On Wednesday morning, state Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and state Rep. Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor) joined environmental advocates to interrupt down the main points of a newly launched “polluter pay” package deal supposed to bolster the state’s environmental cleanup requirements.
The long-anticipated package deal of payments, launched within the Home as Home Payments 5241-5247 and the Senate as Senate Payments 605–611 would set stricter necessities for environmental cleanups, enhance transparency into cleanup websites, stop the creation of latest orphan websites and supply these impacted by air pollution with choices to hunt justice.
“Polluter pay has an extended historical past right here within the state of Michigan,” Irwin stated.
“We’re attempting to revive that historical past by bettering our political accountability legal guidelines holding firms accountable and ensuring that the well being and the gorgeous setting that we’ve right here in Michigan is one thing that residents can get pleasure from for generations and generations,” Irwin stated.
What the payments would do
Senate Invoice 605 and Home Invoice 5247 would give the Division of Surroundings, Nice Lakes and Vitality (EGLE) and the general public extra details about cleanups and polluted websites, together with posting details about the polluter’s response, remediation and postclosure plans alongside, evaluation reviews and proof of due care compliance.
Senate Invoice 606 and Home Invoice 5242 would require polluters to pay for land and water to be restored as a lot as technically possible, assembly essentially the most stringent normal achievable with present remediation strategies.
Senate Invoice 607 and Home Invoice 5245 would enable EGLE to set cleanup standards with out Administrative Procedures Act rulemaking.
Senate Invoice 608 and Home Invoice 5246 would require companies with giant quantities of probably polluting supplies to supply up-front monetary assurance to cowl the price of environmental cleanup.
Senate Invoice 609 and Home Invoice 5243 would empower the state to carry claims on behalf of the general public to cowl cleanup prices and harm to pure assets as a result of contaminants not recognized to be dangerous when the statute of limitations for contamination claims expired.
Senate Invoice 610 and Home Invoice 5241 will allow individuals uncovered to hazardous substances to carry claims to polluters to cowl the prices of medical monitoring for situations linked to publicity to the contaminants.
Senate Invoice 611 and Home Invoice 5244 would enable individuals harmed by air pollution to hunt justice by means of the courts by starting the timeframe for the statute of limitations when a spill is found.
Whereas Michigan beforehand had sturdy legal guidelines centered on polluter accountability, modifications to the regulation underneath GOP former Gov. John Engler in 1994 shifted the main focus to managing publicity to contaminants.
By introducing this package deal lawmakers want to give environmental regulators extra instruments to implement higher cleanups, Irwin stated.
Whereas present state regulation permits polluters to make use of institutional controls to limit entry to polluted assets, these insurance policies would prioritize cleanup of polluted websites, Irwin stated.
This package deal would additionally handle considerations with “secret cleanups.”
“Many individuals in Michigan don’t know that there’s a component of our regulation that permits a polluter to by no means inform the state concerning the air pollution that they’ve discovered and simply work on it on their very own,” Irwin stated.
“We have to finish these secret cleanups. The neighbors have a proper to know. EGLE has a proper to know. The individuals of Michigan have a proper to know,” Irwin stated.
Polluter pay payments intention to provide Michigan regulators extra authority, instruments for environmental cleanup
Based on EGLE there are between 24,000 and 26,000 contaminated websites recognized within the state.
By requiring companies with the potential to infect a website to supply monetary assurance to cowl cleanup, reasonably than putting taxpayers on the hook for deserted websites.
“We should always give EGLE the authority to determine sectors which might be prone to depart behind orphan websites and require them to have bonding or insurance coverage, some type of backstop in order that the taxpayers aren’t left holding the bag and in order that these neighbors have some assurance that that website might get cleaned up alongside the way in which,” Irwin stated.
The package deal additionally opens up extra authorized avenues to handle contamination and its impacts.
The payments would begin a brand new six-year clock for claims associated to beforehand unregulated contaminants corresponding to PFAS, and would begin the clock for the statute of limitations when a website is found, or when it ought to have been found, Morgan stated.
Presently, the statute of limitations begins on the date when the spill happens.
Michiganders who’re uncovered to excessive ranges of contaminants would additionally have the ability to sue the polluter for the prices of medical monitoring for situations tied to their publicity to pollution. The present regulation doesn’t present assets for individuals till after they’re recognized with a illness which is commonly too late, Morgan stated.
“These payments are about defending Michiganders and giving them the instruments to carry polluters accountable for the impacts that they trigger them and their households,” Morgan stated.
“If you’re answerable for inflicting air pollution, it’s best to need to pay to scrub it up. This laws makes it clear that fencing off land and shutting ingesting water wells will not be an alternative to eradicating as a lot air pollution as doable,” Morgan stated.
Throughout Wednesday’s press convention, members of the Nice Lakes PFAS Motion Community, West Michigan Environmental Motion Council and Nice Lakes Enterprise community shared help for the package deal.
Marshall Kilgore, director of engagement for the West Michigan Environmental Motion Council, stated the invoice could be helpful in combating environmental injustice.
Kilgore stated Southeast Grand Rapids residents proceed to grapple with the legacy subject of vapor intrusion, the place vapor forming chemical compounds can migrate into overlying buildings. In excessive instances these vapors can accumulate to ranges that produce near-term security hazards, or detrimental well being results.
“Probably the most harmful examples of vapor intrusion in Grand Rapids occurred within the coronary heart of the Madison Sq. neighborhood, after all, a predominantly Black neighborhood,” Kilgore stated.
Twenty people who labored within the space needed to pay out of pocket to take blood exams, with numerous them displaying ranges of cancer-causing chemical compounds of their blood that had been dramatically larger than allowable ranges, Kilgore stated.
Individuals who lived within the space had been displaced from their properties for weeks as a result of testing and remediation efforts, Kilgore stated.
“It’s ridiculous, ludicrous to require a taxpayer — a few of whom have been instantly affected, needed to pay for blood exams out of pocket, needed to relocate — to pay for this environmental injustice and clear up an issue they didn’t create,” Kilgore stated.
“We owe it to our fellow Michiganders, my neighbors, my family members, to carry polluters accountable. In doing so, we’ll defend the Nice Lakes, our superb forests, and at last, lastly in 2023 present our frontline communities, communities of colour, deprived communities that we care, and we’ll defend them and uplift environmental justice,” Kilgore stated.