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E-M:/ children, drinking water, pollution prevention win in legislative action

Enviro-Mich message from Dave Dempsey <davemec@voyager.net>

Wednesday, July 15, 1998		For more information:  Lana Pollack,
					Dave Dempsey, 517-487-9539


	The public outcry for more protective policies prodded the Legislature
into its first significant environmental accomplishments in years, the
Michigan Environmental Council said today.

	On top of steps earlier this year, legislative actions in late June and
early July will lead to a safer environment for children, address critical
needs in the protection of the state's water resources, and back the
state's pollution prevention rhetoric with substance for the first time,
said MEC President Lana Pollack.

	"For most of the 1990s Michigan's elected leaders have been rolling back
hard-fought environmental protections," said Pollack.  "They've ignored the
clear interest of Michigan's citizens in a healthier environment that
protects our children, public health, and their pocketbooks.  Now we've
seen the first evidence that our lawmakers are aware of the public's demand
for clean air and water."

	The key measures approved by the Legislature were the $675 million
environmental bond program that will be placed before voters in November
and approval of the 1998-99 DEQ budget.  Earlier this spring, the
Legislature also approved a landmark law to protect children from
environmental lead poisoning.  

	Here are the key initiatives approved by the Legislature:

*	Children's protection: The environmental bond program, if approved by
voters, would allocate $5 million to abate lead hazards in homes and other
places frequented by children.  Initiated in the House by Rep. Lynne
Martinez, this is the state's first significant funding commitment to lead
abatement.  All recent lead abatement funding in Michigan has been provided
by federal grants.

The 1999 DEQ budget requires the state to review the adequacy of current
environmental standards to protect children from pollution.  Most federal
and state air, water and waste laws target pollution standards at
protection of adults.  Mounting scientific evidence suggests that because
of their development, disproportionate intake of air, drinking water, and
food, and their behavior patterns, children are at risk of health impacts
at pollution levels permitted by current laws.  This provision was crafted
by Rep. Paul Tesanovich, chair of the House DEQ Appropriations Subcommittee.

*	Water resource protection:   Perhaps the biggest step forward for
Michigan's environment was the addition of $90 million to the environmental
bond legislation.  The money was sought by Michigan environmentalists for
water quality monitoring and for programs to clean up failing septic tanks
and stormwater runoff, both causes of trouble for Lake St. Clair and other
waters around the state.  Rep. William Callahan and Sen. Ken DeBeaussaert
insisted on the water funding in the bond.  Rep. Tom Alley worked to assure
the funding was in the final package and authored an amendment allowing
some of the funding to be used to protect wellhead areas that serve as
drinking water sources.

Seeking to protect water quantity, the DEQ budget bill requires the agency
to develop a long-range strategy to combat Great Lakes water diversions.
Authored by Sen. Alma Wheeler Smith, this amendment also mandates the
agency to hold a public hearing before deciding on any diversion requests.
Earlier this year, Governor Engler approved the Akron, Ohio diversion
without a public meeting or comment opportunity.

*	Pollution prevention:  The DEQ budget contains $150,000 for a new
community right to know program that will enable citizens to determine the
compliance of local businesses and municipalities with environmental laws
and to track pollution discharges into local air and waters.

The DEQ budget also contains $300,000 for a new program to link higher
education institutions with Michigan businesses to identify pollution
prevention opportunities at plant sites.  It was developed by Sen. Alma
Wheeler Smith.

The proposed bond program contains $20 million in funding for new pollution
prevention programs as a result of a House floor amendment sponsored by
Rep. David Anthony.  The legislation earmarks $5 million for a new
low-interest loan program for small businesses to implement pollution
prevention measures such as switching to non-toxic materials or recapturing
materials for reuse before they are released from plants into the
environment.   Sen. Alma Wheeler Smith drafted the amendment to H.B. 4849
which establishes the loan program.  Another $10 million from the bond will
capitalize an endowment fund to pay for free pollution prevention audits
for business.

"MEC insisted all along that taxpayers should not be asked to pay to clean
up pollution messes of the past unless they could be assured that the state
was doing its best to stop new contamination from occurring," said Pollack.
 "This change to the Governor's original bond proposal will avoid costly
new spills and in the process protect both public health and the pocketbook
of Michigan taxpayers."

Dave Dempsey
Policy Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI 48912

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