PWIR: TNT in the UP

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

I hate that Michiganders have to be reminded of the influence of the courts on our environment in such an… explosive manner. Will it take the destruction of a sacred Native American site and fouling of a pristine river to remind us that judges are elected officials, too?

The dust hasn’t even settled after the dynamite went off in the UP last week, marking the beginning of Michigan’s first hazardous sulfide mine. That, and more, in this week’s Political Week in Review.

An Explosive Ruling with Tragic Repercussions

I could spend the entire length of this PWIR describing the ravaging impact that Kennecott’s sulfide mining in the Yellow Dog Watershed will have on the Upper Peninsula. In short, though, the impact of this mine will be most heavily felt by the Keewanau Bay Indian Community and the harm to their sacred site as well as the anglers who enjoy the aptly-named Salmon Trout River. The track record of sulfide mining around the world, overall, is a familiar one of disastrous environmental harm.

In this particular case, it was a judge from Ingham County who ultimatelythrew open the doors to this havoc in Michigan’s wild UP. Although there is an ongoing appeals process in regard to a poorly considered DEQ permit for the mine, Judge Manderfield refused to issue an emergency stay on blowing open the entrance to the mine until that process was complete.

Kennecott waited one day and then lit the fuses.

Overhanging all of the legal challenges and protests was the knowledge that even were the appeals to succeed, the ultimate legal voice on this decision would be the Michigan State Supreme Court. This is the same Court that moved to quickly strike down key protections of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) once the 2010 elections returned Justice Young to the bench and gave the majority back to an anti-conservation forces on the high court.

Like the fight against the Kennecott Mine in the UP, many of Michigan’s most important battles to preserve our most remarkable lands, rivers, and lakes are landing in the court system. It is a good thing for Justice to be blind, but not deaf. The Michigan Supreme Court will remain unlikley to hear essential conservation cases as long as the present majority sits on the Bench. But here is the good news: In 2012 there will be three Supreme Court seats up for a vote. Tell your friends.

A new (and memorable) name for the Michigan Public Service Commission

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) that governs so much of our energy policy just got a new name. I bet you’ll remember it, especially if you’re a fan of the Marx Brothers: John Quackenbush.

Truth be told, we really don’t know much about Mr. Quackenbush’s thoughts on utility regulation and sustainable energy policies. What we do know is that his background is in the financial services sector and that, occasionally, it did intersect with the utility and coal industries.Quackenbush’s appointment fills the Republican slot on the Commission, a body that is comprised of one Democrat, one Republican, and one Independent.

Issues in front of the MPSC include electric vehicle adoption, rate adjustments (recently downward!) for energy efficiency and renewable energy surcharges, smartgrid technology, and ratepayer protection. Quackenbush may be a funny name, but he now has some serious responsibilities. We are eager to see how he will meet them.

DEQ takes initial positive steps on fracking regulations

The Michigan DEQ is putting in place some new common sense transparency measures to improve protections for Michiganders’ water in regard to the potentially dangerous process of fracking.

These early voluntary steps will improve the disclosure of information of the deep-drilling process known as fracking. DEQ will now post online all of the hazardous substances found in reportable quantities on the site, as well as posting the internal processes used to evaluate water withdrawals. In doing so, the DEQ is demonstrating both the ability and opportunity to quickly improve this potentially hazardous practice through greater transparency.

These steps – which were advocated for by Michigan LCV, the National Wildlife Federation, Michigan Environmental Council, and Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council – are more fully explained in the press release we sent out last week: Full press release.

See you at EarthTones!

If a solid set list, impressive silent auction opportunities, and a good cause isn’t enough to get you to the EarthTones benefit concert, let me add one more reason: Impact.

By attending EarthTones, not only are you having a good time, you’re supporting the work we do to win disclosure from the DEQ on fracking, play pivotal roles in public transit millages, elect conservation champions, and run a unique suite of accountability tools to hold our public servants accountable.

So click here to come enjoy a great show and support a good cause! I’m looking forward to finally meeting many of you in person. See you there!

Until next week,

Ryan Werder

Political Director

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *