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E-M:/ Column supporting Harding

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

In today's Lansing State Journal there is a response Point of View to Rick
John's column last week.  Bob Wilson, who works for the State Senate
Republicans, wrote the piece.


I have a great deal of respect for Bob and believe he is absolutely sincere
in his comments, but disagree vehemently with his assessment of Harding, and
the whole Engler legacy. His points focus on and give kudos to Harding for
the Clean Corporate Citizen and the Environmental Council of the States
(ECOS), the national organization of state env. agency directors that Sierra
Club and other groups have found to be at the heart of efforts to weaken
state environmental laws and enforcement nationwide.  Bob contends that the
work that Harding did in fact advanced the cause of environmental
protection.  While most of Harding's supporters seem to suggest that
weakening environmental protection is good for Michigan, Bob argues that in
fact this direction is better for the environment.

This raises for me quite an interesting question -- are there two realities
that exist in a place like Lansing, or even more than two?  Mr. Harding's
job depended on his boss and the powers in Lansing liking what he was doing.
When you line up detailed assessments of the Harding/Engler era contained in
a variety of places (see MEC's reports Dereliction of Duty at
www.mecprotects.org and Dave Dempsey's article in the City Pulse in Lansing
http://www.city-pulse.org/021218/021218cover.html and most recently the
whole debacle of Dow-gate) and compare them to the sweeping warm and fuzzies
that have emanated from both the Gov and Legislature, you have to wonder
what is at work here. It is impossible to conclude that these facts, or even
these opinions, were given credence in the rarified air of the capitol.  But
why?  Did they not hear the truth, or did they not wish to listen?  At a
moment when the three TIME Magazine people of the year are whistle-blowers,
this question may fit right in with the key questions of our times, most
notably what has gone wrong in our nation?

Here are my thoughts.  First, as ideologues, those who have run the state
for quite some time now have focused more on assuring that a program met
their philosophical criteria than that it produced an actual, verifiable
outcome.  The lack of legislative oversight of the on the ground
implementation of the programs they rubber stamped and sent funds to (or
removed funds from) may mean that the truth seldom leaked through.  For
example, as far as we know, no lower level DEQ staff were ever given
immunity to come in and speak about their concerns and experiences. The
rather open silencing of DEQ staff should have sent up red flags for any
legislators -- if you are doing the job you are supposed to do, then
sunshine never hurts.

Think of it -- if the information you receive is never objective and you
take little time to verify it, you decide to assess the accuracy or truth
based on who brings you the information.  Lobbyists, agency heads, and
others with agendas that are hard to miss unless you choose to, are given
all power to shape the debate.  As I was told 20 years ago by some enviros
who have since moved on, in the legislature far too often the truth doesn't
matter.  It CAN matter, however, if those in positions of authority decide
to make it matter.

So we moved into an era of "Trust Me" -- some trusted Harding and Engler,
for whatever reasons, and chose not to look behind the curtain.  Many have
called recent times the "Information Age" -- whether or not this name
applies, in fact it is very clear that we at some point entered the
"Disinformation Age".  The veil is lifting on corporations and the get rich
quick schemes that have led our nation down an economic disaster course.
Perhaps, with the exit of the Engler/Harding forces in just three days,
there is a chance that the truth of the last 7 years could be brought out as

Anne Woiwode

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
visit the Mackinac Chapter on the web at http://michigan.sierraclub.org

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