Saturday, August 25, 2007

Clean Water Action Job Announcement

Grand Rapids Area Community Organizer
Full-time position with Clean Water Action

Application Deadline:
September 1, 2007 or until position is filled.
Clean Water Action, Michigan’s largest grassroots environmental group, is looking for a true progressive leader and self-directed individual to mobilize citizens to take action on behalf of environmental protection. Working from our Grand Rapids office, Clean Water Action‘s community organizer will engage citizens throughout West Michigan to mobilize the residents in support of priority environmental and environmental health policies. The organizer will also educate voters on lawmaker voting records and work to hold elected officials accountable.
Organizer Responsibilities:
Manage a busy, one-person office in Grand Rapids
Coordinate multiple public education and political campaigns
Recruit, sustain and manage volunteers and interns
Develop relationships with community leaders and key funders
Plan and implement winning grassroots strategies
Build and strengthen progressive networks and coalitions
Effectively initiate earned media, internet and other communications
Coordinate with other Clean Water Action staff and organizations
Provide program leadership for local canvass staff
Successful professional or volunteer experience organizing on progressive issues
Strong oral/written communication skills and experience working with computers and doing online communications
Commitment to working with diverse people
Ability to successfully network with individuals and organizations
Well-organized, self-motivated, and able to work independently on multiple projects
Ability to develop and implement earned media strategies
Willingness to travel within Michigan, particularly West Michigan
Willingness to work weekday evenings and weekends as needed
Salary commensurate with experience. Benefits package included.
To Apply:
Contact David Holtz at

Black Bear Speaks has no affiliation with Clean Water Action, I just think they're cool people. Send your questions to them.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Nestle Fight Continues, Getting Uglier

Citizens Group Fighting Nestle Water Extraction Seeks Reversal of Supreme Court's Crippling Blow to Environmental Citizen Suit Law

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, the citizen group who won a major court victory that limited groundwaterpumping by Nestle for its Ice Mountain bottled water that harmed a stream, two lakes, and wetlands, filed a Motion for Rehearing with the
Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday, August 15, 2007.

On July 25th, the State's highest court, in a 4-to-3 decision, agreed with lower court rulings that Nestle's groundwater extraction illegally harmed the lakes, stream, and wetlands. But the Court also reversed part of the lower court’s ruling by limiting the citizen groups’ legal right to bring a lawsuit against Nestle under Michigan’s Environmental Protection Act for damaging a lake and wetlands on its own property. The citizens group has standing, the right to bring the suit, to protect the lakes and streams which individuals or the group's members owned or used, but no right to bring suit to stop a polluter from destroying a lake and wetland on his or her own property, the Court's decision said.

Ironically, in June of this year, Michigan's internationally renowned environmental citizen-suit law won more acclaim when the law's author, Professor Joseph Sax, who wrote the law at the request of former Governor William Milliken in 1970, was awarded the prestigious international Blue Planet Prize in Tokyo.

"MCWC has asked the Court to rehear its decision, because we think the citizens of Michigan deserve a closer look at a ruling that blocks their right to sue to prevent environmental damage on Nestle’s property," Terry Swier, President of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, said. "Our air, water, and natural resources do not recognize the legal fiction of property boundaries when it comes to environmental harm."

The citizen group requests the Court to rehear its July 25th decision, because it denies them their legal right to bring a citizen suit to prevent Nestle from causing undeniable harm, according to the findings of the lower courts, to the water resources of the state. "In a larger sense, the decision may have exceeded the Court's judicial power under our constitution and denied these people their first amendment right to petition government to redress wrongs," said James Olson, from Olson, Bzdok & Howard, who represents the citizen groups in its battles with Nestle. "In the immediate sense, the decision ignored a model environmental law passed by our legislature and knocked the teeth out of citizens individual rights to protect the environment," he said.

The Court's blow to the right granted to citizens by the Legislature to bring suits to protect the environment has met with outcry on the editorial pages of most newspapers.

Former Governor Milliken, who with a bipartisan Legislature spearheaded the adoption of the landmark environmental law in 1970, condemned the Court's decision in various news articles.

George Weeks, a well-respected political columnist, in an Op Ed, July 29th, described the Michigan Environmental Protection Act as “crippled” by “the Michigan Supreme Court, which Weeks dubbed as the "Engler Four – justices elevated to that bench or the Court of Appeals by ex-Gov John Engler."

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation's reason for filing the Motion for Rehearing is to give the Court an opportunity to reconsider its earlier July 25th decision.

"It makes no sense to us. The Court says we have standing to prevent the damage to the stream and one lake within the affected area of Nestle’s pumping, but then says we don’t have the right to protect the lake and wetlands on Nestle’s property, even though these water resources are also harmed and within the same affected area," Swier said.

