Issues Of The Environment: Making The Environment A Priority In Michigan's Budget
Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently released the latest Michigan state budget, and it includes funding for a number of environmental programs. And, it builds on the initiatives launched in her first budget cycle as governor. In this week's "Issues of the Environment," WEMU's David Fair talks over environmental priorities, progress, and challenges with State Senator Jeff Irwin.
- In 2019, Governor Whitmer reshaped state environmental efforts by creating the new Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and faced partisan backlash over an attempt to abolish business-friendly oversight panels the Legislature had created in late 2018. In 2019, lawmakers approved Whitmer’s request for $120 million in drinking water protection and innovation initiatives, including nearly $38 million to implement new lead standards for drinking water and $25 million to address PFAS “forever chemicals” and other emerging contaminants.
- Environmental priorities remained a focus of Governor Whitmer’s State of the State address in January 2020. She referenced a commitment to holding PFAS polluters accountable, the creation and naming of the first Clean Water Public Advocate and the creation of the Environmental Justice Advisory Council.
- Water issues remain front and center in Whitmer’s priorities for Michigan. In February 2020, Governor Whitmer’s budget pledged $64 million for environmental initiatives, including $40 million for local climate resilient infrastructure and planning grants for local units of government to help prevent the negative impacts of Michigan’s changing climate conditions like high water levels, $20 million for rapid environmental contamination response to provide additional resources for the abatement of contaminated properties across the state, and $4 million for legal efforts within the Attorney General to protect residents from chemical contamination of drinking water and commercial pollution.
- On the chemical contamination side, budget details were less specified, but the state AG’s office recently filed suit against 17 chemical companies that it said is connected to the PFAS contamination reaching the drinking water of at least 1.9 million residents. That effort includes a contingency-fee partnership with a group of litigators who are working with state attorneys.
- 18th District State Senator Jeff Irwin, (D)- Ann Arbor, has long been an advocate for tougher polluter pay laws that hold corporate entities who contaminate Michigan’s water responsible for cleanup. He has worked to enact stricter standards for 1,4 dioxane and PFAS. He has also supported policies that discourage environmental injustice.
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