The Michigan League of Conservation Voters has released its “2007-2008 Environmental Scorecard” that evaluates lawmakers, the Supreme Court, and the Governor. The League–while providing individual scores for all state lawmakers–said that overall the actions of the state government did little to protect the government. While there were some accomplishments–such as the Great Lakes Compact–the took little action on clean energy.
Legislators representing West Michigan generally received poor ratings on the scorecard. Michigan House of Representative members Robert Dean and Michael Sak–both Democrats representing Grand Rapids–received rankings of 100%. However, several Republicans received poor rankings, including Grandville representative Dave Agema at 7%, Glen Steil of Grand Rapids at 29%, and Kevin Green of Wyoming at 36%. In the Senate, ratings were similarly poor, with Mark Jansen of Grand Rapids and Bill Hardiman of Kentwood both receiving 11%. The League encourages voters to remember that while some legislators may get decent ratings, the environment is still seen as a “second tier” issue by the legislature.
At the Michigan level, the scorecard highlights the following “best” and “worst” of government actions on the environment.
The best of 2007-2008 includes:
* The Governor’s creation of a new position and subsequent appointment of a renewable energy advisor to help her advance renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.
* The creation of a new Climate Action Council, also appointed by the Governor.
* The state’s initiation of a strong environmental justice policy with the Governor’s Executive Directive in November of 2007.
* Michigan’s passage, as the eighth and final state, of the Great Lakes Compact.
The worst of 2007-2008 includes:
* The State Supreme Court’s gutting of one of Michigan’s landmark environmental laws: the 1970 Michigan Environmental Protection Act.
* The Governor and Legislature approval of a raid of $70 million from the leaky underground storage tank clean-up fund to balance the budget.
* The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) permits to allow for sulfide mining in one of our most precious natural areas.
* Overall inaction, stalemate and retreat by the Governor and the Legislature that failed to pass clean energy legislation, ensure that the waters of Michigan be held in the public’s trust, and put into action the Governor’s 2002 pledge to reduce mercury emissions from power plants.
While the struggle to protect our earth must be varied and occur both inside the electoral and outside the electoral system, the League’s environmental scorecard offers at important tool from which citizens, environmental groups, and others can move to hold legislators and the state government accountable. Aside from the usual constant threats to the environment, Michigan is faced with unique challenges in that it has more proposed coal fired power plants than any other state and is having continued battles over the privatization of water.