PWIR: No Justice for Jean Klock Park

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

The conservation movement in this country began with the idea that natural areas should be preserved and accessible to the public for outdoor recreation. That idea took a big hit this week in Michigan when the United States Court of Appeals allowed Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor to be converted into a private golf course, largely depriving citizens of access to the Lake Michigan sand dunes they’ve enjoyed for generations.

In this week’s PWIR:

FORE!-gone Conclusion

When the conservation movement began at the turn of the last century, national, state, and local parks were established across the country. One of those was Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor, a half mile of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline and sand dunes donated by John and Carrie Klock in 1917. Their wish: The shore and dunes would remain in their natural state for children to play on, swim in, and enjoy.

Instead, their wish is being disregarded and will be largely replaced with gates, expensive homes, and a club for privileged golfers to tee off. On Wednesday, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals denied an appealchallenging the federal permits that allowed the development. In effect, almost literally paving the way for the development of the dunes.

The Michigan Supreme Court also bears some of the weight of this outcome by choosing not to hear an appeal to a separate lawsuit challenging the city’s sale of the park to developers a year ago. Voters, please remember actions like this in the ballot booth in November. We will soon be keeping a closer eye on the Michigan Supreme Court for this very reason. Stay tuned for more soon.

If real life were an 80’s movie, this is the point when the developers would be thwarted by a spunky group of kids determined to save their favorite park. Unfortunately, the golf course is almost complete and Michigan citizens are left, once again, with the taste of bulldozer dust in their mouths due to a court ruling. If there is one ray of hope, it is that our state Supreme Court is an elected position and an educated electorate can prevent future attacks on the public trust.

25% by 2025 means J-O-B-S, according to Michigan Manufacturer

The renewable energy standard that a broad bipartisan coalition of nurses, manufacturing, business, and labor leaders are advocating for is really all about two things: new Michigan jobs and improved public health through cleaner air.

It will be a boon to job growth in Michigan, as demonstrated by a letter to the editor in the Jackson Citizen Patriot on Wednesday by Aestreus Wind CEO Jeff Metts. In the letter, Mr. Metts described how his company could expand hiring if Michigan citizens approve the 25% renewable energy by 2025 ballot initiative.

As he explained, the 2008 10% standard brought renewable energy companies like his into the state, but now twenty-five other states have higher standards than we do. Jobs and investment will follow demand, and to keep up and increase job growth we must be leaders in renewable energy investment and demand. 25% by 2025 right here in Michigan can get us there.

The RES will also improve the health of people and wildlife. While it should be well-known that the toxic mercury emitted by coal plants ends up in our lakes, rivers, fish, and, not least of all, in us, a recent study suggests that mercury is poisoning our wildlife too. It is affecting the ability of some birds to hit high notes and, therefore, their ability to attract mates and reproduce. We’re not saying that you should support this for the birds. That said, please find some sympathy for the poor male birds that are trying so hard to capture the heart of the songbird-next-door but for the coal plant-next-door.

President Talks Michigan Clean Energy in State of the Union and at U of M

Compared to the State of the State that Governor Snyder delivered – featuring DEQ outhouse regulations as one of the few environmental mentions – the President’s State of the Union took a much more substantive approach. He specifically focused on Michigan’s growing clean energy industry and highlighted a formerly unemployed worker who now makes wind turbine equipment and is proud to work in “the industry of the future.”

Bryan Ritterby, laid off from his job making furniture, now builds wind turbines for Energetx in Holland. He is an example of the increased manufacturing base Michigan can build if Michigan citizens pass 25% renewable energy in Michigan by 2025.

The President also called for chemical disclosure in fracking operations. He called for us to develop an “all of the above” energy strategy. In regard to the natural gas drilling that is inherent to that approach, we need to ensure that it is as safe as it can be. Especially in Michigan where our clean water is so valuable and fragile, we need to be sure the process is well-monitored to prevent contamination and harmful water withdrawals.

Oh, and about those outhouse regulations…

Governor Snyder drew a cheap laugh when claimed that the DEQ regulated whether outhouse seats must be left up or down, but, according to this Detroit Free Press article, there is no such regulation. For the record, we’re not letting President Obama off the hook for his spilled milk joke, either; lame comedy is a bi-partisan issue.

Congressman Benishek’s Big Oil Subsidies Continue to Haunt Him

U.S. Congressman Dan Benishek, who represents northern Michigan’s 1st District, continues to poll poorly after voting to increase big oil subsidies. According to Public Policy Polling, his approval rating is at 33%, well behind one of his potential challengers, Gary McDowell, who would be projected to beat him if the election were held today. Benishek had only a 32% approval rating in a similar poll in November, largely due to a LCV accountability campaign that highlighted his indifference to inefficient oil subsidies.

Apparently, northern Michiganders don’t like it when you give their money away to oil companies. It is far more needed for in-state projects than for off-shore drilling

Also this week…

Michigan LCV Executive Director Lisa Wozniak attended a climate change conference examining public perceptions of global warming. While 51% of Americans are alarmed or concerned about global warming, 97% of climate scientists believe the earth is warming because of human activities.

Very simply, this means that we are not communicating well with each other. Please check out Lisa’s piece reporting on her two-day experience in the midst of some of the nation’s leading scientific minds. Her conclusion that we must change the way we talk to each other about this truly essential question is one to keep in your mind, too, as you reach out to friends and family.

Until Next Week,

Ryan Werder
Michigan League of Conservation Voters

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