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Michigan Environmental Council lays out policy agenda for 2017-2018

Jan 30, 2017
Testing all children for lead exposure, passing a statewide code for septic systems and becoming the first state east of the Mississippi River to open an Office of Outdoor Recreation are among the priorities in a new policy agenda unveiled Monday by the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC). 

Redirecting state government to better protect public health and the environment will be a major focus of MEC's work with the 99th Michigan Legislature, said Chris Kolb, the group's president. 

"Healthy communities, clean air and water and protected public lands are all essential to a strong economic future for Michigan," Kolb said. "MEC and our member groups across the state will work to ensure that policymakers don't make the mistake of putting short-term growth ahead of protecting public health and the unique natural assets that are our best long-term economic assets." 

The policy priorities for 2017-2018 were chosen in collaboration with MEC's nearly 70 member groups around the state. 

"This agenda not only will guide our own work over the next two years, but also provides policymakers with a sense of where we're coming from and where we want to go," Kolb said. "We hope legislators and state officials find ideas here that resonate with them, and that they'll reach out to us to work together toward solutions." 

The policy agenda -- available at http://bit.ly/MECpriorities -- includes the following priorities, among many others: 

  • Begin the process of decommissioning Enbridge's Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac and determine what steps should be taken to protect the Great Lakes from a devastating oil spill in the future. 
  • Revise Michigan's Lead and Copper Rule to make it the most stringent in the nation and most inclusive of the public, and make Michigan's drinking water program a national model for excellence. 
  • Develop a checklist to ensure environmental justice considerations are incorporated into government decision-making. 
  • Reduce runoff from factory farms, which is the chief contributor to algae blooms in Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay and other water bodies. 
  • Preserve and restore floodplains and wetlands that filter stormwater and replenish aquifers, rather than dumping nutrients into waterways. 
  • Grow the list of Michigan communities with commitments to use 100 percent renewable energy. Traverse City, Grand Rapids and Northport have made such pledges. 
  • Implement a new Environmental Quality Commission to oversee the work of the Department of Environmental Quality. 
  • Achieve a 50 percent recycling rate by 2025, making Michigan a national leader. 
  • Require universal lead testing for all children in Michigan, where today only 20 percent of kids are tested for lead exposure. 
  • Prevent nutrient loading from failing septic systems by adopting a statewide septic code and requiring septic-system testing when homes are sold. 
  • Become the first state east of the Mississippi River to establish a state Office of Outdoor Recreation to improve the quality of recreation experiences for all users. 
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