Bill holds corporate polluters accountable, saves taxpayers money

Whether it be the “green ooze” that trickled onto a highway from a shuttered Madison Heights business in 2020 or PFAS currently seeping into west Michigan wells, a new bill ensures those causing pollution catastrophes pay for the health threats they create.

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, Michigan House Democratic House Floor Leader Yousef Rabhi introduced House Bill 4314, which requires private companies to pay to clean up pollution they create. Current law only requires companies to contain and limit exposure of these pollutants. The financial burden of cleanup falls on residents, who pay through taxes.

Leader Rabhi has introduced similar bills his previous two terms. This one has more than double the outright support of last session’s, with 49 cosponsors -- over 45% of the House’s outright support.

“Right now, Michigan taxpayers are on the hook to pay for messes corporate polluters make,” said Sean Hammond, policy director at Michigan Environmental Council. “Not only do we not have the money to clean up these sites, Michigan does not have the capacity to determine how many sites there are and how dangerous each is. Leader Rabhi’s bill puts the responsibility where it belongs, makes nearby neighborhoods healthier and gives residents the justice they deserve. It forces actual cleanups, not half-measures that still allows for contaminants to remain in the ground and spread, impacting drinking water and vaporizing into basements.”

Polluter pay laws existed in Michigan until former Gov. John Engler repealed them in 1996. The original laws were created and sponsored by former Sen. Lana Pollack, who later became MEC's president and the chair of the International Joint Commission. The laws stood for five years, generating $100 million in cleanups. 

Click here for Rep. Rabhi’s statement on House Bill 4314

By Beau Brockett Jr.