Sustainable Living on the Great Lakes

"Sustainable Living on the Lakes" will be the theme of the 2007 Annual Meeting of the Great Lakes Commission, Oct. 1-2 in Chicago, Ill. The meeting will feature expert panels on climate change and its impacts on the Great Lakes, water conservation, and renewable energy and economic development. There will also be a series of field trips to Chicago's Center for Green Technology and the electric aquatic nuisance species dispersal barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. In addition, the meeting will feature updates on Great Lakes-related legislation making its way through Congress, the implementation of the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact and other high-priority Great Lakes issues. For more information, see Contact: Tim Eder,

Great Lakes Restoration Conference - Chicago

Join key players from government, business and advocacy groups who are at the center of the movement to restore the Great Lakes. Help set the Great Lakes restoration agenda for the coming year; hear first-hand about the issues facing the Great Lakes; and help advance the actions needed to protect the world’s largest surface fresh water source.

And, best of all, have fun doing it: Enjoy an evening at the Shedd Aquarium, a beautiful sunset cruise, dynamic speakers, field trips and much more!

When: September 6-8, 2007

Where: Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, Illinois

About the conference:
We have a once-in-a-generation chance to significantly restore the health of our Great Lakes, to help our children and their children enjoy the Lakes as we have. This year’s event, to be held near the Lake Michigan lakefront and Chicago’s new international attraction, Millennium Park, will build on the success of the First and Second Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conferences.

Why attend?
To advance the effort to restore the Great Lakes for future generations.

Set the restoration agenda:
Conference participants have an opportunity to advance Great Lakes restoration by unifying the region behind a priority list of restoration programs to advocate for in Washington, D.C., building a compelling case for passing the national Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act, and inspiring citizens and organizations to join the drive to restore the Great Lakes.

Gain the skills to take action for the Great Lakes:
The conference will help participants better understand the issues facing the Lakes and the actions they can take to protect them.

Network with people at the center of the effort to restore the Great Lakes:
As always, leading stakeholders will attend the conference, providing attendees with the opportunity to meet key players from government, business and advocacy groups who are essential to making Great Lakes restoration succeed, build partnerships, and join the movement to restore the Great Lakes.

Who should attend?

* People committed to Great Lakes restoration
* Business leaders dependent on the Great Lakes
* Local, state, federal and tribal government officials
* Federal and state lawmakers and legislative staff
* Community leaders from across the Great Lakes Basin
* Scientists and researchers
* Environmental and conservation groups
* Travel and tourism interests
* Boating, fishing and recreation interests
* Environmental consulting firms and agencies
* Governmental affairs staff

For more information contact:
Marie Borie Wood, events program manager, Alliance for the Great Lakes, at: 312-939-0838 ext. 227, or
annual conference, Chicago, Conference events

Illinois ratifies Great Lakes Compact

Illinois has become the second Great Lakes state to ratify the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, an interstate agreement to protect and conserve the waters of the Great Lakes basin. Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the legislation into law on Friday, Aug. 17, joining Minnesota in approving the Compact. Other legislation is pending in Indiana, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania. A companion agreement, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement, has been enacted by Ontario and approved by the Qu├ębec National Assembly. For more information, visit the Council of Great Lakes Governors web site at or the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body web site at

Friday, August 17, 2007

Eco-heads File BP Pollution Permit Appeal

Seeking to put on hold BP’s permit to discharge more pollution to Lake Michigan and allow the public to weigh in formally on the matter, the Alliance for the Great Lakes today filed a petition asking the court to suspend the permit and re-start the public appeal process.

Filed with Indiana’'s Office of Environmental Adjudication, the petition calls into question the state’s handling of the discharge permit it granted BP’s Whiting, Ind. refinery, and says the Alliance and others weren’'t served notice about the final permit and the appeal process.

“The Indiana permit process goes to the heart of people’s right to fully scrutinize governmental decisions allowing pollution discharges to our waterways,” said Alliance President Cameron Davis, who filed the petition for review of the permit.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is under fire from the public and lawmakers for issuing BP a permit to discharge nearly 1,500 pounds of ammonia and 5,000 pounds of suspended solids from treated sludge into Lake Michigan daily -- increases of 54 percent and 35 percent respectively. The permit also gives BP until 2012 to meet strict federal limits for discharging mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin.

The department’s failure to notify some or all stakeholders who submitted comments on the draft permit, including the Alliance and the LaPorte County Environmental Association, resulted in the public being shut out of the formal appeal process, according to the Alliance petition.

Sometime after the close of the public comment period, the agency posted the BP discharge permit on its website -- but didn’'t list an effective date or otherwise indicate that it was a final permit. The agency now says the 15-day period in which the public could appeal the permit – a period that starts as soon as interested parties receive notice of the permit – has already expired.

“Everyone who drinks Lake Michigan water should have the ability to challenge pollution permits, but the public never had much of a chance with the BP permit,” said Davis. “Indiana went from the close of the public comment period, to permit issuance in about a month; this is unheard of.”

The last time BP’s permit was re-issued was in 1990.

The petition seeks a stay of the BP discharge permit, and further asks the court to start the clock over with a new permit appeal time.

The petition is online at