Water and the Environment are on the 2020 Ballot

It takes a healthy democracy to ensure a healthy climate and environment

Photo courtesy of PxFuel.com, used under Creative Commons license

Voting season has already begun in an election that will have much to do with protection of our water in Michigan and the nation. FLOW does not take positions on individual candidates, but we do remind voters to exercise their power in order to protect water and the environment generally.

In-person voting takes place Tuesday, November 3, but Michigan registered voters can vote at any time before then by obtaining an absentee ballot from their city or township clerks. See the Michigan Voter Information Center for details. And voters in any of the states in the Great Lakes basin can visit the non-partisan 2020 Civic Engagement Guide for information on registration, absentee ballots, and polling places. 

A statewide ballot proposal in Michigan, a Great Lakes agenda for the winner of the presidential election, and races for the Michigan House of Representatives all have clear environmental implications.

Proposal 1 – Summary as It Appears on the Michigan Ballot:

This proposed constitutional amendment would:

  • Allow the State Parks Endowment Fund to continue receiving money from sales of oil and gas from state-owned lands to improve, maintain and purchase land for State parks, and for Fund administration, until its balance reaches $800 million.
  • Require subsequent oil and gas revenue from state-owned lands to go into the Natural Resources Trust Fund.
  • Require at least 20% of Endowment Fund annual spending go toward State park improvements.
  • Require at least 25% of Trust Fund annual spending go toward parks and public recreation areas and at least 25% toward land conservation.”

Proposal 20-1 alters the use of oil and gas revenue from drilling on state-owned lands in several fundamental ways. Most importantly, it:

  • Increases the amount of money from the state Natural Resources Trust Fund that can be allocated to development, renovation, and redevelopment of public recreation facilities from a maximum of 25% to a minimum of 25%.
  • Removes the cap on revenue that can go to the Fund, increasing its purchasing power. The Fund has reached its current cap.

Supporters of the proposal argue that the increase in funding for public recreation facilities will allow the flexibility needed to fund and update trails, playgrounds, accessible boat launches, and more in communities across the state. Many local governments, particularly in core urban areas, don’t have adequate funding to maintain and develop their parks and trails. Among groups supporting the proposal are The Nature Conservancy, DTE Energy, and the Michigan Farm Bureau.

Opponents of the proposal include the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and the Green Party of Michigan. The Sierra Club argues that “shifting prioritization of money from the MNRTF [Trust Fund] away from purchasing land and towards the development of facilities is shortsighted. Requiring revenue from a non-renewable source to go to ongoing, increasing funding needs creates financial problems, it doesn’t solve them.”

A list of the more than 1,000 projects the Natural Resources Trust Fund has supported since 1976 is here.

Great Lakes Protection and the Presidency

The Healing Our Waters (HOW) Coalition has called on Presidential candidates to commit to a Great Lakes agenda that would:

  • Support $475 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
  • Triple funding to fix drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.
  • Uphold and enforce clean water protections.
  • Reduce harmful algal blooms across the region.
  • Prevent Asian carp and other invasive species from entering the Great Lakes.

The HOW Coalition says, “It’s time to put an end to drinking water restrictions, fish consumption advisories, and closed beaches. We have manageable solutions that will help provide safe, clean and affordable water to all of the people who call the region home. It is time for the next President of the United States to use them.”

Michigan House of Representatives

The choice of candidates for the State House will have much to do with the future of clean water in Michigan. Issues that the House could face in the 2021-2022 session include state funding for water programs, protection of the Great Lakes from catastrophic oil spills, the privatization of public waters and water infrastructure, water affordability for all, and groundwater protection, including the lack of a statewide code to curb septic system pollution.

Patience Required

FLOW recognizes that our civil rights, public health, jobs, and environment depend on the health of our democracy. We encourage everyone who is eligible to vote during this election season. And we encourage collective patience because during these extraordinary times, securing a healthy democracy means we take the time to count every vote.

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It takes a healthy democracy to ensure a healthy climate and environment