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



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Enviro-Mich message from Sue Julian <sjulian@provide.net>
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HB 5013 is really disturbing legislation.  Basically it is a bill enabling the
Department of Agriculture to receive and administer the anticipated $$$$$$$ from
the federal government for the CREP (Conservation Reserve and Enhancement
Program).  Putting aside the question of paying landowners for set-aside buffer
strips and the like (actions that they should be doing anyway to protect water
quality), the central disturbing question is this: Why is the administration using
this opportunity to amend NREPA employing general language that refers to
"conservation easements" and putting the Department of Agriculture alone in
charge?  Are DNR and DEQ now totally defunct?--Sue Julian

Anne Woiwode wrote:

> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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
>
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