Tuesday, March 8, 2011

No CAFO Is Too Foul For Michigan

Michigan House Bill 4212 is a fine example of a piece of legislation written by corporate lobbyists. It applies to groundwater pollution by Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). It allows for “voluntary” monitoring, zero-liability, and state funding of groundwater protection and cleanup of pollution deliberately created by corporate CAFO’s.

The bill was recently passed by the Michigan State Senate, and now heads to our Republican Governor, Rick Snyder, for his signature. He will no doubt sign it.

In effect, the bill uses scarce state funds to subsidize toxic CAFO’s, and caps cleanup costs for pollution discharge violations at $15,000. The cap was included to insure that cleanup costs never consume too much of the fund, which CAFO lobbyists prefer be used to subsidize farm operations, essentially channeling state funds to their corporate client’s  bottom line. Yet, you can be sure that cleanup will cost many times more than $15,000.

There are no provisions in this bill to cover the cost of what economists refer to as “externalities” -- all of the unintended, but very real consequences of a particular action. In the case of CAFO’s, these externalities include hundreds of permanently ruined aquifers that for centuries provided drinking water to families and farm animals (on small, sustainable family farms); intense and nauseating odors descending on resident’s dwellings, obliterating the fresh air that was once a cherished element of their rural existence; fly infestations so dense that it is impossible for people or their animals to go outside without being enveloped by swarms of insects. Residents should be amply compensated for these externalities that are no fault of their own and destroy their lives and property values, but rest assured, your Republican governor and legislators will be sure to protect their corporate sugar daddies from any such claims. Which means that Michigan taxpayers will pay to clean up the mess created by their thrifty CAFO neighbors. And be assured, it will cost a lot. 

Another fine Republican principle: privatize profit, socialize loss. Unless...
Maybe the CAFO’s will compensate residents for their losses voluntarily? After all, that is how this bill mandates “farmers” comply with pollution regulations. Self-regulation. Yeah. That always works. Look how well the banking industry did with self-regulation. Republicans are so smart.

Here is the vote tally:

Gleason (D) Smith (D) Young (D)

Booher (R) Brandenburg (R) Caswell (R) Colbeck (R) Emmons (R)
Green (R)  Hansen (R) Hildenbrand (R) Hune (R) Jansen (R)
Jones (R)  Kahn (R)  Kowall (R)  Marleau (R)  Meekhof (R)
Moolenaar (R)  Nofs (R)  Pappageorge (R) Pavlov (R)
Proos (R) Richardville (R) Robertson (R) Rocca (R)
Schuitmaker (R) Walker (R)

Anderson (D) Bieda (D) Gregory (D)  Hood (D) Hopgood (D)
Hunter (D) Warren (D) Whitmer (D)       

Note the Republican vote is strictly on partisan lines. We would not want our Republican legislators to actually think about what they are voting for.

The folks who voted for this should be thrown in jail...

Here are the choice excerpts. The words with strikethroughs represent text removed, and text in caps represents text that was added. Everything in bold was highlighted by me for your entertainment.

A bill to amend 1994 PA 451, entitled "Natural resources and environmental protection act," by amending sections 8702, 8703, 8704, 8705, 8706, 8707, 8708, 8709, 8710, 8713, 8714, 8715, and 8716 (MCL 324.8702, 324.8703, 324.8704, 324.8705, 324.8706, 324.8707, 324.8708, 324.8709, 324.8710, 324.8713, 324.8714, 324.8715, and 324.8716), section 8703 as amended by 1995 PA 61, section 8707 as amended by 2000 PA 100, section 8715 as amended by 2008 PA 18, and section 8716 as amendedby 2007 PA 174, and by adding section 8713a.
March 1, 2011: Returned to the Michigan House of Representatives, where bill was given Immediate Effect and ordered enrolled, and then presented to the Governor for signature into law.

House Bill 4212 would put the Michigan Agriculture Environmental assistance Program (MAEAP) in statute. MAEAP farms are excused from civil fines for water discharges and water discharges would be non-point source pollution.

Sec. 8706. The intent of this part is to reduce risks to the environment and public health and promote economic development by preventing groundwater contamination from pesticides and fertilizers assisting farms in achieving MAEAP standards.

Prioritizing the activities of the groundwater stewardship
 teams based on detections of pesticides in groundwater, nitrogen concentrations in groundwater, groundwater impact potential estimation, or other factors as determined by the director. The use of money in the clean water fund created in section 8807 and other funding sources to promote MAEAP and activities to encourage more MAEAP-verified farms.


The MAEAP shall be a voluntary program that is available to farms throughouT the state.
(8) (3) Liability A farmer shall not be liable for groundwater contamination shall not be imposed on a person in the groundwater stewardship program under this part a MAEAP-verified farm for activities on the MAEAP-verified farm unless he or she was grossly negligent or in violation of state or federal law or failed to comply with the provisions of the applicable groundwater stewardship program or plan MAEAP standards. Nothing in this part shall This part does not modify or limit any obligation, responsibility, or liability imposed by any other provision of state law.

