Non-profit groups ticked at Biden for restoration funding cut. Quibble over slight in spite on $1 billion windfall.
According to folklore, hyper-wealthy industrialist John D. Rockefeller was once asked how much money is enough. “Just a little bit more,” Rockefeller responded.
That sounds like the current reaction of Great Lakes advocates who are disappointed at President Joe Biden’s proposed budget that makes a slight cut to the sacred Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). That’s the federal program designed to restore the Great Lakes from the ravages of the peak industrial era.
GLRI was initiated by President George W. Bush (the son) and first-funded by Congress after President Barack Obama pushed for it in his first budget. President Donald Trump tried to cut all of its funding but Congress said no.
Biden is continuing the funding but is taking a different approach.
It’s true, Biden’s budget would reduce GLRI funding from $348 million annually to $340 million. But the lead non-profit group on all things GLRI, the Healing Our Waters Coalition, called the cut a “head scratcher” saying “it really doesn’t make sense” to cut what it sees as a “marquee” program.
And in fact, the advocates want an increase for GLRI to $400 million and are lobbying Congress for that amount.
But the crying-poor advocates seem to have forgotten that Biden put $1 billion for GLRI in the big infrastructure bill that recently passed. Funding for GLRI has waxed and waned within a tight range since 2011, but this $1 billion infusion is unprecedented and it’s in addition to the annual funding.
The good news is that the $1 billion windfall will be targeted at cleaning up long neglected toxic sediment sites like the Detroit River. In spite of the $3.8 billion GLRI has received since 2010, the Detroit River still contains almost all of the estimated 3.5 million cubic yards of sediment it had in 2010.
It’s reasonable to ask, where did all that money go? The answer, to 6,000 projects big and small spread over eight states, 15 federal agencies and multiple state and local organizations. The program is classic overreach, a mile wide and an inch deep.
Biden’s focus on the toxic sites, intentional or not, will hopefully bring some rigor and financial discipline to GLRI.
Rather than using their time and access to members of Congress to quibble about a budget cut that amounts to a rounding error, here, a few ways advocates could better use their time and expertise.
Stop using GLRI money to fix Lake Erie’s algae problems. The program has spent $100 million between 2010 and 2020 on Lake Erie with few if any results. I know of no credible source who thinks Lake Erie’s problem can be remedied with money. And publicly tell Congress what everyone knows but few are reluctant to say; nutrient pollution from farms needs to be regulated in some form so Lake Erie can shed the summer toxic algae bloom syndrome.
Tell Congress the truth. GLRI needs a reset, not a tweak every few years. Not every federal agency deserves funding. Not every pet project is worthy. If you were trying to design a federal program for inefficiency, GLRI could be the template.
Demand transparency and accountability. A recent study revealed that success of a GLRI project is largely determined by the project manager. Sort of like grading your own test and telling the teacher you got an “A.” And, the study said, the public does not have access to necessary data that could help evaluate the success of projects.
I’ve followed the work of the Great Lakes restoration advocates since 2006. It’s a smart, determined and dedicated group and arguably, GLRI wouldn’t have happened without its advocacy against the odds.
But like any organization, it occasionally needs critical self-examination. It should get out of the echo chamber and ask itself the hard questions. Make decisions that won’t please everyone.
Because continued hyper-focus on money won’t restore the Great Lakes.
Controversial mining project to receive $50 million in taxpayer funding; will tap two million gallons of groundwater daily from already sensitive area
I’m old enough to remember when the motto on Michigan’s license plates declared the state a “Water Wonderland,” justifiably so given that it’s basically surrounded by the Great Lakes and is home to countless inland lakes.
“Up North’s” Black Lake was a vacation spot when I was a kid and those license plates were affixed to my parent’s Ford.
A subsequent version of the original plate that proclaimed Michigan a “Water-Winter Wonderland” is on the cusp of making a comeback based on demand, according to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.
But Benson may want to stop the presses given recent events. Perhaps a better motto would be “The Potash Mining State.”
The mega-budget bill just signed by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer contains a line-item, a fragmented sentence actually, that says “Michigan one-time grant” of $50 million. There was no further explanation which, of course, leads to inquiries about where $50 million is going.
In the run up to passage of the budget bill, the buzz was the undefined $50 million would support a potash mine near Mecosta. Potash is an agricultural fertilizer and Michigan is the home to a lot of it.
