Environment Picture

Bell ringers! Environmental successes won in recent weeks

Smoke-free (mostly)
A ban on smoking in bars and restaurants will take effect May 1 of this year after its approval by the Michigan Legislature and signature by Gov. Granholm at the end of 2009. Although the ban exempts cigar bars and casino gaming floors, it was supported by MEC and a coalition of health advocates who saw the compromise as necessary to gain enough votes for approval.

Humphries in charge
Becky Humphries was named by Gov. Granholm in January to lead the new Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment. Her appointment came after aggressive lobbying by MEC and other environmental and conservation groups who believe she is the most capable person to lead the agency. Humphries has earned kudos for accessibility, professionalism and resource management know-how.

Toxic phase out
The Michigan House of Representatives voted 94-6 to phase out the toxic flame retardant deca-BDE. The January vote followed the recommendations of the state’s leading medical, health and environmental organizations as well as fire fighters. Tireless work by MEC member group the Ecology Center helped ensure passage. The State Senate had not voted on the bill at press time.

The right track
Some $244 million in stimulus funding announced in January is an encouraging down payment on a high speed rail corridor in the lower Lake Michigan region. The improvements made to the 300-mile Pontiac-Detroit-Chicago rail corridor with the money will lay the groundwork for a 110 mph high speed rail line connecting destinations in Michigan, northern Indiana and northern Illinois.

Customers win
Electric customers of Consumers Energy will be returned $86 million in improperly collected surcharges after the Michigan Environmental Council waged a successful legal challenge. The money was collected to decommission an old nuclear plant, but used for the company’s general revenue. The state’s Public Service Commission agreed with MEC that the money should be returned.
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