9) The department shall establish a MAEAP grants program.
Grants issued under the MAEAP grants program are limited to
availability of funds collected pursuant to this part. Grants shall be available for all of the following:
(a) Technical assistance.
(b) Promotion of the MAEAP.
(c) Educational programs related to the MAEAP.
(d) Demonstration projects to implement conservation practices.
(e) Removal of potential sources of contamination.
(f) Other purposes considered appropriate by the director.
(b) Preference for funding for nonpoint source pollution – funds for farms seeking MAEAP verification. (I'm not sure what this means,  but it doesn't sound good! :JMW)
the director...may...(a) Promote voluntary water quality monitoring by farms.


(2) Water quality information collected under this section by the department in cooperation with farmers shall be aggregated and made available to the commission of agriculture and ruraL development. Specific locations or persons involved in water quality information collection are exempt from disclosure under the freedom of information act, 1976 PA 442, MCL 15.231 to 15.246.
Sec. 8714. (1) Upon confirmation of an adverse impact on  groundwater, the director may, upon reasonable notice, require a person to furnish any information that the person may have relating to the identification, nature, and quantity of pesticides and fertilizers that are or have been used on a particular site and to current or past production practices that may have impacted groundwater quality. This information shall be treated as confidential business information and is not subject to the freedom of information act, Act No. 442 of the Public Acts of 1976, being sections 15.231 to 15.246 of the Michigan Compiled Laws 1976 PA 442, MCL 15.231 to 15.246.
The director shall annually seek matching general fund general purpose appropriations in amounts equal to the groundwater protection fees collected under section 8715 that are deposited into the fund pursuant to this part. The state treasurer shall direct the investment of the fund. The state treasurer shall credit to the fund interest and earnings from fund investments.
(3) Money in the fund at the close of the fiscal year shall remain in the fund and shall not lapse to the general fund.
(c) Emergency response and removal of potential sources of groundwater water contamination. Expenditures pursuant to this subdivision shall not exceed $15,000.00 per location.
(e) Administrative costs. Expenditures pursuant to this subdivision shall not exceed 20% of the annual appropriations from the fund.
(6) The department shall establish criteria and procedures for approving proposed expenditures from the fund. 
(7) Notwithstanding section 8715, if at the close of any fiscal year the amount of money in the fund exceeds $3,500,000.00, the department shall not collect a groundwater protection fee for the following year. After the groundwater protection fees have been suspended under this subsection, the fees shall only be reinstated if, at the close of any succeeding fiscal year, the amount of money in the fund is less than $1,000,000.00.
(The fund, which is not to exceed $3.5 million, will be used for all of the following?!? I’ve highlighted the egregious stuff -- corporate welfare -- which is most of it. :JMW)
(b) "Direct assistance" includes, but is not limited to, programs that will provide for any of the following:
     (i) Provision of alternate noncommunity water supplies. 
(ii) Closure of wells that may impact groundwater, such as abandoned, improperly constructed, or drainage wells.
(iii) The environmentally sound disposal or recycling of specialty pesticide containers. 
(iv) The environmentally sound disposal or recycling of nonspecialty pesticide containers.
(v) Specialty and nonspecialty pesticide pickup disposal programs. for pesticides not currently registered for use.
(vi) Programs devoted to integrated pest and crop management natural resources conservation that strive to encourage the judicious use of pesticides and fertilizers and other agricultural inputs and practices that are protective of water quality through targeted applications as part of a systems approach to pest control and related crop management decisions.
 (vii) Incentive and cost share programs for persons in the groundwater stewardship program for implementation of groundwater stewardship practices or groundwater protection rules to assist farmers in achieving MAEAP standards.
 (viii) Incentive and cost share programs for persons who notify the director of MAEAP-verified farms with potential sources of groundwater contamination on their property.
(ix) Monitoring of private well water for pesticides, and fertilizers, and other contaminants.
(x) Removal of soils and waters contaminated by pesticides and fertilizers and the land application of those materials at agronomic rates.
    (xi) Groundwater stewardship program MAEAP grants pursuant to section 8710.
(xii) Programs that enhance investment of private and federal funds in conservation.
(xiii) Verification.
(xiv) (xii) Other programs established pursuant to this part. 
(c) "Indirect assistance" includes, but is not limited to, programs that will provide for any of the following:
(i) Public education and demonstration programs on specialty pesticide container recycling and environmentally sound disposal methods.
(ii) Educational programs. for pesticide and fertilizer end users.
(iii) Technical assistance programs. for pesticide and fertilizer end users. 
(iv) The promotion and implementation of on-site evaluation systems, and groundwater stewardship conservation practices, and the MAEAP.
(v) Research programs for determination of the impacts of alternate pesticide and fertilizer management practices.
(vi) Research program for determination of aquifer natural resources sensitivity and vulnerability to contamination. by pesticides and fertilizers.

Contact your Michigan Representative or Senator, and if they voted for this thing, let them know how happy you are that they are working so hard on behalf of corporate interests.

Find your Governor, Representative or Senator here.

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