The mining company is in the final stages of receiving the necessary permits in a process that started under the administration of former Gov. Rick Snyder, and is wrapping up under Gov. Whitmer.
But here’s the kicker, to extract all of that potash requires withdrawal of groundwater, a lot. Two million gallons a day. That’s approximately five times the amount of groundwater that Snyder and Whitmer have allowed Nestle (now Blue Triton) to take for bottled water from the same geographical area, according to Detroit Free Press reporting.
That's water held in trust for the people by the state.
It gets worse. The wastewater, brine, will be sent back underground for storage. Sure, we’re told the process is safe and regulations will be enforced but we’ve heard that story before.
I asked Whitmer’s office what justified the $50 million in taxpayer dollars and withdrawal of all that groundwater that helps make Michigan the “Water Wonderland,” or Pure Michigan, the current way the state presents itself.
Spokesperson Robert Leddy responded saying Michigan needs to diversify its economy to stay competitive in the world and cited Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a justification for the potash mine.
Russia, now a rogue country, is a large producer of potash. Not mentioned by Leddy is that Canada, a really friendly country that borders Michigan and the U.S., is by far the world’s largest producer of potash.
Canada is also a large trading partner with Michigan and the U.S. Plus, Canada is financing the new bridge under construction between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit. That’s a big infrastructure deal inked in a time when infrastructure wasn’t happening. It’s hard to imagine that the U.S. and Canada couldn’t strike a deal for potash.
And Leddy said the environment would be protected because Michigan’s Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) “will be there every step of the way to ensure compliance.”
Worth noting is that EGLE’s track record for protecting water is checkered, at best, given that it gave Nestle the green light to take more groundwater from the Mecosta area. That was in spite of overwhelming public comment in opposition to the increased withdrawals.
And EGLE’s oversight failure of Benton Harbor’s water issues led to an intervention by the U.S. EPA, a move that put Michigan back in the national spotlight on a water issue. Plus, there are civil rights complaints against the agency over air quality in environmental justice communities. The potash mine also requires air permits.
Leddy’s complete statement is below as are links to Detroit Free Press and Bridge Michigan reporting, and a press release from the potash mining company.
Like most issues, Michigan’s decision to approve the potash mine and pony up $50 million in taxpayer money is more complicated than can quickly be explained here.
What isn’t complicated to understand is that Michigan is casual with management of its groundwater, often referred to as the sixth Great Lake.
And why is Michigan, in a supposed forward-looking era with a supposed forward-looking administration supporting a new extraction venture anyway? When I hear extraction, I think legacy commodities like oil and coal, neither of which reflect the future.
In a follow up statement, Leddy said the budget legislation the governor signed “will go a long way toward making our state a national leader on the environment.”
I get it. Leddy took license to put the governor’s action in the most favorable light. It’s how it works in politics, especially in an election year no matter which party is in power.
Sadly for the Water Wonderland state, the facts indicate Michigan is heading in the wrong direction on protecting its vast water reserves.
No matter which party is in power.
Statement of Gov. Whitmer spokesperson Robert Leddy.
“Governor Whitmer has been focused on growing and diversifying Michigan’s economy in a way that makes our state competitive with the rest of the world. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine causing unprecedented disruptions to the global supply chain, it’s crucial that we work to protect our state’s economic security by bringing critical industries, like Potash, back home where Michiganders can do the job better and more reliably. The Michigan Potash and Salt Company are adding their names to a growing list of companies who will call our state home, creating hundreds of new jobs and investing more than $1 billion to grow our economy.
“As with every investment, businesses must do their part by following all permitting or regulatory requirements to be good stewards of our state’s natural resources, and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy will be there every step of the way to ensure compliance.
Detroit Free Press reporting on the potash mine.
Bridge Michigan reporting on the potash mine.
Press release from Michigan Potash and Salt Co,
Conservation colleagues: Swier was a leader, organizer, water defender and community builder
The world of grassroots water conservation in Michigan lost a pillar of the movement last December with the passing of Terry Swier. Swier is the Mecosta librarian who had the audacity to confront Nestle over its taking of groundwater for bottled water.
In the early 2000’s as Nestle was setting up shop, Swier and a group of Mecosta residents formed Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, teamed up with environmental law attorney Jim Olson, challenged the corporate giant and were victorious against all odds.
