here.

To learn more about lead in drinking water systems, visit this page.

The Ticking Time Bomb in the Straits

Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline turns 63 years old this year, and the campaign to shut it down is picking up steam. Earlier this spring, Clean Water Action joined allies in the Oil and Water Don’t Mix coalition to lobby state lawmakers in Lansing on a resolution calling on Governor Snyder and Attorney General Schuette to shut down Line 5. More than 35 municipalities across Michigan, including Mackinaw City, Petoskey, Traverse City, and many other communities that would be directly impacted by a spill, have signed on to resolutions and demanded the immediate shut down of Line 5.

In addition to lobbying legislators, Clean Water Action has mobilized more than 10,000 letters to Governor Snyder and Attorney General Schuette from members across the state.

Last summer the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force recommended preventing transportation of heavy crude oil through Line 5. The Task Force also required an independent analysis of alternatives to the existing pipelines. Unfortunately they failed to offer a comprehensive timeline or commitment to further action to protect the Great Lakes from the devastating consequences of an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac.

A 2014 study by the University of Michigan called the Straits ‘the worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes.” It forecasted that a one million-gallon oil spill in the Straits would create an 85 mile long plume reaching all the way from Beaver Island in Lake Michigan, to Rogers City on the Lake Huron shore. Such an event would be catastrophic for both Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, due to the force of the currents in the straits, which can create a water flow ten times greater than the flow of Niagara Falls, and switches from eastward to westward. The most likely scenario in a spill would see oil spreading back and forth across the straits with the current, polluting both Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

Last year Attorney General Schuette said that Line 5’s “days are numbered.” But action still has not been taken.

Line 5 has been referred to as a “ticking time bomb,” and that is not something we can afford to have in the most vulnerable part of the Great Lakes ecosystem. Join Clean Water Action and urge Governor Snyder and Attorney General Schuette to close Line 5 now.

Take Action here.

Grand River Cleanup

In April, Clean Water Action hosted the fifth Annual Grand River Cleanup, with teams of volunteers from all over Lansing. Some paddled kayaks and canoes up the river and into downtown Lansing, while others picked up debris along the river trail. The volunteers collected more than 1,000 pounds of trash, recyclables, and debris — including old tires, bikes, and electronics.

Special thanks to River Town Adventures and Michigan State University’s Global Day of Service!

Water in Motion

The annual Great Lakes Awards Celebration, Water in Motion, highlighted all that the Great Lakes state has to offer. Over 150 people joined Clean Water Action for the annual event at Lansing’s Cadillac Room to recognize and celebrate several Michiganders who have displayed ingenuity in the fight to protect clean water and conserve our environment.

Award recipients included former Michigan Sierra Club Director, Anne Woiwode, this year’s Great Lakes Lifetime Achievement award recipient for outstanding environmental work, along with Representative Jeff Irwin, Champion of the Great Lakes and Brewery Vivant, Clean Water Innovator.

From the delicious food provided by Whole Foods Market, desserts, local beers and infused cocktails, to the live music as well as a live painting, the Great Lakes Awards Celebration was truly a night to remember! Thank you again to all who attended and helped to make this our most successful awards celebration yet.

Volunteer with Clean Water Action This Year!

Throughout the year, Clean Water Action provides exciting opportunities for members to get involved with hands-on organizing and community service projects like the Flint canvasses.

With so much at stake during this election season, Clean Water is ramping volunteer recruitment efforts to help elect people who will fight to safeguard the environment and communities and protect clean water. Along with electoral volunteer opportunities, Clean Water will host events like the River Cleanup (see page 2).

Please call Lansing organizer, Sean McBrearty, 517-203-0754 or visit this page to find out how you can get involved!

Budget Cuts to the Quick

Since 2014, Clean Water Action has focused on educating Michiganders on the budget process and Michigan’s misplaced budget priorities. To protect our environment and communities, representatives must make sure that everyone pays their fair share. The campaign has been focused on educating Michigan residents about the budget process, engaging the public on issues stemming from Michigan’s misplaced budget priorities, and asking members for their stories! Clean Water Action’s Denny Green, in Lansing, shares his story below:

I was born and raised in Michigan and, other than the five years spent in Chicago — where I could still keep an eye on Lake Michigan — I’ve always called Michigan home.

I grew up feeling spoiled by the fact that we were surrounded by the Great Lakes, and that, even if you weren’t able to fly off to some faraway vacation destination, you could still take advantage of the incredible attractions right here in our own backyard.

That’s why I find it so disappointing to see cuts to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. MDEQ’s general fund budget for 2015 was just over $28 million. Compare that with the budget for the Pure Michigan ad campaign of $33 million — which goes to an out of state ad agency. We literally spend more money as a state advertising the Great Lakes than we do keeping them great.

To put that in perspective, MDEQ has lost 320 employees in the last ten years — a 20% cut in the agency’s workforce. In Governor Engler’s final budget, the DEQ budget was slashed from $101 million to $69 million annually. That’s still more than twice the budget we have now. By 2010, the funding cuts got so bad that an Environmental Protection Agency review said, “Resource limitations, including dramatic budget cuts, have had a significant impact on MDEQ’s (Public Water System Supervision) program,” and concluded that MDEQ was incapable of correctly monitoring drinking water for the state.

Money that we spend on environmental protections is critical for the health and safety of the people of Michigan. We simply can’t afford to continue being penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to our most valuable natural resources, like the 20% of the world’s fresh water in the Great Lakes. Michigan needs to restore funding to MDEQ before the next environmental crisis happens.

If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Sean McBrearty, in our Lansing office: (517) 203-0754.