June 16, 2011

House to Governor: We’re cutting Great Lakes protection and giving your authority to Washington!

CONTACT:
                  James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council: 517-256-0553
                  Ryan Werder, Michigan League of Conservation Voters: 313-444-9373
                  Mike Berkowitz,  Sierra Club Michigan Chapter: 517 484-2372 x13  
                  Cyndi Roper, Clean Water Action: 517-203-0754

 House to Governor: We’re cutting Great Lakes protection
and giving your authority to Washington!

Bill reduces, transfers Michigan’s authority to manage fresh water

(Lansing, June 16) Michigan’s governor would be stripped of powers to protect the Great Lakes under legislation approved by the state House of Representatives today.

HB 4326 would prohibit a state agency from adopting a rule more stringent than federal standards unless specifically authorized by state statute. The bill – ostensibly designed to reduce regulations – reduces protections for the Great Lakes and undermines the power of Michigan’s governor to act decisively to protect them.

"This bill sends a simple message: The Michigan House thinks the Great Lakes aren’t worth protecting," said Anne Woiwode, state director of the Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter. "They’re saying Michigan is the same as Mississippi or Arizona, and that is just wrong."

James Clift, policy director with the Michigan Environmental Council, said Michigan has a unique role as stewards of the Earth’s greatest freshwater resource. This legislation would be an abdication of that role.

"Federal rules are designed to be a floor, not a ceiling, for protecting key natural resources like our lakes," said Clift. "Yet this House vote indicates they believe that Michigan’s freshwater seas should be protected with the same one-size-fits-all rules they use in every other state."

Great Lakes advocates point out that the Michigan Legislature already has the authority to strike down any rule made by a Michigan governor’s administration.

"The legislature is already the final word on regulations," said Cyndi Roper, Michigan director for Clean Water Action. "But now they’re aiming to take away the governor’s authority to issue rules in the first place. It’s an attack on the governor, on future governors, and on the natural resources of Michigan."

The governor’s rulemaking authority was most famously used in 1976 to help restore a dying Lake Erie. Gov. William Milliken’s administration restricted phosphorus in dishwashing detergent – a pioneering step that helped pave the way for the recovery of Lake Erie.

"As Michiganders know better than anyone, the Great Lakes are the economic and recreational heart of our state. Signing away Michigan's unique ability to protect them is nothing short of foolish," said Ryan Werder, political director with the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.