The full story of how Swier and her MCWC colleagues prevailed, with the support of Olson who navigated the legal minefield, is chronicled in the 2007 book, Thirst: Fighting the Corporate Theft of Our Groundwater. The book’s authors referred to Swier as the “unlikely activist” as prior to taking on Nestle, Swier said she “wasn’t active in anything.”
They also pointed out that Swier and her grassroots collaborators were essentially going it alone. The big non-profit groups working on water issues didn't (and perhaps still don't) make the connection to the long-term threat that bottled water diversions could be.
I didn’t know Swier and barely paid attention to her scrap with Nestle as it unfolded. But as I ramped up my reporting on Great Lakes water issues, the full impact of the threat and what she accomplished became evident.
Swier’s passing received little mention in the Michigan media and that’s a tragedy too. Today’s water conservationists need to know the story of those who paved the way for their work, because there's still a lot of work to do.
Swier was 77.
The latest MCWC newsletter has a tribute to Swier and attorney Jim Olson posted a remembrance here.
The Great Lakes region has been known as the "Rust Belt" seemingly forever. President Biden wants that to change.
The Great Lakes and its surrounding states have been on President Biden's mind lately. A few weeks ago he visited Ohio to formally announce the $1 billion in the infrastructure legislation will be dedicated to cleaning up the toxic sediment sites still on a 1987 list. The sites are remnants of the peak manufacturing era. But the president wasn't done.
In the State of the Union speech earlier this week Biden again singled out the Great Lakes region. He wants to ditch the term, "Rust Belt," that has long-been used nationally to describe the region based on its heavy manufacturing - cars and steel - prominence.
Biden wants the region to be known as "the home of significant resurgence in manufacturing." Presumably he was referring to GM's announcement of EV manufacturing in Michigan and Intel's decision to invest in chip making in Ohio. Worth mentioning is that Ford is taking its EV business to Kentucky, where Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell lives, so there's that. But I get it, it's an election year.
All this branding puffery and angst caused me to reflect on past attempts to get rid of the Rust Belt moniker. Former Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, one of the brighter political lights in the region, coined the Fresh Coast. As in East Coast, West Coast and the Fresh Coast because of the abundance of fresh water the Great Lakes hold. Outside of Milwaukee, it didn't catch on and I'm not sure it did in Milwaukee.
And a University of Illinois professor who runs a freshwater lab pitched, the Water Belt. No sale.
But does the region even deserve a branding update now?
I ask in light of the fact most of those toxic sediment sites on that 1987 list still remain 35 years later. They languished for decades for a lack of funding to clean them up. But since 2010, funding wasn't a barrier as approximately $3.5 billion came to the Great Lakes region for restoration. But while some of that money was devoted to toxic site clean up, most of it was absorbed across 15 federal agencies in a mind boggling sea of 6,000 projects laden with bureaucracy.
So how about we don't spike the ball on the 5 yard line as we try to re-brand the region? Let's wait until those sites like the Detroit River, the heart of the Great Lakes, which still has 3.5 million cubic yards of toxic sediment, is clean. With Biden's infusion of $1 billion, that's estimated to be 2030, best case.
And maybe the region doesn't even need a re-brand.
University of Detroit environmental law professor Nick Schroeck calls it, the "Great Lakes Region." It's "evocative," Schroeck told me and I agree. In three simple words it evokes location and what the region aspire to be known for, water.
Let the region be what it is, the Great Lakes region.
How hard was that?
Six years after the Flint water crisis made national headlines, EPA and Michigan remain
in the drinking water spotlight
While the USEPA was grabbing headlines recently in the Great Lakes region with the announcement of the $1 billion windfall it was bestowing on the region, the EPA’s internal watchdog was taking a look back.
The Inspector General’s office announced it will investigate EPA’s role in the Benton Harbor lead in the drinking water crisis from last summer and beyond. The crisis where Michigan’s Department of Environment of Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) slow-walked taking action to notify citizens about elevated lead levels in drinking water, according to citizens and activists.
Slow-walked to the point that a coalition formed and petitioned the EPA to use its emergency authority to intervene. That’s similar to how EPA had to intervene in Flint
In a letter to Radhika Fox, the administrator for water and Debra Shore, the Great Lakes region administrator with responsibility for Michigan, the IG said it would be looking at the agency’s “elevation policy.”
