Capital Catch-Up: May 8, 2023

Capital Catch-Up: May 8, 2023

New Aggregate Mining Bills Pose Threats to Environment

House Bills 4526, 4527, and 4528 – pro-aggregate industry bills – were introduced in the House last week.  The bills increase industry’s ability to mine aggregate material despite local government opposition, and would accelerate damage done by aggregate mining to the environment.  

Aggregate mining destroys farmland and local natural areas through the clearing of soil, trees, shrubs and other foliage from the land. The mining process may also release harmful sediments – including salts and other chemicals – into ground and surface water sources.  Additionally, aggregate mining causes excess noise and light, sends dust airborne, and the heavy truck traffic has negative impacts on local roads. The negative visual and acoustic aesthetics associated with this industrial activity has been proven to decrease property values. 

A more balanced approach would:

Recycling Aggregates would Increase Supply

House Bills 4526-4528 do not include any requirements, incentives, or regulations to recycle more existing aggregate material for new projects. The bills only consider more access to virgin material. Recycling aggregate material would increase the total supply of product, while reducing the amount of existing natural resources that would need to be harvested for aggregate production. 

Conserve More Land in Exchange for the Land Destroyed by Aggregate Mining

Aggregate mining destroys the soil and damages the natural environment. Michiganders cherish their greenspaces: parks, farmland, trails and greenways, etc. A stunning 84% of Michiganders supported Michigan’s efforts to preserve land and build outdoor recreational facilities on public land for the public to access some of Michigan’s great outdoors locally and across the state in Prop 1 of 2020.  Extractive industries – including aggregate interests – have contributed to that degradation over decades, and through industry taxes, a scale investment in land preservation, or through other means the state should include land preservation measures in this bill package. 

Improve Soil Conservation by Implementing an Environmental Protection Plan

House Bills 4526-4528 are the worst of both worlds: They create a big bureaucratic process, but they don’t actually deliver environmental protection. Michigan LCV recommends including a true environmental protection plan into the proposed legislation. This would include the creation of a soil conservation and restoration committee in EGLE, expansions of groundwater testing during the lifetime of an aggregate site, and by providing adequate financial assurance for site restoration, and regulations ensuring the conservation of topsoil.

Recycling and Liquid Death in the Office of Representative Mentzer

Rep. Denise Mentzer (D – Mount Clemens) is a scuba diver. While scuba diving in lakes and rivers, she often sees special aquatic plants, fish, and…. single-use beverage bottles.  

Michiganders have become more accustomed to seeing beverage containers in our rivers and lakes; Rep. Mentzer is tired of it.  The scuba diving prompted her to make the decision to not have plastic water bottles in her office. Instead, Rep. Mentzer offers guests a Liquid Death, an aluminum can, or Boxed Water, made of paper and aluminum, both of which are 100% recyclable. 

Michigan LCV's Nick Occhipinti, Ethan Petzold and Chris Semrinec posing with Rep. Mentzer while holding cans of Liquid Death.

Michigan LCV’s Nick Occhipinti, Rep. Denise Mentzer, Ethan Petzold, and Chris Semrinec loved Liquid Death water!

The EPA has estimated that in 2018, only 8.7% of all plastic was recycled, and littered plastic breaks down over time into microplastics that accumulate in the environment and the human body. They are nearly impossible to remove from the ecosystem and have found their way into the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat

The inside of a mini fridge stocked with cans of Liquid Death water.

Rep. Mentzer’s office fridge is stocked with recyclable beverages – namely, Liquid Death!

Recycling is a top priority for Rep. Mentzer. Over 75% of aluminum ever produced is still in use today. The Liquid Death water she offers to her guests is in an aluminum can, making the product almost infinitely recyclable. Rep. Mentzer explained this “takes the hidden cost out of disposable water bottles”. It’s why she said a policy priority of hers is to push the concept of extended producer responsibility (EPR) to assign producers the responsibility of minimizing the negative impacts during the life-cycle of their product. This would ensure that products like single-use water bottles are managed properly before, during and after their production. 

Michigan LCV In Action: Michigan LCV Attends 2023 Conservation Voters Movement Conference

Michigan LCV staff and board members were in Minneapolis, MN last week for the Conservation Voters Conference, a gathering that brought together LCV state affiliates from across the country and national LCV to learn from and network with each other. 

A group of Michigan LCV staff and board members posing for a photo in front of a river. The group is all dressed in business formal attire.

Team Michigan LCV in Minneapolis! From left to right: Brooke Harris, board member Marseille Allen, Nick Dodge, Lee Berry, Bentley Johnson, Lisa Wozniak, Ruby Summers, Victoria Stewart, and Shannon Rochon.

After several years not of not being able to hold the CVM conference in person due to COVID, MLCV’s time in Minneapolis last week provided an opportunity to celebrate and learn from each other’s successes, deepen our collective learning about racial justice and equity, and explore how we can develop healthy, effective, and welcoming organizations. 

Michigan LCV Executive Director Lisa Wozniak speaking in front of a projector screen while holding a microphone. She has blonde hair and is wearing a tan jacket.

Michigan LCV Executive Director Lisa Wozniak. 

Democracy For All Director Brooke Harris speaking into a microphone. She has dark curly hair, glasses and is wearing a blue patterned dress.

Democracy For All Director Brooke Harris. 

The Michigan LCV participated in a variety of interesting sessions, workshops, discussions, presentations, and networking events throughout the week, with several Michigan LCV teammates even leading some of the sessions. Executive Director Lisa Wozniak and Democracy For All Director Brooke Harris helped lead a panel discussion with peers from Wisconsin and Idaho entitled “Democracy Changes the World… and your Organization, too.” Michigan LCV Partnerships Director Shannon Rochon delivered an Ignite Talk (similar to a TedTalk) about Michigan LCV’s partnerships successes!

Partnerships Director Shannon Rochon speaking on stage.

Partnerships Director Shannon Rochon. 

Important Bill Introductions

Senate Bill 327

SB 327 would eliminate the use of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance), bisphenols, and phthalates in food packaging. 

House Bill 4494

HB 4494 would require manufacturers to put a warning label on disposable wipes with a “non-flushable” label and institute a fine of $2,000, $5,000, and $10,000 for repeat offenders.

Update From Washington

BLOG – As the EPA considers PFAS drinking water standards, the impacts of ‘forever chemicals’ become increasingly dire

A warning sign posted on a lakeshore beach that says ''Avoid Foam''

“We have known for some time now that exposure to PFAS chemicals has been linked with numerous health complications, including thyroid issues, various cancers, auto-immune disorders and more. We also know that the family of man-made ‘forever chemicals’ have been used in a number of industrial practices, and have been found in firefighting foam and household products, like non-stick cookware, waterproof shoes and flame retardants. Research continues to find more and more sources of PFAS chemicals in consumer products, posing more risks for our health. 

A recent study found PFAS chemicals in soft contact lenses revealing that 100% of 18 popular contact lens brands tested at an EPA-certified facility had ‘various levels of organic fluorine’ in them. Organic-flourine is an indicator of PFAS. Now, contact lenses join the list of PFAS-laden consumer products that already includes feminine hygiene products, yoga pants, and dental floss.”

Read the full article here.

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