“Unless we move without delay to halt the deterioration of our land, our water and our air, our own children may see the last traces of earth’s beauty crushed beneath the weight of man’s waste and ruin.”
Gov. William Milliken in a message to the Michigan legislature, January 1970
One wonders what Milliken, now 91, thinks of the current GOP legislature and their assault on the Great Lakes State’s environment and imperiled eco-systems. Combined with corporate pressures designed to exploit and abuse natural resources, and the blind-eye of the current governor, surely he must feel that his legacy is about to be gunned down along side the 43 wolves slated for slaughter in just a few short months.
When Michigan lawmakers return from their summer break in a few days, Tea Party forces have pledged to move Republicans even further to the right by completing their planned take-over of the party — creating a GOP that the 1970’s governor would certainly not recognize in the slightest.
State Tea Party leader, Todd Courser, said this of his lawmakers on WLNS yesterday:
I think what’s happening is that, they themselves have become more courageous and confident that they can takeover over the party. There’s been an effort to change out the party leadership and it’s not limited to the party chair. The discussion I’ve had, we’ve also looked at county chairs, district situations where the establishment controls and all the way down to precinct delegate.”
Under Tea Party leadership, environmental concerns will suffer significant and irreversible collateral damage from an expanded legislative erosion of Michigan’s regulatory protections.
Milliken championed environmental causes. He had a high stakes showdown with Amway Corporation over the dumping of phosphorus chemicals in the Great Lakes, and his policies led to the successful clean-up of Lake Erie, a lake then considered “dead”. He actively supported a petition drive for returnable bottles and cans against strong lawmaker opposition. Bill and Helen Milliken worked to protect the Pigeon River from the ill-effects of oil and gas drilling through an agreement to limit and regulate the practice.
Milliken, living proof that conservatism and conservationism are not mutually exclusive, is the honorary chair of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, an organization that he and his late wife, have had a close relationship with for many years. The MLCV puts out a “scorecard” on lawmakers and other leaders in the state based on their environmental record.
Worst Senator for Michigan’s Environment
Michigan Sen. Tom Casperson (R-38) from Escanaba, chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes, is doing his level best to trample Milliken’s environmental legacy. Casperson earned a flunking grade from the MLCV over his legislative history spanning three terms in the Michigan House and his current tenure in the Senate. As a lawmaker his grade sunk from a meager 38 percent to a pathetic 21 percent while in the House, and combined with his Senate record he’s earned a “lifetime score” of 33 percent.
A review of Casperson’s record finds a number of recent environmental atrocities. Just this year, he started off with a bill (SB 78) to revise the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act of 1994. The proposed amendments would prohibit the state from engaging in activities that preserve biodiversity and would require the Department of Natural Resources to focus on economic growth in its forest management practices. They would not be allowed to fund or participate in activities that promote identification and restoration of unique habitats. The bill actually revises the definition of “conservation” to exclude the protection of native species and habitats. As if that’s not enough, the proposed law deletes legislative language that attributes loss of biodiversity to human activity — meaning, they could not even converse in the language of the science behind biodiversity. The bill passed the Senate on March 5th, and now rests in the hands of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Just a couple weeks later, Casperson introduced SB 214 of 2013, a bill that would amend Public Act 451 of 1994 to allow diversion of DNR Trust funds to develop logging and mining roads and dredge lakes to support commercial traffic. (Democracy Tree previously reported the large campaign contributions Casperson has taken from logging and mining interests.) The Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund was established for the purpose of acquiring land for “recreational uses or protection of the land because of its environmental importance or its scenic beauty”. The Senator’s bill was such a gross over-reach that Attorney General Bill Schuette felt the need to step-in and issue a ruling protecting the fund. In AG Opinion #7270 Schuette ruled that the fund is constitutionally protected from uses other than which it is designated.
At about the same time, Casperson was busy making a legislative end-run around citizens that had gathered enough petition signatures to prevent the state from establishing a hunting season on wolves. The Senator had originally attached a $1 million appropriation to his proposed legislation, a move that would have rendered it referendum-proof, but when the bill finally did pass, the appropriation had been stricken from the language. Casperson justified the hunt by citing how frightened folks were of wolves and they’re predation of livestock, even though neither reason held any truth.
Then there was SB 470, a bill to preempt local zoning from prohibiting gravel pits, which stalled in committee. Casperson introduced three bills that did become law: One to allow beach grooming, another permitting the use of raw sewage for landscaping purposes, and a law to remove restrictions on bear cub petting, specifically meant to aid his campaign contributor, the Oswald family.
Dumbest Lawmaker on the Environment
It would be nice if Rep. Greg MacMaster (R-105) would just go back to his former job as a TV weatherman — at least then he would have a 50-50 chance of being right about something occasionally. MacMaster introduced silly legislation that would have banned local governments from adopting any of the principles found in United Nations Agenda 21. A non-binding resolution, Agenda 21 supports the implementation of sustainable development through environmental protections that do not burden economic growth. Among its tenets are combating poverty, promoting health, education, science, and cultural enhancement. These complimentary goals are encouraged at the local level and supported at higher levels of government.
When his proposed new law was found “unsustainable” by his fellow lawmakers, MacMaster, in an act of pure political masturbation, tried again but this time introduced it as a non-binding resolution — still a legislative non-starter.
In the spirit of his Tea Party brethren in the U.S. Legislature attempting to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act 40 times (as of this writing), MacMaster will keep on trying, wasting taxpayer dollars and legislative time.
We can laugh about MacMaster, but the Tea Party’s agenda for Michigan is no joke…
Much to Worry About
On the immediate horizon, Michigan lawmakers will consider two bills to regulate expanded hydro-fracking in the state. A petition drive, headed by the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, is currently underway for a 2014 vote on an initiated law to ban the controversial practice.
Another grave concern is the possibility that Enbridge will be permitted to increase the volume in their rickety 60 year-old pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac, where a rupture would imperil the greatest source of surface freshwater on the planet. This pipeline has experienced a long list of spills and ruptures, including the one that polluted the Kalamazoo River.
Michigan’s natural resources are at great risk. Milliken understood our role as stewards of the environment. Progressives and moderate Republicans need the former governor to speak out loudly against this push to the right, because a complete Tea Party coup will send our state right over the cliff.
Amy Kerr Hardin