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Environmental Protection = Human Protection

By Nan Melke - Posted on 04 March 2016

by Jack Minore
There has been a significant focus in recent weeks about the "poisoning" of Flint residents through lead corrosion in the drinking water  We don't know with complete certainty what or who may be responsible for the problem - but one thing is certain:  both the Michigan the Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency failed in their mission to enforce the environmental protections the law provides.  

BUT - that is only one issue in recent times.  There is a poisonous plume in the ground water that is approaching the Huron River near Ann Arbor and that may already have poisoned wells in the area.  We are still recovering from the Enbridge oil spill that damaged the environment around and the water in the Kalamazoo River.   There is the looming threat of Enbridge's 63 year old Pipeline No. 5 beneath the Mackinac Straits bursting its seams and poisoning four of the five Great Lakes, the primary fresh water supply for millions of people.  In all of these cases, the cost of correction far exceeds the cost of simple preventative measures that could have been taken.  And, of course, the human costs may well be very long term and, in some cases, permanent.

Part of the problem lies in the recent pressure to cut taxes, environmental regulations and create smaller government.   It doesn't work!

With the tax cuts in recent years in Michigan alone, many of the regulations - and the jobs of the regulators - have been cut. Some of the cuts seem invisible, and inconsequential.  The cuts are often "invisible" until a crisis follows.   Let's look at the cuts in the inspectors at your local gas stations.  For years, gas pumps were examined for accuracy on a regular and unpredictable schedule.  Now, the number of inspectors has been cut drastically and pump inspections are much less frequent.  OH LOOK - now the "skimmer" items are placed with regularity on the pumps that all of us use on a weekly basis. As a result, we may be paying for a gallon of gas - but only getting 8 or 9 tenths of a gallon - and while that's not a huge loss for any one driver - the skimmer may be getting rich off the shortages.  


Justice Caucus Board Member Jack Minore is a retired teacher, a former municipal office holder and legislator.  In the interest of full disclosure, he is also a Board Member of his local Sierra Club group.