The elevation policy was a product of the Flint water crisis where the IG’s office was critical of the agency for failing to elevate the issue up the chain of command.
In the Flint crisis, regional administrator Susan Hedman resigned under pressure for her handling of the issue.
The state of Michigan recently settled a $600 million citizen suit brought by Flint citizens. A similar negligence suit against the EPA is still pending in federal court.
The Flint report cited “management weaknesses” that delayed the EPA response on Flint.
IG investigations take time, then more time to be written and released so don’t expect anything soon. But just the fact that it’s looking at the Benton Harbor crisis speaks volumes.
It’s Flint redux.
Economically disadvantaged Black community struggles to maintain a deteriorating water system. Citizens and activists, some veterans of the Flint crisis, seek help from the responsible state agency then appeal to the EPA for an intervention.
Did Michigan and the EPA not learn anything from Flint? I suspect the Inspector General will have an opinion.
Tribal leader calls out USEPA for lack of emphasis on protection in restoration program. In rare candid remarks, says Lake Superior degradation is ongoing and without a plan to stop it.
I've been attending conferences of various sorts about Great Lakes restoration since 2006. And one thing is a given; the collection of activists and others peripheral to the cause of restoring the Great Lakes will be as close to perfection as possible when it comes to speaking with one voice.
They've mastered the art of defining the message and repeating it ad infinitum, no deviations. Be it the Great Lakes are a "national treasure" or money is the key to restoring the lakes or their hyper-emphasis on collaboration like its an outcome instead of a process.
That's why it was refreshing to attend a recent Great Lakes restoration workshop sponsored by the
non-profit Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources. The purpose was to brief journalists about what's happening with restoring the lakes in light of the $1 billion funding windfall the restoration program will soon receive.
And many of the smart, hardworking and well-intentioned people who've been working on restoration for years were there presenting and for the most part, they repeated a variation of the same messages from 10-15 years ago.
But there was a refreshing exception, Michael "Mic" Isham, an Ojibwe Tribal executive and leader. He represented the Ojibwe tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan and he too, has been part of the restoration establishment for years.
But Isham was willing to deviate from the approved talking point script. He acknowledged a few of the virtues of the restoration program then spoke candidly about its shortcomings. Like the neglect of Lake Superior which he said is suffering ongoing, unaddressed degradation exposing it to "death by 1,000 cuts."
Isham said to get federal funding for restoration projects you have to hit metrics, but Tribal projects don't easily produce quick, quantifiable results. They are based on Seventh Generation and Traditional Ecological Knowledge principles that take time and don't work well within budget cycles, but are no less worthy.
And perhaps most important, Isham dared to criticize the program's hyper-focus on restoration while not including protection in its mission. What good is it to restore if we don't protect and prevent, he said.
But the consensus is that the Great Lakes restoration works so don't tamper with it. And there's a darker side to that picture. Program supporters don't want to do anything that could cause Congress to examine the program. That's because it brings a lot of federal money to the region.
I was assigned to write a story based on the workshop and there were two tracks I could take. The safe, "the Great Lakes restoration program is an incredible success but there's more work to do" route. That's the forever talking point. Or put a spotlight on Isham's priorities, the need to protect the lakes and reduce reliance on metrics to justify funding and define success.
Here's my headline.
Federal Great Lakes restoration program should focus on protection and flexibility, says Ojibwe leader.
The story is here.
Note: This was updated on Feb 13.
"Micro consumerist" and "tokenistic" solutions divert our attention from the pending climate disaster, says George Monbiot.
I consume a lot of news, probably more than is healthy. There are a couple of reasons.
First, it started when I was a kid where, at different times, I delivered the two Detroit papers and a couple of local ones. The imprint stuck forever. And for the last 15 or so years I've been writing for various media outlets and that requires constant reading to stay on top of the issues.
Which brings me to a recent column by George Monbiot in The Guardian, the left-leaning British publication. I enjoy The Guardian's coverage of the environment and social issues, but confess that I don't read it regularly. One can only consume so much news. But the title of Monbiot's column was too good to let pass.
"Capitalism is killing the planet - it's time to stop buying into our own destruction." Click! If the headline didn't convince me to read on, the subhead did.
