Saturday, September 29, 2007

Funding Cuts to the DNR and the DEQ Threaten The Great Lakes and Your Health

Michigan's state conservation agencies, the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality, are vastly and disproportionately under-funded, according to a new report released today by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. The report analyzes the state's fiscal budget over the last 25 years and finds that the Department of Natural Resource (DNR) and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have suffered major cuts in critical funding. As a result, Michigan's Great Lakes, state lands,and wildlife are in peril.

The report is authored by Dave Dempsey, environmental policy aide, author, and
Michigan LCV Education Fund consultant. Tom Clay, Director of State Affairs Emeritus
with the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, assisted in the collection and analysis of the financial and employment data.

Key findings in the report outline that over the last decade these two state agencies have suffered more than their fair share of budget cuts, resulting in major losses of funding, causing the closing of campgrounds, and failures to clean up toxic contamination.

"As just one example of the importance of these departments to Michigan's future:
currently the DEQ is working to drastically reduce mercury emissions that pollute our Great Lakes and threaten our way of life and children’s health - a crucial milestone in Michigan's history. Without the proper DEQ funds and staff, programs such as thesewould be threatened and Michigan's Great Lakes could become an open dumping groundfor polluters.” said Kim Pargoff, Energy Advocate with Environment Michigan.

Howard Tanner, former Director of the DNR expressed his concern over the report's
conclusions. “Michigan was once a leader on conservation and environmental protection of our vast natural resources. Somehow that trend has been reversed and our leadership in conservation has been tarnished. It is up to our leaders in Lansing to work together to return to our once proud legacy of environmental stewardship by properly funding the DNR and DEQ."

Some of the major findings of the report include:
• Conservation Funding Slashed: Since 2001, The DNR and DEQ departments have suffered a 62 percent decline in funding. This decline is not at all proportionate to overall declines in statewide funds: for the same period, total general fund spending dropped only 6 percent.
• DNR and DEQ unfairly targeted: No other state department has lost as much proportional support as DNR and DEQ.
• Family vacationers bear consequences of budget cuts: Cuts in this year’s
appropriation caused the agency to close 20 of its 138 state forest campgrounds
early this summer.
• Communities abandoned: By next year, there will be no more funding for the
state's contaminated site cleanup program. Without this program, thousands of
toxic sites around the country will be left as is, posing serious public health and
environmental risks.

In Saginaw, increased budget cuts to the DEQ would have consequences for local

"The most pervasive toxic contamination in the state threatens Lake Huron. The DEQ has worked five years to bring the responsible party, Dow Chemical Company, to a point where some dioxins and other toxics are being removed. What happens if the
DEQ's budget is cut again? What happens to our rivers, our lakes, our drinking water, our fisheries, if our first line of defense is hamstrung by budget cuts," said Lone Tree Council Chairperson Terry Miller. "And the DEQ's Saginaw Bay Coastal Initiative, an effort to deal with the shoreline muck, invasive species, and sewer overflows -- do we just tell people to hold their noses and hope?"

Given these major funding cuts, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education
Fund along with dozens of environmental and conservation organizations are calling on the State Legislature and Governor Granholm to invest in Michigan's future and place Michigan's air, land, and water as a top priority for the prosperity of our state by providing the critical funding necessary to fully fund the DNR and DEQ.

For more info contact: Brian Beauchamp 734-222-9650, Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund
Hugh McDiarmid, Jr. 517-487-9539, Michigan Environmental Council

Here's the link to the report: Losing a Legacy: Why Michigan’s Magnificent Places are at Risk

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Knu: what it means to be sustainable

I'm proud to say that over here at Industrial Woodworking/Knu LLC in Zeeland, Michigan we have just completed our first video project to inform consumers about our efforts toward becoming a fully sustainable furniture manufacturing company.

Industrial Woodworking Corp/Knu LLC has joined the Sustainable Furniture Council, a non-profit industry organization working to promote environmental ethics within the furniture industry. Brad Davis - our CEO - and I now sit on the education committee of the SFC, and we are working hard to instruct retailers and consumers about sustainability. As we move toward using Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood products whenever possible, we will have a dramatic effect on the future of forests here in the US and abroad.

Industrial Woodworking Corporation, along with its subsidiary Knu, is now, I believe, the only fully carbon neutral furniture manufacturing company in West Michigan. We are purchasing renewable energy credits through our partner, and have offset all of our electricity, natural gas, vehicle use and air travel. We are also partnering with the National Arbor Day Foundation to plant a tree for every piece of furniture Knu sells in a national forest here in the U.S. As you watch this short video, you'll learn about some of the other steps we've taken to move forward toward a more ecologically sound future for this region and it's economy.

As Brad has stated repeatedly, if we lead and are successful, others will have to follow. The future of West Michigan industry is green.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Other BP Permits Slipping Under the Radar Screen

This week in the Great Lakes Town Hall – Carolyn A. Marsh

This week, the Great Lakes Town Hall is presenting Carolyn A. Marsh of Whiting, Indiana. A devoted birdwatcher, Carolyn played a pivotal role in blocking the construction of what would have been the nation's largest marina in a migratory hot spot in Hammond, IN. Carolyn is currently putting pressure on BP Amoco to increase public participation in their expansion plans in Indiana. Despite BP's promise to not invoke their controversial refinery wastewater permit, it looks like the fight isn't over yet:
"Local environmental watchdogs and national refinery experts have exposed a series of actions by BP officials and Indiana agencies to "piece-meal" the massive expansion of the Whiting refinery and mislead the public about the extent of the combined pollution to theregion's air and water. While protest has erupted over plans to increase dumping of wastewater to Lake Michigan as a result of the refinery's processing of heavily contaminated "tar sands oil", until now the public has been uninformed about BP's plans to build two more giant plants in the same area under separate permits."
Don't miss your chance to read and respond to Ms. Marsh's perspectives every day this week.

It's important to note that BP is not the only refinery expanding in the Great Lakes region. Marathon is planning and seeking approval for a major expansion in the Detroit area to also process Canadian "tar sands oil." This issue is not going to go away anytime soon, and it up to eco-freaks throughout the Midwest to get informed about this issue and it's ramifications for the Lakes. This is just the beginning of this fight.

The Detroit News published an editorial today in support of the Marathon expansion. If you know anything about the News, you know they have a right-wing conservative bias and they oppose any environmental group's activities. It is my opinion that the Detroit News would be better used as toilet paper than as a news source. Unfortunately they probably use some kind of toxic ink that won't flush well.

Thanks go to the Biodiversity Project in Madison, WI for the info on the Great Lakes Town Hall.