Today Detroit News reporter Jim Lynch highlighted the issue that Michigan's toxic cleanup program is completely out of cash. Don't act surprised. This is a story that has seemed to surface about once a year for the past few years and yet nothing has been done about it by lawmakers.
Funding to cleanup toxic sites have been through two voter approved bond issues, one in 1988 and the other in 1998. The program brought $1.3 billion to fund the program. That money will be gone this year. We have our lawmakers to thank for that. In 2008 the MDEQ tried and ultimately failed to persuade lawmakers to put a new bond on the 2008 ballot. This came amidst stories in the press about the MDEQ not having enough money to inspect all of Michigan's toxic sites and them basically warning that this crises was coming. Now, the question is whether lawmakers will have the guts to put the bond proposal on the November 2010 ballot.
Before we dive into a debate about how fiscally irresponsible it is to protect our natural resources, consider that a 2007 expose in the Kalamazoo Gazette in 2007 found that Michigan was dead last in natural resource spending compared to any other state, only spending 0.4 percent of the state's $8 billion budget to protect the environment.
While we're at it let's remember that when companies come in that put the environment at risk such as sulfide mining, or new coal plants, we have to remember that while it does produce economic benefit in the short-term, in the long-term the financial burden of cleanup ends up being the taxpayers problem. Environmental issues are often seen as a very progressive idealistic issue, but they are also a conservative issue. When dirty companies go out of business the tax burden always goes to the taxpayers. Now we are dealing with a full fledged expensive crises that compromises the health of thousands of Michiganders.
Here is another story from the 2007 Kalamazoo expose by Alex Nixon:
Toxic sites threaten valuable Great Lakes resource
Michigan Messenger story: There’s still no funding plan for cleanup at thousands of toxic sites