May 5, 2011

Senate Republicans Vote to Weaken Protections for the Great Lakes

May 5, 2011
Contact: James Clift, 517-256-0553

Senate Republicans Vote to Weaken Protections for the Great Lakes

Lansing - The Michigan Senate voted along party lines today to limit the authority of the governor to protect theGreat Lakes.  Under the provision, the executive branch is prohibited from issuing any rule that contains a standard more stringent than federal law unless specifically authorized by the legislature.

Flashback to the 1970s - Lake Erie was dying - algae beds were covering the lake - scientists pointed the finger at phosphorus in laundry detergent.  The legislature refused to act.  In 1976, Governor Milliken stepped up and issued an administrative rule limiting phosphorus - and the lakes recovered.  The legislature affirmed that restriction 32 later in 2008.
Under the law passed by the Senate today, the governor would be prohibited from stepping in to protect the lakes as Gov. Milliken did 35 years ago.

"Federal standards to protect water quality are designed to be a minimum standard below which states are not allowed to drop.  They are not written by people who feel a stewardship responsibility over one of the world's most important freshwater resource," said James Clift, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council.

"It seems inconceivable that politicians in the Great Lakes State believe Washington bureaucrats will protect the lakes better than those who live here. But that's what they've said with today's vote."

Senate Democrats tried to amend the bill to exempt rules designed to protect the Great Lakes, but that amendment failed.