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"Clean Michigan" Bond Raises Issue of Polluter Accountability

August 1, 1998 | By Keith Schneider
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

Ever since 1995, when he shifted the responsibility to pay for toxic waste cleanups from polluters to the
public, Gov. John Engler has searched for ways to finance the program.

At first, he used millions of dollars from unclaimed bottle deposits. Then he took $30 million from a state
program that encouraged innovative recycling projects. And he tried to use money from the Natural Resources
Trust Fund, a recreational land purchasing program, but was blocked by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

Then, during his State of the State speech in January 1998, the Governor announced a financing mechanism
that will go before the voters this November. Known as the "Clean Michigan Initiative," it began as a $500 million
program, financed by taxpayer-funded bonds, that included $325 million to clean up and redevelop toxic waste sites.

The Governor's supporters praised the proposal as a sound investment. "This is going to be the hallmark of
the Engler Administration's work on the environment," said David Ladd, the governor's environmental policy

Other Environmental Programs Added
The Michigan Environmental Council (MEC), a Lansing-based coalition, was not as enthusiastic. Led by
Lana Pollack and Dave Dempsey, the MEC argued that the bond initiative was primarily an economic
redevelopment program. They said it established new policy by having taxpayers pay for cleaning up industrial

But instead of opposing the bond altogether, MEC chose to organize the political support to attach other
environmental programs to it. During the winter and spring Ms. Pollack, the group's president and a former
three-term state senator from Washtenaw County, worked with the House of Representatives to add financing
to support pollution prevention, improve the management of state parks, reduce health risks in minority
neighborhoods, and curtail water pollution. (See chart above) She also helped convince lawmakers to require
that at least $40 million of the cleanup funds would be spent on the most polluted sites to reduce risks to
public health. On July 3, the Legislature approved the $675 million bond proposal.

"People around Michigan will benefit tremendously from this comprehensive environmental protection
program," said Gov. Engler. He named U.S. Sen. Spencer Abraham to lead the promotion effort for the bond's passage.

Ms. Pollack took note of the choice. The League of Conservation Voters, in its most recent tally of federal
lawmakers, found that Sen. Abraham has one of the weakest environmental voting records in Congress. It is
clear, she said, that the Governor is not only using the bond initiative to improve his own standing on environmental
issues, he also is using it to earn favor with allies in Washington, D.C. G

CONTACTS: Lana Pollack, 517-487-9539; David Ladd, 517-335-7824.

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