[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]

E-M:/ LIVESTOCK FACTORY POLLUTION SECRECY BILL IN HOUSE COMMITTEE NEXT THURSDAY



-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Enviro-Mich message from "Anne Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org>
-------------------------------------------------------------------------


On Thursday at 8 a.m. the House Agriculture and Resource Management
Committee will be holding a hearing on HB 5013, which contains a provision
that might as well be called the Livestock Factory Pollution Secrecy Bill.
It appears at first blush the provision might also prevent access to
information about pesticide usage or other agricultural practices that might
adversely influence neighbors but which are created under or supposedly
comply with guidelines or rules for "practices" and "plans" that are created
by the Michigan Dept.of Agriculture, the Agriculture Commission, or even by
the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service.

One of the most important tools in shining a light on the growing pollution
problems caused by animal factories in Michigan has been the Freedom of
Information Act.  A provision of HB 5013, introduced by Rep. Gene DeRossett
of Manchester at the request of Michigan Dept. of Agriculture, would
virtually wipe out any access by the public to the critical information
needed to determine if someone is in fact violating environmental law in
their operation.

Sierra Club's lawsuits and the successful exposure by the Michigan Land Use
Institute and many local groups of pollution from many other animal
factories around the state have all been largely dependent on access to
files in state agencies about the pollution from these facilities. Now, the
MDA wants to make ALL of that information secret and exempt it from release
through the FOIA, which would mean exposure of these problems would come to
an end.

(NOTE: HB 5013 is primarily about conservation easements in agricultural
lands, and while there are some concerns with the parts of the bill that
deal with conservation easements, I won't be talking about those here.
Michigan Environmental Council and other organizations are taking a close
look at the bill regarding those issues, and more info can be obtained from
them.)

WHAT THE HB 5013 SAYS:

Here is the language that matters in HB 5013 (section numbers may change, so
pay attention to the content of the section as well as its current number).
HB 5013, it should be noted, is an amendment to NREPA, NOT to an
agricultural statute:

"Section 8206. Any information provided by a person in connection with the
development, implementation, or verification of a conservation plan or
conservation practices under this part is confidential, is exempt from
disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, 1976 PA 442, MCL 15.231 to
15.246, and is not open to public inspection without the person's consent.
Any such information that is released to a legislative body shall not
contain information that identifies a specific person."

Definitions in the bill that are critical to understanding its sweeping
scope are these:

Section 8201(b) "Conservation Plan" means a plan approved by the Department
(of Agriculture) for all or a portion of a parcel of land that specifies the
conservation practices to be undertaken and includes a schedule for
implementation.

Section 8201(c)"Conservation Practices" means practices that protect and
conserve water quality, soil, natural features, wildlife, or other natural
resources and that meet 1 or more of the following:
(i) the practices comply with United States Natural Resources Conservation
Services standards and specfications as approved by the department.
(ii) the practices are provided in rules promulgated by the department under
this part.
(iii) the practices have been approved by the Commission of Agriculture.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PROVISIONS:

Exempting "Any information provided by a person in connection with the
development, implementation, or verification of a conservation plan or
conservation practices under this part" from disclosure means that even
VERIFIED VIOLATIONS OF GENERALLY ACCEPTED AGRICULTURAL MANAGEMENT PRACTICES
(which while voluntary are the ONLY tools the state currently uses for
proactively addressing agricultural pollution) and other problems caused by
an agricultural operation with a Conservation Plan of some sort would NOT be
available for review by anyone without approval of whomever provided that
information, INCLUDING STATE STAFF PEOPLE.

The definition of Conservation Practices is so sweeping as to wrap in every
type of rule or guideline currently used in the voluntary system the state
subscribes to, including GAAMPS, MAEAP guidelines, etc.  Also, since the
preemption of access is for specific types of information, NOT a specific
department, it seems clear that information in any department's files that
fall under these definitions would be withheld.  So DEQ files that relate to
GAAMPS verification or other compliance may well be exempted.

Those who are victims of virtually unabated pollution from animal factories
know how important it is to be able to find out what is going on at animal
factories in their area, and how critical that has been for getting any
action to begin to clean them up. The MDA and DEQ have far too often been
shown to fail to act on compelling information about pollution from
livestock factories, and it is only the public exposure or use of that
information in litigation that has begun to force the agencies to move. I am
convinced that without FOIA access to these critical files in the DEQ and
MDA we would be no closer to seeing the horrible problems these facilities
cause addressed, and in fact might be in much worse shape.  It is not even
clear to me that the USEPA would have been able to get access to files.
Already, the state is by fiat extending the realm of what it considers off
limits to FOIA, as Sierra Club is discovering, and it appears this might
well seek to codify that de facto expansion.

DON'T LET THE MI DEPT OF AG TAKE AWAY RURAL NEIGHBORS RIGHT TO KNOW WHAT
POLLUTION IS CONTAMINATING THEIR HOMES AND FARMS!!

The sweeping provisions of the Livestock Factory Pollution Secrecy Bill
should send shivers up the spines of anyone who drinks water, swims or
fishes in Michigan, as Michigan's fast growing population of livestock
factories dramatically increases the threat of contaminants from animal
urine and feces (including deadly pathogens) entering surface waters grows
dramatically.  The Engler Administration has adopted a course that seems
guaranteed to cause a public health disaster sometime in the future as a
result of failure to regulate the wastes from these facilities -- now MDA
want the public to be shut out of even understanding just how great that
threat is.

PLEASE URGE MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE AND RESOURCE
MANAGEMENT TO STRIP OUT ANY ATTEMPT TO ABRIDGE THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
ACT -- URGE THEM TO PROTECT RURAL NEIGHBORS' RIGHT TO KNOW -- STOP THE
LIVESTOCK FACTORY POLLUTION SECRECY PROVISIONS OF HB 5013 NOW!!

THE HOUSE AGRICULTURE AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE MEMBERS, with
district, home address, and office phone numbers.  For more info or contact
options, go to http://www.house.state.mi.us/agriculture.html which will give
the list with email links.

Committee Members

Representative Gene DeRossett (R), Committee Chair, 55th
District,Manchester, 800-645-1581
Representative Larry Julian (R), Majority Vice Chair, 85th District, Lennon,
877-558-5426
Representative Stephen Ehardt (R), 83rd District, Lexington, 517-373-0835
Representative Judson Gilbert II (R), 82nd District, Algonac, 877 GILBERT
Representative Tom Meyer (R), 84th District, Bad Axe, 517-373-0476
Representative Gerald Van Woerkom (R), 91st District, Muskegon, 877-633-0331
Representative Steve Vear (R), 58th District, Branch & Hillsdale Cties,
517-373-1794
Representative Dale Sheltrown (D), Minority Vice-Chair, 103rd District,
Gladwin, 888-347-8103
Representative Rose Bogardus (D), 47th District, Davison, 800-781-0047
Representative John Hansen (D), 52nd District, Dexter, 888-326-JOHN
Representative Doug Spade (D), 57th District, Adrian, 517-373-1706

PLEASE ACT QUICKLY!!

<<-->><<-->><<-->><<-->><<-->><<-->><<-->>
Anne Woiwode, Staff Director
Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter
109 East Grand River Avenue
Lansing, Michigan 48906
517-484-2372; fax 517-484-3108
anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org



==============================================================
ENVIRO-MICH:  Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
and Conservation Issues and Michigan-based Citizen Action.   Archives at
http://www.great-lakes.net/lists/enviro-mich/

Postings to:  enviro-mich@great-lakes.net      For info, send email to
majordomo@great-lakes.net  with a one-line message body of  "info enviro-mich"
==============================================================