Political Week in Review: It was a sham.

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

It was a rough way to end the week: After nearly four hours of passionate testimony, the Saugatuck Township Board ignored the pleas of their residents and read a pre-written statement to accompany a unanimous decision to surrender 200 pristine acres of the Saugatuck Dunes to a billionaire’s competing vision of a hotel, a marina, approximately 50 "dwellings", a restaurant, and golf course. It was a sham.

Watching the submission of a local government to a brutal legal assault is not happy news to review, but there was other more positive work being done across the state, as well. In this Political Week in Review:

  • The Saugatuck Township Board ignores residents and submits to Okalahoma billionaire Aubrey McClendon.
  • Michigan’s leadership in the electric vehicle industry gets a boost with the launch of the Built by Michigan coalition.
  • Just because the legislature is out of session, it doesn’t mean bills aren’t crossing the Governor’s desk. As ever, we ask “how green is your governor?”
  • Rep. Gary Peters summarizes what’s going wrong in Washington so I don’t have to. (Thanks, Congressman!)

Four years of fighting, four hours of testimony, then… forfeit

On Friday, a meeting that was shut down earlier in the week due to improper accomodations for residents, resumed at Saugatuck High School to determine the proposed “settlement” to sign away the Saugatuck Dunes. After nearly four hours of testimony, including Michigan LCV’s own Lisa Wozniak, the Township Board ignored the hundreds of impassioned arguments from their neighbors and constituents — as well as their own Planning Commission, which was allowed no say in the process — andsigned over the Dunes.

In putting their unanimous support behind this “consent agreement” that will give billionaire Aubrey McClendon most everything he wants, they have turned their back on the Dunes that define their region and their local economy. By definition, this is no compromise. Compromise necessitates shared sacrifice and mutual gain. In this agreement the only losers are the Saugatuck Dunes, Saugatuck Township and the Tri-Community Plan, Lake Michigan, and Pure Michigan.

This fight falls in a larger context that cannot be ignored. In years past, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality could have been relied upon to oversee this development and ensure that the critical dunes were developed responsibly. Unfortunately, due to deep and continual budget cuts to the Department, it no longer has the ability to enforce its responsibilities. It is a stark reminder that the budgets our Legislature debates each year have very, very tangible implications.

I promise you that the words in this PWIR don’t sufficiently convey the sadness and anger in the gym of Saugatuck High School after the decision was announced after such minimal deliberation. In their place, please check out some video of just one of many respectful and passionate comments made in the course of the meeting. The video ishere and features some shots of the Dunes I took over the weekend that I feel underscore the majesty, and tragedy, of what is at stake.

A couple of quotes we captured in our live-tweeting of the meeting:

"[McClendon] is welcome to develop his land as he likes, but only with in the laws of OUR land."

"I have been to 49 of 50 states. I know where I can visit. But I always choose to come back HERE for the lakeshore."

Stay tuned, folks. As big a battle as this is, it is not the war. If nothing else, remember: Elections matter. Seeing the fire that was in that room, in those residents, I have little doubt that anyone (except the Township Board) is ready to fly a white flag over the Dunes.

What’s better than an electric car?

Easy! One that is Built By Michigan.

Last week, Michigan LCV is proud to be a founding member of a coalition that promotes Michigan’s electric vehicle and advanced battery industry alongside small businesses, manufacturers, state legislators, and other environmental organizations.

From our perspective, electric vehicles have it all: They have limited to zero tailpipe emissions, promote advanced batteries that can also be used for storing renewable energy, and create the kinds of manufacturing jobs that Michiganders are better suited to fill than any workers in any other state. Win-win-win.

Here is video of Grand Rapids State Representative Brandon Dillonspeaking at the press conference announcing the launch of Built by Michigan and signing onto the effort. Former Congressman, Michigan LCV Board Member, and Co-Chair of the BlueGreen Alliance’s Jobs21! campaign, Mark Schauer, was there to sign on as well.

With allies like Senator Stabenow taking the lead in promoting electric vehicles with smart legislation in Washington, pioneering manufacturers like A123 who are producing advanced batteries, and partnerships with labor through the BlueGreen Alliance… well, what’s not to like?

I know what you’re thinking. You want to join in with all the cool kids that are jumping on board the electric-powered bandwagon. Fortunately, it’s easy. Just head to www.builtbymichigan.org and sign the petition to help us make Michigan the world-leader in the automotive technology and manufacturing sectors.

How Green is Your Governor update

I’ll admit, I don’t really mind the Legislature being out of session. Things are a bit quieter and bills like House Bill 4746, which throws open the door to reckless mining in the state, being passed right now. Regrettably, that doesn’t mean the laws passed prior to the Legislative Recess are being ignored by the Governor. No, Governor Snyder is still in town and–sigh–he signed HB 4746 into law. (The Governor got a red mark for that one, by the way.)

A couple weeks ago, though, he got a green mark for signing a bill into law that will increase the state’s revenue while simultaneously promoting land preservation. As of now, Governor Snyder stands at twelve positive actions, seven neutral, and six negative.

Don’t wait for the next update on how green is your governor in the Political Week in Review. Check the page anytime. Because we’re constantly watching, we keep it constantly updated.

Congressman Peters recaps the rest

I was planning on summarizing all the wretched environmental actions flying around in the House in Washington, too, but Rep. Gary Peters saved me the trouble with this overview he put into the Congressional Record last week.

My personal favorite quote, in relation to the ridiculous crusade to somehow make the defense of incandescent lighbulbs a national priority, instead of, say, keeping the country from defaulting on our debt: “The bill fortunately failed on the House floor, but it did not fail in wasting our time.”

Until next week,

Ryan Werder

Political Director

P.S. Mark Schauer just doesn’t slow down; tomorrow he will participate in another press conference. This time he will tackle the important subject of the damage Michigan will sustain if the Governor signs the Legislature’s bill to discard the State’s ability to protect the Great Lakes. Hear more about this by reading up on HB 4326 at GreatMichigan.org or by following us on Facebook or Twitter.

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