"Instead of focusing on ‘micro consumerist bollocks’ like ditching our plastic coffee cups, we must challenge the pursuit of wealth and level down, not up," Monbiot wrote. I stopped watching yet another football game and dove in.
It's a long column and I won't go near hitting all of its points, as worthy as they are. But there are a couple of themes that jumped off the page because they've been favorites of mine for years.
The first is our collective obsession with perpetual economic growth. We use it to measure the economic well-being of the country and the world as well as our own well-being. And it's not a politically partisan issue. Growth is good, right? (Remember "greed is good" from the Wall Street movie?). And I suspect Republicans and Democrats would agree.
Here's Monbiot on economic growth. "All the crises we seek to avert today become twice as hard to address as global economic activity doubles, then twice again, then twice again."
The second is personal responsibility. The tendency of many of us to think we're doing our part by recycling or driving a Prius or in the near future, an electric vehicle.
It's time to think differently according to Monbiot. "While you might persuade yourself that you are a green mega-consumer, in reality you are just a mega-consumer," he says.
A perfect example is the move to electric vehicles (EV's) as a climate change solution. New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo wrote last year that the sudden hyper-emphasis on EV's makes a "perfectly reasonable technological hope into overblown hype."
"E.V.s represent a very American answer to climate change: To deal with an expensive, dangerous, extremely resource-intensive machine that has helped bring about the destruction of the planet, let’s all buy this new version, which runs on a different fuel," Manjoo wrote.
Not to mention that President Biden, in pitching his climate plan, made two trips to Detroit to promote EV's, the huge $50,000+ pickup truck type that most of us don't need and can't afford.
Tease alert, Monbiot closes his treatise with a solution that's best explained by him.
Monbiot's piece is a long-read by newspaper column standards but stick with it. It's also likely to take you out of your comfort zone and challenge you to examine popular left-leaning thinking.
I'm all in for that.
I'll close this "worth noting in 2021" series with a couple of random thoughts. Things I've thought about but haven't reduced to writing.
How long does it take to restore an ecosystem?
It depends on who you ask. Great Lakes advocates may respond it's ongoing. There is no end date because systems are complicated, they evolve and new threats emerge. It's like funding the Department of Defense in the federal government one former Great Lakes exec told me recently. You fund it every year.
I ask because the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) is entering its 13th year. It has received $3.8 billion to date and will get an extra $1 billion spread out over the next four years plus, it's eligible for $300-$400 million a year for the next four years in the annual budget.
But legislators who have to write the checks are asking how much longer they have to do that. Florida Everglades advocates led by Sen. Marco Rubio tried to get $5 billion for the Everglades in the recent infrastructure bill, but it didn't make the cut.
That should be a heads up for the Great Lakes region whose restoration program is modeled after the Everglades. The money will dry up some day and it should. I'm all in for the funding the Great Lakes has received to date. It was long overdue but at some point the region that regularly touts its $6 trillion economy needs to get off the federal dole and take responsibility for the bounty and treasure that are the Great Lakes.
Plan now I say because it will be sticker shock for the states if and when the feds bail out on Great Lakes funding.
Where's Michigan AG Nessel?
If you follow Michigan politics you're aware of Dana Nessel, the high-profile, sharp-elbowed Attorney General. She's seemingly everywhere with an opinion on every issue. Nessel is best known for her involvement in trying to shutdown the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline. Even though the attorney general isn't part of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's team, they've worked hand and glove trying to shutdown Line 5. If you get her press releases, I do, not a day goes by that she isn't touting her official endeavors large and small.
But she's been uncharacteristically silent on Michigan's biggest faux pas of the year, the Benton Harbor drinking water crisis. And it's the type of issue tailored to her activist leanings. Disadvantaged, predominantly Black community plagued by drinking water issues. State agency slow-walks a response while denying responsibility. Federal government intervention required. It's Flint redux from an administration that didn't learn the lessons of Flint.
But deafening silence on an issue of environmental justice from AG Nessel, a former civil rights attorney.
More to come in 2022!
Whitmer ignores longstanding relationship with Canada to promote Line 5 agenda.
There's so much about the Line 5 saga that has been predictable.
That former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder would make a last minute deal with Enbridge to construct (and pay for) the pipeline in a tunnel to replace the existing Line 5. That Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who campaigned against Line 5, would actually try to shut it down and that Attorney General Dana Nessel would join the fray as Whitmer's de facto team mate.
