Lansing – Illinois recently enacted legislation to require water pollution dischargers to pay approximately $20 million annually in pollution discharge fees. That leaves Michigan as the only state on the Great Lakes issuing free permits to discharge toxic chemicals into the largest freshwater body in North America.
Legislation is pending in the House Government Operations Committee (SB 252) where interests representing water polluters are opposing the bill. No hearings are scheduled on the bill. Governor Granholm’s budget proposal included a $7.2 million water protection program paid entirely by polluters. The Senate version of SB 252 included only $3.5 million in fees (continuing taxpayer subsidies for polluters by including $2.0 million in general fund support in the budget).
A number of Michigan environmental and conservation groups are running advertisements in Macomb and Oakland counties urging residents to contact their lawmakers in support of funding the state’s water permitting program entirely through fees paid by water dischargers.
“This is yet another example of the Michigan legislature lagging behind our neighbors when it comes to protecting the Great Lakes,” said James Clift, Policy Director of the Michigan Environmental Council. “Michigan needs laws that reflect our commitment to protecting the lakes for the long term. Unfortunately, special interests seem to be dictating public policy to this legislature when it comes to protecting the Great Lakes.”
Even a Wall Street Journal editorial supported this type of fee legislation recently when they stated, “Those of us who believe in free markets understand that pollution is an ’externality’ that isn’t factored intro normal transaction costs; even Milton Friedman endorses effluent taxes.” (June 27, 2003)
“Most people are shocked when they learn that the state of Michigan not only allows the discharge of toxic chemicals into the Great Lakes, but provides to permits for free,” said Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director of Clean Water Action. “Fees would provide greater incentives to reduce pollution and eliminate the toxic discharges into our lakes and streams.”
For more information:
James Clift 517-487-9539
Anne Woiwode 517-484-2372
Cyndi Roper 517-490-1394 or 231-861-1934