Political Week in Review: The Green blank Edition

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

Green Leaders, Green Scissors, Green Lawmakers; all of these green “things” are essentially asking who, or what, are the most environmentally conscious in each category’s many possibilities: Individuals, government spending, and elected officials.

Fortunately, there are actually some answers to these questions. In this week’s Political Week in Review we’ll examine each of them:

  • Green Leaders: Governor Snyder spoke at the annual awards, but was he a green leader, himself?
  • Green Scissors: A national taxpayers’ group visits West Michigan and proposes $200 billion in cuts to the federal deficit that wouldimprove the environment
  • Green Lawmakers: The Grand Rapids Press asks a good question, but we ask another.
  • Green You: How do make yourself a “green leader” in your daily life?

Green LEADERS

At the Detroit Free Press’s “Green Leaders Awards” last week, Governor Snyder presented the keynote address. The essential theme of his remarks was that we should “do green things together.” The speech was an ideal opportunity for the Governor to lay out a robust clean energy policy or a consolidated conservation agenda for his administration. Unfortunately, though, the assembled audience – consisting of the people in the state best poised to help advance such a vision – received an address notably devoid of details.

This is particularly disappointing because right now we desperately do need Governor Snyder to take the lead. Throughout his campaign,Candidate Snyder spoke soaringly of protecting our Great Lakes and continuing our momentum with clean energy jobs, but now we need Governor Snyder to follow through. In fact, the department that used to manage energy policy is being dismantled by his order and, so far, the Administration is relatively explicit in acknowledging their lack of a sound strategy moving forward.

So far, the Snyder Administration has established a pattern of rolling out a major new initiative or theme each month. While we understand the state has a frighteningly long list of issues to address, we challenge the Governor to at least put himself and his team on a deadline to develop a comprehensive environmental policy for Michigan’s future.

(As always, for a brief look at how the Governor is doing on issues related to natural resources protection, you can check Michigan LCV’s “How Green is Your Governor” site at any time).

Green SCISSORS

Last week, Michigan LCV was proud to sponsor numerous events withTaxpayers for Common Sense, a thoroughly non-partisan watchdog group based in Washington, DC that vigilantly sniffs out wasted tax dollars. Over the course of Wednesday and Thursday, the organization’s President, Ryan Alexander, travelled with our Executive Director and me across Central and West Michigan to tout the Green Scissors 2010report.

Green Scissors outlines how to cut $200 billion out of the federal deficit and, in doing so, actually improve America’s energy situation and environment. As one of Michigan’s leading energy and environment academics at Central Michigan University told us, “We have to get this report into the hands of every single American.” We’re trying, and I figure the PWIR is as good a place to start as any.

The Green Scissors Tour also presented at a special event hosted by the CMU College Republicans. The President of the Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP), Rob Sisson, introduced Ms. Alexander and also spoke about the GOP’s long conservation legacy. Our live-tweeting of the event is available here. Incidentally, REP is an excellent organization that I encourage you to check out. (They also give out far better free merchandise than any of their counterparts on the other side of the aisle.)

What Green Scissors outlines on the federal level, is also achievable here in Michigan. Closing tax loopholes that encourage inefficient use or production of energy, discouraging barriers of entry to emerging technologies, and taking into account long-term externalities (i.e. it’s easy to spray pesticides over a field without oversight today, but difficult to deal with drinking water repercussions in nearby river later) are all means by which Michigan can cut spending while improving our quality of life.

But there is a reason it is called Green Scissors and not Green Chainsaw; we must be sure to cut both carefully and strategically.

Green LAWMAKERS

Last week, the Grand Rapids Press ran a story that interviewed over a dozen West Michigan lawmakers to ask “how green” they were for the sake of Earth Day. The article, though, touches on one of my largest pet peeves about environmental action.

Questions like, “Do you use canvass bags when grocery shopping?,” and “How many compact fluorescent bulbs do you use?” avoid the more important questions that genuinely do effect climate change and public health.

The lawmakers interviewed have the profound opportunity — and I would argue, the responsibility — to make a long-lasting positive green impact on their district, if not the state as a whole. Through the power of their votes cast in Lansing, each of these decisiom-makers speaks for thousands of their constituents on matters related to clean, safe drinking water, open space, and healthy communities.

It is interesting that not one legislator interviewed in the Grand Rapids Press rated themselves less than five out of ten on the self-ranking scale. For those who have been in office more than a few months, our 2010-2011 Scorecard may beg to differ. We certainly encourage each of these lawmakers profiled by the Grand Rapids Press to back up their (still appreciated) canvass-bagging and local-food-shopping with the critical pro-conservation/environment policy work that is sorely needed in our state’s capitol.

Green YOU

As not all of us can be elected officials, what everyday actions do you take to be a “green leader”? Hop on Facebook to answer our quick poll. Note: Donating to Michigan LCV is an entirely appropriate answer!

Until next week,

Ryan Werder
Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Political Director

 

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