President's Column: Moving forward, recommitted to protecting the health of Michigan's people and environment

November 9 didn't turn out to be the morning many of us had hoped for or expected. Between Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, a scant 80,000 votes–fewer than the number of Michigan football fans at the Big House on a typical fall Saturday–determined the outcome in the Electoral College. In Michigan, the difference was just over 10,000 votes, about two-tenths of a percentage point.

Our work at the Michigan Environmental Council has been tough, uphill sledding for a while now, and it clearly isn't going to get any easier. In fact, the hill probably just got a whole lot steeper.

Based solely on his campaign speeches, public comments and cabinet picks, it appears that Donald Trump will roll back much of the environmental progress made over the past eight years at the federal level. At a time when action and leadership is needed most, I do not believe we'll be able to find much help, if any, from Washington, DC.

In the state House, the numerical breakdown of the parties did not change–63 Republicans and 47 Democrats–but the Republican caucus and its leadership became more conservative. (There were no state Senate elections in November.)

So how does MEC move forward? How do we achieve positive results in the potentially dark days ahead? MEC will continue to work with Michigan's congressional delegation to protect the Great Lakes and prevent any major backward slide on our issues. But with limited opportunities in DC, we will double down on our efforts at the state level, including educating the incoming representatives and engaging with returning legislators to advance policy solutions.

Meanwhile, we believe our continued work with Governor Snyder and his administration will produce forward movement on our agenda, especially when it comes to needed infrastructure investments, clean water policy, lead poisoning prevention, implementing Michigan's new energy policy and a greater focus on protecting human health.

We aren't kidding ourselves–we'll have to play a lot of defense in the State Capitol. But protecting Michigan's people and natural resources is too important to settle for just holding the line. We will work with anyone willing to find mutually agreeable solutions to make forward progress on key environmental issues we face. That is the hallmark of this organization: being honest brokers and fact-based problem-solvers, with a practical, solutions-oriented focus.

We see the greatest potential for forward progress at the local level. More than ever before, MEC will engage with Michigan communities to advance our agenda. For instance, we are working to provide communities with the information and support they need to commit to 100 percent renewable energy. In December, thanks to hard work by MEC's Kate Madigan, Traverse City leaders pledged to power all city operations with renewables by 2020. Grand Rapids and Northport already had similar pledges on the books, and MEC has identified several more communities to work with in the coming months.

We believe there are many forward-thinking Michigan communities whose leaders will be eager to work with MEC, our member groups and other partners to embrace clean energy, advance solutions to climate change, protect our water resources, increase recycling rates, expand transportation alternatives, protect public health and embrace the principles of environmental justice.

Excited might not be the right word for what we're feeling. But committed? Absolutely. Motivated? You bet. We've shaken off the numbing effects of the election and are ready to move forward.

We are ready, willing and able to continue fighting every day for a cleaner, greener, safer Michigan with a brighter future for all of us!

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