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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Michigan Sierra Club Announces Legislative Priorities for 2017-2018

Michigan Chapter
Legislative Priorities for 2017-2018

Want to help us make these visions a reality? Take a minute to call your State Representative and State Senator - tell them which of our priorities you want them to work on.

Expand Our Use of Clean Energy and Create Green Jobs
Michigan currently obtains most of its electricity from fossil fuel sources such as coal and natural gas. These energy sources are highly polluting and are a large source of greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to climate change. However, clean energy such as solar, wind, and energy efficiency create green jobs, stabilize long-term energy prices, decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, and mitigate our impact on the climate. The Sierra Club supports policies that increase our use of clean energy, including but not limited to renewable energy standards, Energy Optimization Standards, clean contracts (setting a fair price to sell energy back to the grid), distributed generation (generating energy from small sources like rooftop solar), and expanding access to community clean energy projects. “Renewable” or “clean” energy should not be defined to include any fossil fuels, nuclear energy, incinerating waste, or unsustainable forms of biomass.

Fund Environmental Protection
Over the last decade, state funding for environmental protection has plummeted from about $100 million to $35 million. Aside from that, DEQ and DNR funding generated from fees and leases proves significant, but not adequate to support our environmental program. In addition, an over-reliance on permits and fees leads to these agencies being overly dependent on the industries they are monitoring. Combined, the budgets of these two agencies make up less than 1% of our state's allocations. Sierra Club strongly opposes efforts to further cut funding or keep it at the same levels because of its ability to significantly undermine environmental protection and community health. We support a steady increase in investment to the DEQ and DNR for the sake of safe drinking water, expanded recycling, recreation revenue, and the multitude of benefits these environmental programs offer. Our ground water, abundant surface waters, wetlands and shorelines are the foundation of our critically important tourism industry and our high quality of life.

Enact a Ban and Environmental Safeguards on Hydraulic Fracturing
The Michigan legislature must enact a Ban on High Volume Slickwater Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing; in the absence of a ban, we need a Michigan-specific framework to protect the public and our water resources. That framework should require gas companies to follow all state laws regarding water withdrawals – something they are currently exempt from. We should require gas companies to disclose up front all chemicals to be used in the drilling process. The permitting process must require full public participation, which currently does not exist. Fracking is too dangerous for the Great Lakes State and it stands in the way of making progress toward reducing the impacts of climate change and achieving true energy independence. In addition to fracking, we need to ensure that other oil and gas extraction technologies such as acidization and well flooding are adequately regulated and monitored to avoid adverse impacts on our water resources and public health.

Defend Michigan’s Public Lands and Natural Resources
Even though our economy is struggling, the state’s travel and tourism business constantly flourishes, generating $955 million state tax revenue and employing 200,000 people. Michigan’s public lands and natural resources are essential to supporting tourism and should be properly managed to deliver the Pure Michigan promise. The Sierra Club fights for protection of public lands, a sustainable forestry plan, the use of biodiversity as an ecological goal, and the ability of the Department of Natural Resources to own and manage public land.

Mitigate Michigan’s Pipeline Problems
The Great Lakes and Michigan’s inland water bodies are threatened by aging pipelines and new pipeline proposals all across the state, carrying both oil and natural gas. Eminent domain is also causing conflicts between property owners and companies trying to build new pipelines. The legislature should enact laws to increase pipeline safety, disclosure, and emergency spill response planning. The Sierra Club is specifically working to stop the flow of oil through the Mackinac Straits carried by Enbridge’s Line 5 pipelines.

Protect Water Resources
Our Great Lakes hold one fifth of the world’s fresh surface water, but are threatened economically and ecologically by untreated sewage, industrial pollutants, invasive species, factory farm pollution, habitat loss, nutrient runoff, and degradation. The Sierra Club supports policies that make sure we have safe, clean, and affordable water such as banning aquaculture in the Great Lakes, banning the application of factory farm waste on frozen or snow-covered ground, investing in green infrastructure, sustainable wastewater and water infrastructure, and keeping public control of Michigan’s water. The Michigan legislature must enact laws that will reduce agricultural nutrient pollution which leads to toxic algae blooms in the Great Lakes.

End Environmental Injustice
Sierra Club believes that all people, regardless of racial/ethnic identity or socio-economic status, have a right to a clean and healthy environment and the right to effectively participate in their government to achieve that end. No communities should bear disproportionate amounts of pollution because of their demographics or socio-economic status. Local citizens who deal with this pollution on a daily basis must be given a voice and empowered to defend their communities. The lead contamination of drinking water in Flint that resulted from negligence and criminal conduct involving state officials demands justice for Flint residents in the form of safe, affordable drinking water and long-term response and support related to the health, education and economic impacts on the community. The Legislature and Governor must take responsibility for replacing all lead water pipes in Flint and appropriate the funds needed to fulfill this obligation. The full text of the Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice policy can be found at: http://www.sierraclub.org/policy/environmental-justice

Restore Citizen Oversight and Public Participation
For too long, concerned citizens have been ignored by our State Government. Lawmakers should restore accountability by reinstating independent, transparent bodies to oversee the DEQ and DNR like the bipartisan Water Resources Commission and Air Pollution Control Commission from the 1970’s and 1980’s. These would be made up of a balanced cross section of representatives of the general public, science, regulated industries and agencies. These bodies would oversee all aspects of the regulation, permitting and enforcement, providing an on-going public forum for both victims of pollution and those concerned about agency overreach to have their complaints reviewed and responded to.

Expand Access to Public/Mass Transit
The Sierra Club supports transportation policy and systems that minimize the impacts on and use of land, airspace and waterways, minimizes the consumption of fuel, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. We support transportation planning that takes into account pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users. The full text of the Sierra Club’s Transportation policy can be found at: http://www.sierraclub.org/policy/transportation

Improve Access to Democracy
We are facing many proposals that would make it harder for individuals to vote, increase the role of money in politics, and decrease political campaign finance transparency. Lawmakers currently design their legislative district boundaries in a partisan way that undermines public confidence in government and reduces accountability to constituents. These proposals make it harder for individual citizens and the Sierra Club to be heard by elected officials. The Sierra Club advocates for getting the money out of politics, allowing no-reason absentee voting, increasing government/campaign transparency, creating an unbiased redistricting process, and stopping voter suppression.

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