Tag: michigan legislature

Policy Brief: Polluter Accountability in Michigan

Download the policy brief: Polluter Accountability (PDF)

The repeal of the Polluter Pay law has cost Michigan taxpayers over $1.5 billion over the past 25 years1. Polluters have walked away from more than 3,000 contaminated sites with groundwater and soil too polluted to use, leaving taxpayers on the hook for billions more.

The rollback has compromised the health and safety of Michigan residents, and put an unjustifiable financial burden on taxpayers who are forced to bear the cost of cleaning up the messes created by corporate polluters. Common sense reforms to bring back polluter accountability will enable Michigan to chart a sustainable future and help communities and businesses thrive. The people of Michigan deserve accountability and justice for the harm caused by blatant polluters, and an end to this flagrant disregard for groundwater and human health. Download our policy brief above, and also see FLOW’s report, Making Polluters Pay, for a more detailed history.

1Fiscal Year 2020 State Environmental Cleanup Programs Report, EGLE (2021), https://www.michigan.gov/egle/-/media/Project/Websites/egle/Documents/Reports/Boilerplate/Report-FY2020-Consolidated.pdf



Gov. Whitmer signs “No Stricter Than Federal” roll-back: Why it matters

Michigan is once again free to enact environmental protections critical to the health of our environment and residents.

Updated July 31, 2023

On July 27, 2023, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bill 14, which passed the State House of Representatives on June 28 by a 56-52 vote. With her signature, the 2018 state statute that barred the state from adopting environmental standards stronger than those in federal law is now undone.

For more than five decades, Michigan has been a leader among the states in shutting down toxic chemicals, protecting sensitive habitats, and safeguarding children’s environmental health. The 2018 “no stricter than federal” law is inconsistent with Michigan’s 1969 ban on DDT, 1977 phosphorus detergent standard, and 1980 wetlands protection act.

The 2018 law was enacted during the last hours of that year’s lame-duck legislative session and the last days of Governor Rick Snyder’s administration, giving the public no chance to weigh in with comments on the bill.

Ironically, if the law had passed earlier in the session, it would have prevented one of Snyder’s own initiatives. After mishandling the contamination of the Flint water supply due to lead pipes, the former Governor supported a new, strict state action level of 12 parts per billion of lead, compared to the-then federal standard of 15 parts per billion, and boasted that it was the toughest in the nation.

Had the law remained in effect, it could also have prevented the state from setting stricter-than-federal drinking water standards for seven toxic chemicals from the PFAS class. Exposure to the so-called “forever “chemicals has been linked to numerous human health effects. Governor Whitmer directed EGLE to promulgate PFAS drinking water standards in 2019. The agency did so, but PFAS manufacturers sued to stop them from taking effect. Meanwhile, U.S. EPA has proposed PFAS drinking water standards that are in some cases less strict than the Michigan standards.

The sponsor of Senate Bill 14, State Senator Sean McCann of Kalamazoo, said “federal standards across the board are usually set to the lowest common denominator. Michigan, because of its unique place nestled in the heart of the Great Lakes, needs the authority to set higher standards for the protection of our natural resources, especially water.”

Congress passed federal environmental laws in the 1960s and 970s to set a national floor of protection below which no state law could fall, while leaving room for individual states to go farther in protecting their environment. But, says FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood, the 2018 law made the national floor the state’s ceiling.

“Michigan must be free to protect our rivers and air, wetlands and drinking water, to meet Michigan’s needs,” she said.

Read our previous analysis of “no stricter than federal” >>


Gov. Whitmer, Michigan Legislature Agree on Funding for Clean Water

By Dave Dempsey

Although budget talks between Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state Legislature are strained at best — as the two sides appear deadlocked over road funding — it does appear her request for significant one-time funding for clean water for the fiscal year 2020 starting October 1 will survive the process, with some changes made to fit legislative priorities. On Tuesday, Sept. 24, the Legislature approved the water money and will send the bill to Whitmer’s desk for signature within a few days.

The action comes after a long delay in consideration of the Governor’s proposal. “Communities across Michigan are grappling with drinking water contamination, like toxic PFAS chemicals and lead from old pipes, yet discussion about it has been noticeably absent in Lansing as they work to pass a budget. Clean, safe drinking water is not a partisan issue and should be a top priority, not an afterthought,” said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (LCV), earlier this month.

A House-Senate conference committee had sent a proposed appropriation for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) to the full State House and Senate. FLOW’s allies in Lansing at the Michigan Environmental Council and Michigan League of Conservation voters say the conference bill contains $120 million in one-time money for drinking water protection, including:

  • $40 million for PFAS and emerging contaminants
  • $35 million for drinking water revolving loan fund community debt forgiveness
  • $30 million for lead and copper rule implementation
  • $7.5 million for water affordability planning
  • $7.5 million for private water well testing

UPDATE:  Governor Whitmer vetoed $15 million intended for dealing with PFAS at municipal airports on the grounds that a broader use of the funding for PFAS us needed.

    Also included:
    • $1.9 million and the equivalent of 10 staff positions for a drinking water compliance unit to provide technical assistance to communities on the lead and copper rule. 
    • $5 million as a state match for federal drinking water revolving loan fund dollars.
    • $307,000 additional funding for contaminated site investigations.
    An item of concern, added by legislators, is an earmark of $150,000 for the Environmental Rules Review Committee to contract with consultants. This committee was created by the Legislature and signed into law by former Governor Snyder to impede environmental rulemaking.
    UPDATE:  Governor Whitmer vetoed the $150,000 in funding for this committee.
    The Governor also requested $60 million for school hydration stations to protect children from drinking lead-contaminated water, but so far the Legislature has not included the money in the fiscal year 2020 budget.
    Dave Dempsey is the Senior Policy Advisor at FLOW.

    FLOW Submits a Nonpartisan Comment on Proposed Senate Bill 409

    FLOW has contacted key Michigan lawmakers to ask them to defend the public's Great Lakes waters and submerged lands from intrusion.

    Legislation before the House Committee on Natural Resources exceeds the Legislature's powers and puts publicly owned waters and submerged lands at risk. S.B. 409 allows private riparian landowners to occupy Great Lakes submerged lands (which belong to the public) and construct private noncommercial harbors adjacent to their upland riparian property.

    FLOW said this sets a terrible precedent that could lead to other private interests seeking to make private ownership claims on the Great Lakes and their submerged lands. In an 1892 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot cede these submerged lands and waters to private parties because the title to them is "held in trust for the people of the state, that they may enjoy the navigation of waters, carry on commerce over them, and have liberty of fishing therein free from the obstruction or interference of private parties.”

    S.B. 409 runs afoul of Supreme Court precedent and sound stewardship of our waters, and should be rejected.