PWIR: What’s More Important than Fighting About Light Bulbs?

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

With the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act under assault at the federal level and deregulation gone wild in Lansing, bickering about what light bulbs are used in your home is like worrying about fixing the disposal as your house goes up in flames around you.

Here are a few of the infinitely more important things that we’ll discuss in this week’s Political Week in Review:

Shaping Up Communities with RiverUp!

Roughly a year ago, Congressman John Dingell challenged the Wolfpack — a group of influential Washtenaw County citizens committed to practical environmental protections — to come up with a plan to improve the health and vitality of the Huron River. Their answer? An ambitious project called “RiverUp!”.

By improving local infrastructure, cleaning up the river, and improving the ease of recreation along its waters, RiverUp! aims to transform the Huron River into a proud destination for tourists and residents. Just because Sleeping Bear Dunes is considered the most beautiful place in America, it doesn’t mean other regions of the state shouldn’t give it a shot, too, right?

RiverUp! is an important and homegrown imitative, developed by local residents who care deeply. Rivers run through almost every major urban community in the state of Michigan, and RiverUp! may provide the framework for similar initiatives across the state. The Grand River is a particularly great candidate for this kind of project.

To watch a quick video featuring clips from the day’s events and the scope of the RiveUp! Project, you can check it out here.

The involvement of elected officials like Congressman Dingell, who spoke at the launch, can be a major boost to the success of comprehensive conservation efforts anywhere. Due to their ability to pull together not only government resources, but also a wide array of their constituency, legislators like the Congressman can do more than just write bills if they are willing to roll up their sleeves locally.

Congressman Dingell serves as an active public servant in Southeast Michigan just as Congressman Ehlers did in West Michigan before retiring last year. Putting the policies they preach in Washington or Lansing into practice back home is a true mark of leadership. It’s just another reason why elections matter.

GOP takes on the EPA

Some of the greatest advances in protecting America’s environment were made by Republican leaders. The EPA was signed into existence by none other than Richard Nixon. Teddy Roosevelt established the National Parks. Here in Michigan, Governor Milliken saved Lake Erie by going above and beyond what even the Feds required to put in place regulation to end the algae blooms choking the lake in the Seventies.

There are so many more instances of the important work done by the GOP for conservation that it makes it particularly tragic to watch the Party attempt to sweep that legacy under the rug. It’s become so bad recently that the Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman had to tweet, “To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists about global warming. Call me crazy.” Jon, you’re not crazy. Spending too much time around Michelle Bachmann might get you there, though.

The increasingly prevalent strategy of framing the EPA for job loss is not limited to presidential debates. Since assuming the Chairmanship of Energy and Commerce, Michigan’s own Representative Upton has led the charge against the EPA (when he isn’t wasting his time and ours on that ridiculous lightbulb fight).

If Michiganders want to continue to enjoy the natural beauty that we are advertising across the nation via our Pure Michigan campaign, it is our responsibility to support the candidates of all stripes who actually support the value of science, not scoff at it.

There really are many of them out there and we will be standing beside them come election season with votes and with dollars. We can have disagreements about what to do with the scientific findings once we have them, but at least we can work off the same page and not re-debate the Scopes trial (or lightbulbs).

Michigan Ranked most Beautiful Place in U.S.

Northern Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes, a Michigan gem, finally received the national recognition it deserves, and was named the most beautiful place in the U.S. by Good Morning America.

Recognition like this will continue to do wonders for our state’s tourism economy, a vital cog in the economic rebirth of our great state. Although Governor Snyder still picks up the occasional red mark on our tracker, his endorsement of Pure Michigan and his choice to fully fund it is one decision we will always stand by. It is also another example of why who we elect matters; other contenders in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary were far more likely to choose the opposite path.

Two sentences about the Lightbulb “Debate”

First sentence of the two I dedicate to this subject: Compact fluorescent lightbulbs are not a panacea to our energy problems, but they are a notable improvement to the 100 year-old incandescent bulb.

This second sentence is dedicated to all the elected officials who are even contemplating taking up this faux issue: Please focus on the real problems we are facing like sewage in our water, our reliance on polluting fossil fuels, and the fatal impact of asthma-inducing air quality… honestly, you’re embarrassing everyone you represent with this and I bet you know it.

Until next week,

Ryan Werder
Political Director

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