What I didn't foresee is that Whitmer, Nessel and their supporters would make Canada the bogeyman. That's right, Canada, Michigan's neighbor. The country with whom Michigan shares the Great Lakes. The country that's building a new bridge between Windsor and Detroit. You get the picture, collaborators.
It started in 2019 when Nessel characterized Canada as a foreign country. Michigan "will not rely on a foreign corporation to protect and preserve our state's most precious resource, its Great Lakes," Nessel said as reported in the Detroit News. Enbridge is a Canadian corporation.
Canada is a foreign country in a legal and diplomatic sense. But the U.S. and Canada relationship has been one of cooperation and collaboration seemingly forever. And growing up a mile from the Detroit River which separates the countries, the words "Canada" and "foreign" never entered my mind.
Then came Whitmer, who must have thought it was best to just ignore Canada, like it wasn't there, as she pushed her Line 5 agenda.
As time passed and the shutdown of Line 5 moved closer to being a reality, Canadian officials wanted to have a conversation with Whitmer.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford tried to contact Whitmer to discuss Line 5 but was rebuffed, he said, never being able to get through to her. Sarnia, Ontario has 3,000 jobs that are in jeopardy if Line 5 is shut down.
It's worth noting that Whitmer and Ford represent Michigan and Ontario respectively on two U.S. and Canada intergovernmental organizations that deal with common Great Lakes issues.
Then came a protocol breach by Whitmer.
Canada invoked a 1977 treaty with the U.S. that Canada says would prohibit the shut down of Line 5. That move elevated the discussion with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden being the principles.
Whitmer reacted with a direct criticism of Trudeau.
Whitmer said she was "profoundly disappointed" by Canada's decision and called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reverse the invocation of the treaty, the Detroit News reported in October.
In an instant Whitmer went from not returning a call from a Canadian colleague to publicly criticizing the Prime Minister of Canada.
I'm not sure how the Line 5 saga will end. It's now in a protracted legal process and is being discussed at the highest levels of the U.S. and Canadian governments.
Michigan is losing the legal battles but predict what a court will ultimately do at your own peril. And the Biden administration is caught between two allies, Trudeau and Whitmer.
But I do know that Whitmer, Nessel and their supporters haven't acquitted themselves well in the Line 5 debate. Agree with Canada or not, blatant disrespect of Canada was the tactic of the D.C. administration that left office in January.
For the long term, it's in the best interests of Michigan and Whitmer to mend fences with Canada. Hopefully that happens in a second term, if she's re-elected. If not sooner.
Drinking water advocates form coalition, challenge Michigan on Benton Harbor.
I'm not a fan of year end top 10 lists. They over-simplify complex topics and help perpetuate our Super Bowl mentality where an ultimate winner must be determined.
But there are 2021 stories worthy of recognition. Here's the first, others will follow.
Benton Harbor drinking water advocates
In September a coalition of 20 groups and individuals sent a formal petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asking it to use its emergency authority to intervene in Benton Harbor's drinking water issues. Lead in the water, think Flint, was the issue and the groups had tired of Michigan's slow-walk and bureaucratic response.
It was time to put the issue in a different venue, one that was likely to take action on an environmental justice issue versus one, the Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), that talked a better EJ game than it played.
What followed was a rapid response to get bottled water to Benton Harbor citizens and other actions for the longer term. You can read more about Benton Harbor here and in other media outlets. My purpose is to recognize the coalition of activists. Without their willingness to challenge EGLE, the EPA intervention would not have happened. The national spotlight needed to hold Michigan to account for its handling of Benton Harbor would have been missing.
When praising a group action, it's risky to single out individuals, but I'll go out on the limb.
Nick Leonard from the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center who was on point for the legal process needed to file the emergency petition.
Cyndi Roper, the Natural Resources Defense Council's Michigan policy advocate, for her expertise and for bringing NRDC's national clout to the issue as it did in Flint in 2015.
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and drinking water engineer Elin Betanzo, again both Flint veterans, for lending their credibility to the cause and for signing the petition and speaking publicly on the need for it.
And for groups like For Love of Water from far away Traverse City, who could have stayed on the sidelines, but didn't.
They're not heroes, but they do care and were willing to take action when they didn't have to.
Still to come, Michigan, Line 5 and Canada