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Re: E-M:/ Discharge Permit Backlog Eliminated
Enviro-Mich message from "William Tobler" <WilliamTobler@critterswoods.org>
A week ago, we were treated to a wonderful fictional story from Tom Rohrer.
In this story, we learned how the good guys up in Lansing were making great
inroads in enforcing the environmental regulations in Michigan. The
enormous sum $2,154,900 was collected in penalties, supposedly a happy
ending to the story. An even happier number was the Supplemental
Environmental Projects valued at $4,386,400.
Gee, I wasn't impressed then. The first question to ask is how many 100's
of millions of dollars were made by those companies as they violated the
law. How many of those companies deliberately violated the law in order to
make these ill gotten profits, at the expense of the environment and the
communities surrounding them. Why should they be afraid of a paltry fine.
It's just a cost of doing good business in Michigan, the polluter's state.
How many $100's of millions in true damages were suffered by these
communities while the MDEQ twiddled its thumbs with years of
Another question concerns the validity of the value of the Environmental
Projects. Recently I enjoyed reading a document where a piece of almost
valueless moonscape was proposed to be backfilled with waste clay, annointed
as a wetland, revalued at $50,000 per acre, and then given to the public
instead of paying a penalty. Gee thanks for the mosquitos.
In my local experience, the MDEQ's enforcement history is abysmal. No.
Worse than abysmal. As far as I'm concerned, MDEQ officials are just as
guilty as the violating companies, since MDEQ has knowingly allowed NPDES
violations to continue and expand indefinitely for years on end. Such is
the case with London Aggregates in Monroe County, who according to MDEQ
records was in violation of its permit almost from the first month i n 1993.
These were not minor accidental violations, but major reported and expanding
violations day after day, year after year. MDEQ has allowed new lakes to be
built without Inland Lakes and Streams Permits, and has allowed sandpits to
be constructed and drained a few feet from "protected" wetlands.
In today's posting on Enviro-Mich, we see the sequel to Tom's story. Sorry
Tom, but Fred Cowles' story is even more amazing. Fred relates how the
Surface Waters of Michigan have been saved by John Engler's leadership in
environmental protection and efficient government. The backlog of NPDES
permits has been resolved, and strong environmental protection is paying
off. Or so goes this fable. The problem is that these new NPDES permits
provide little or no protection, since many or most of the permit limits
have been eliminated. Such is the case with the permit recently granted the
Ottawa Lake quarry, a sister quarry owned by the same company as London
Aggregates. Despite years of permit violations, the discharge limitation
was raised from 96,000 gallons per day to 8 million peak, even though the
downstream communities already have flooding problems, and many residents
complain of well water problems. The flooding will only become much worse
once the noxious and stinking weeds associated with quarry discharges gain a
foothold. Worse, the well established environmental standard for total
dissolved solids was waived by the MDEQ, which declared the huge, dirty
discharge to be natural and uncontrollable. They did this by redefining the
concept of "mixing zone" to include as many miles of downstream tributaries
required to obtain the necessary dilution to meet the traditional pollution
standards before John Engler. So, this surface water was not "saved" by the
MDEQ, but willingly and knowingly destroyed by its deliberate actions. The
only thing "efficient" about these new permits is that there will be no need
to enforce them, since they can't be violated.
I am constantly amazed by today's Republicans, and I once was one. They
speak constantly of character and responsibility for one's actions. From
George W. Bush to John Engler to Russ Harding and apparently to Fred Cowles,
their record of integrity, character and responsibility is appalling. I
hope that the voters remember that these Republicans are not only
anti-environment, but also anti-people - meaning those who must live amongst
that which was destroyed.
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