Environment Picture

President's Column: Looking ahead in 2013

When it came to environmental issues, 2012 ended on a positive note. We will work to continue that trend in 2013.

In November, the governor presented his special message to the legislature on energy and the environment. While short on details, its outline offers opportunities to move Michigan forward on many of our key issues. Then in December, the governor signed legislation creating a regional transit authority (RTA) for Southeast Michigan—a key development toward bringing transit to the nation’s largest metropolitan area without a reliable system.

It only took 40 years and 24 legislative efforts to accomplish the creation of an RTA, but we did it!

This coming year looks just as busy and productive. We see the governor’s message as a jumping off point to help bring back a true conservation ethic to Michigan policy making. Our focus in 2013 will be on energy, water, public lands, transportation and urban revitalization.

After the defeat of Proposal 3’s clean energy ballot initiative, it was heartening to hear the governor say that our current renewable energy standard of 10% by 2015 is not an endpoint. It was also encouraging to hear that he wants Michigan to forge ahead with a greater emphasis on energy efficiency. Numerous conversations will be held in 2013, and MEC will be at the table pressing for a stronger, sustainable clean energy future.

The governor said he wants to use his bully pulpit to champion the Great Lakes, calling for a summit of the Great Lakes governors and premiers. As the only state entirely in the Great Lakes basin, MEC believes we have a special obligation to champion the health of these magnificent natural resources. It will be important to have a potential partner in the Romney Building to address the multitude of issues facing the Great Lakes.

The reconstitution of the Water Use Advisory Board—announced in November by the governor—is something MEC has been advocating for over the last several years. That board played important roles in the implementation of Michigan’s water use statutes and the award-winning water withdrawal assessment tool. MEC will once again be represented on this board. Whether it is protecting the lakes from invasive species, dealing with nutrient loading, or water use conflicts, no other environmental issue unites our state more than protecting our Great Lakes and waterways.

Likewise, the state’s new requirement to develop a strategic plan for our public lands will create both challenge and opportunity. We must highlight the need to protect special places that provide unique habitats, and balance that need with the desire by some to increase timber sales and the extraction of minerals and fossil fuels from state-owned lands. The governor has promised to use an ecosystem approach, utilizing science and data, in the development of a strategic plan for our public lands; we intend to hold him to that.

Forests are more than timber sales. They provide outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities and habitat for a wide diversity of flora and fauna. They also purify our air, filter our water, and help reduce flooding, among numerous other benefits. MEC will champion a strategic plan that recognizes the diverse uses of our public lands and the careful stewardship that is required to manage them.

In the wake of the passage of the RTA, transportation funding will take center stage in the legislature. MEC will work with our Transportation for Michigan partners to ensure that the focus is on more than just maintaining our current roads and bridges. Increasing funding for public transportation and providing alternatives is more important than ever if we are going to build a truly interconnected, multi-modal transportation network that provides access to jobs, housing, education, shopping, entertainment and opportunity.

Urban revitalization also is on our plate. We’ll work to build stronger, healthier communities; help to launch the new RTA for Southeast Michigan; reduce lead exposure and incidents of asthma; provide greater access in our urban communities to the outdoors and fresh food; and develop a greater a sense of place through the creative re-use of existing buildings, infrastructure and public spaces. We want to build—and in some cases rebuild—communities in which our children and grandchildren will want to live, work and play.

That is our agenda for 2013. I hope that you will join us in helping to protect the “pure” in Pure Michigan.
-Chris Kolb
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