On the Right Track

A weekly update on environmental policy happenings from Ryan Werder, Political Director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (Twitter: @rjwerder)

If someone gave you a $2.4 billion check, what would you do first? Personally, I’d go with a king-size thank you note. Not the Governor of Florida; he just sent it back to the Feds because he doesn’t believe in high-speed rail. Good news for Michigan, though, as part of that money may now be available for us to use to lower emissions and discourage sprawl via improved mass transit.

Alas, the poor decisions being made by elected leaders cannot just be quarantined in the SunshineState. Given that, in this week’s Political Week in Review: the mass transit/environmental connection, a look at the dangerous federal budget proposal from the House, further proof that no single party has a monopoly on bad conservation votes, a “How Green is Your Governor” update, and the man who claims he would have unseated John Dingell… if it weren’t for that danged Facebook thing!

Florida’s loss could be Michigan’s gain

Despite every opportunity and plea from his own legislature, voters, and even the Secretary of Transportation, Florida Governor Rick Scott sent back $2.4 billion dollars slated for a high-speed rail line from Orlando to Tampa. But why should Michigan voters care about Florida, much less mass transit, and why am I leading off this week’s PWIR with it? Because the success of rail is inextricably tied to the vision of a cleaner and more energy independent Michigan.

Imagine: You want to travel from Ann Arbor to Traverse City. You don’t take your car, you avoid running your credit card through multiple gas pumps and, instead, pull out a deck of playing cards with your kids or friends in the train’s dining car over the course of a shorter trip.

In doing so, you don’t hit any gas pumps (save money and emissions) and feel better about your decision to move into the urban center – and avoid that stale sub-development outside the city – because you can get to and from work each day on mass transit, and even go on vacation, without shoveling out your car (urban density). With the adoption of high-speed rail, we become more competitive with neighboring states, more appealing to youth weighing their options after college, and generate more manufacturing opportunities for the new clean energy infrastructure. So what do you say? All aboard Michigan’s green transportation future?

Continuing revulsion at the Continuing Resolution

Each year, Congress must pass a budget to ensure that the government continues to function and provide services. When a full budget is not agreed to by the time it is due, it is common for Congress to pass what is called a “continuing resolution” (CR), which essentially says “keep doing what you’re doing at the present funding level until we figure things out.”

What is not common is the amount of junk amendments that were stuffed into the CR this time around, many of which are attempts to make major legislative changes without going through the full legislative process. As recently passed, the bill would cut a full third of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) funding. The additional amendments only make things worse. Fortunately, President Obama already threatened to veto it and the Senate also must take their crack at in a (hopefully) more responsible fashion.

Four Democrats join bill to gut the EPA

On Thursday, Rep. Fred Upon – the Michigan congressman who chairs the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee – introduced a bill that would handcuff the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases. Four Democrats co-sponsored the bill, but partial bipartisanship is not, in any way, a signal that this bill is actually good legislation. In fact, it is–plain and simple–bad legislating. Ill-informed positions like this, on both sides of the aisle, serve as important reminders as to why Michigan LCV remains proudly non-partisan and, thus, able to hold both sides accountable. Note: the President has already threatened a(nother) veto.

Update: How Green is Your Governor?

Michigan LCV’s ongoing tracking of Governor Snyder’s actions on environmental issues received an update this week after the Governor made comments at a luncheon for trade groups in favor of both new coal plants and expanding mining in the Upper Peninsula. Both are inefficient, costly, and unhealthy alternatives to cleaner means of energy production and natural resource extraction. We encourage Governor Snyder to advocate for clean energy strategies and, in doing so, avoid unnecessary rate hikes for utility customers and the fouling of beautiful and vibrant rivers and streams in the UP.

If only a few more people “liked” him…

For over half a century, aspiring candidates have taken on Congressman John Dingell – the author of many of the most important and enduring conservation laws in our nation’s history – in the hope of unseating him. But Majed Moughni, a Dearborn lawyer who didn’t even make it through the Republican primary, has a brand new excuse for why he couldn’t pull off the feat attempted by so many dozens before him: it was a Facebook conspiracy! Moughni claims that his Facebook page was yanked down and that is what really did him in. For what it’s worth, his page is back up.

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