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Whose License Plate Is it?  The DEQ and DNR will continue to spar over 
a potential $1-$2 million source of funding until the Legislature 
returns in November.   Talks are underway to promote peace between the 
sister organizations. 

Last December, at the request of MEC and other citizen organizations, 
the State House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill to 
establish a natural heritage license plate, with revenues to be spent 
on the DNRŐs heritage program (nongame wildlife and plant education, 
scientific inventory, and natural areas protection).  Scheduled to be 
considered in the Senate last February, HB 5426 was tabled for unknown 
reasons.

Now it turns out that one reason was the wish of DEQ to take the money 
for its own needs.  A substitute bill emerged this Tuesday and was 
approved by the Senate Transportation and Tourism Committee the next 
day on a 3-1 vote.  This bill earmarks the revenues from the license 
plate for a new DEQ Watershed Protection Fund.  Although MEC supports 
the purpose of this Fund (pollution prevention, groundwater and 
wellhead protection, and watershed management plans), we oppose putting 
all the revenues in the DEQ program.  Testifying against the bill 
September 25 were the Sierra Club, Michigan Natural Areas Council, the 
Nature Conservancy and MUCC.  Some committee members did not understand 
that the change in the bill would move money from DNR to DEQ.

Sen. Leon Stille, who voted against the bill in committee, has 
tentatively agreed to offer an amendment to divide the license plate 
revenues between DNR and DEQ.  MEC has urges all members to ask 
Senators to support this amendment.

ItŐs going to be an uphill battle.  The Engler Administration is 
pressuring legislators to steer the money to DEQ, saying the DNR 
already benefits from the nongame wildlife checkoff for its natural 
heritage program.  MEC has information available for any member group 
that wants to know why money is needed for the natural heritage program 
and how it would be spent.  Unfortunately, the DNR has now been muzzled 
on the bill and cannot speak up for itself.

Clean Water Action Details Garbage Industry PAC Money:  Cyndi Roper of 
Clean Water Action has performed an invaluable service, counting up the 
$150,000 of political contributions the garbage industry has given to 
state politicians and party caucuses in the last two years.  The chairs 
of the Senate and House conservation committees and the ranking 
Democrat on the House committee were by far the biggest beneficiaries.  
Not surprisingly, the garbage industry is pushing a bill through the 
two committees that would make it easier to expand and site landfills 
even though Michigan already has 22 years landfill capacity by DEQ 
estimates.  For a copy of the PAC study, call 337-4447.