You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 6:02 a.m.

Will Rick Snyder follow through on promise to push forward an environmental agenda?

By Ryan J. Stanton

As Ann Arbor's Rick Snyder prepares to become Michigan's next governor, conservationists are now asking: What does it mean for the Great Lakes and the environment?

Will the Republican businessman push forward the environmental agenda he promised during his campaign?

Will his desire for less government regulation conflict with the necessary oversight of pollution-causing factory farms and coal-fired power plants?


Michigan governor-elect Rick Snyder greets his supporters at his election party Tuesday night at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit after defeating Democratic challenger Virg Bernero.

Lon Horwedel |

Who will Snyder name to run the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment? Could his efforts to slash state spending possibly translate to decreased funding for the DNRE?

As those questions are being asked, the Ann Arbor-based Michigan League of Conservation Voters says it's "cautiously optimistic" Snyder will deliver the right answers.

Ryan Werder, the LCV's political director, said his group has been pleased to see Snyder's campaign platform include a focus on a number of key environmental issues. But, he said, Snyder's stances in many areas still remain ambiguous or unaddressed.

The decisions in the early days of Snyder's administration, Werder said, will serve as a strong indicator of his potential as a conservation leader.

"He ran a campaign that really did engage on key conservation questions — reviving the urban core, the Great Lakes, Pure Michigan," Werder said. "It was very encouraging to see a Republican talk so passionately about these environmental issues. Of course, there were a number of issues he didn't talk about, which is where the caution comes from."

Snyder gives environmentalists reason for hope, though. During his victory speech in Detroit Tuesday night, he told a cheering crowd that quality of life, including protecting the environment, is one of the three key pillars to his vision for a new era in Michigan.

"We are truly blessed in this state with some of the world's greatest natural resources," Snyder said, mentioning the state's 11,000 lakes and the Great Lakes. "But we're going to have to work harder to protect them. We have threats of things like the Asian Carp. We need to enhance them. We need to enjoy them. We need to market them better with things like Pure Michigan."

Protecting the environment also is included in Snyder's 10-point plan to reinvent Michigan. The former Gateway Computers president several months ago put out a position paper on protecting the Great Lakes from Asian carp and other aquatic invasives.

That has been encouraging to groups like the LCV, Clean Water Action and the Sierra Club. But Snyder's continued call to "get government out of the way" of corporations leaves some wondering how that lines up with his professed support for protecting natural resources.

That was a concern cited by the Detroit Free Press last month when it offered a somewhat hesitant endorsement of Snyder over Virg Bernero, saying some of the Republican's ideas still need fleshing out and others are without question "at odds with our own."

"He favors more coal plants for Michigan and would like to apply his quick permitting to them," the Free Press editorial board wrote in its endorsement. "His cozying up to the Farm Bureau, combined with his skepticism about regulation, suggests a Snyder administration might be friendlier than we'd like to big, polluting corporate farms."

The governor-elect stayed on a message of less regulation Tuesday night.

"It is time to redo our regulatory environment," he said in his victory speech. "Currently Lansing has an attitude where 'bad should be controlled.' That's backwards. The average person is a good honest person. The average organization are good honest people, and we need to focus on the exceptions and the problems. And it is time for bureaucracy to go away."

Environmental groups have been quick to criticize Snyder's choice for lieutenant governor, state Rep. Brian Calley, R-Portland.

Clean Water Action faulted Calley for voting to overturn Gov. Jennifer Granholm's directive that said permits for coal-burning power plants should be approved only after the need for more power and for alternative energy were weighed. The group noted that Calley earned only a 17-percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters for the 2009-10 session.

Ann Arbor Democrat Jeff Irwin, a longtime environmentalist who is headed to the state House in January, said he joins the LCV in being cautiously optimistic about Snyder.

"He made some statements during the campaign that were in line with environmental protection, but they were pretty vague, so the question is going to be what exactly does that mean?" said Irwin, a former LCV executive director.

Irwin said a number of environmental goals with an economic bend to them should appeal to Snyder, such as investing in clean energy and technology around advanced batteries and wind turbines. He also thinks Snyder has stated a strong commitment to tourism, which will require protecting Michigan's beaches, state parks and fish and wild life management.

"So I'm hopeful there," he said. "I think we're going to have some success with stuff that can be messaged as economic development."

Irwin said he's concerned about statements Snyder has made that equate "less regulation" with being "business friendly." Irwin favors increased pollution controls for coal plants, which are a source of harmful mercury and sulfur dioxide in the environment.

James D'Amour, an executive committee member of the local Huron Valley Group of the Sierra Club, said he's reserving judgment on Snyder at this point.

"He said some very good things in his speech Tuesday night. It's not stuff you normally hear from the average Republican these days," he said.

D'Amour said he would applaud Snyder if he pushed for better enforcement and decent funding to crack down on combined animal feeding operations — also known as factory farms or CAFOs. D'Amour said CAFOs currently "seem to exempt themselves from environmental regulations" and are causing groundwater pollution.

Asked during a public radio call-in program if he'd ensure that CAFOs don't pollute groundwater, Snyder rhapsodized about family farms and said environmental regulations were sometimes applied too harshly to agriculture.

"If you look at it from a farmer's interest, they're the best stewards of the land. What interest do they have in doing harm to the environment?" he said. "We shouldn't have a default setting to say, 'They're bad people.' We need a default setting, 'These people are actually trying to help.'"

Most of Michigan's roughly 200 CAFOs aren't family farms, and regulating them has been a challenge for state environmental quality experts. They typically house thousands of animals, ranging from pigs to poultry, and a farm with 5,000 cows produces as much waste in a day as a city the size of Lansing.

Some of the biggest operations are run by Vreba-Hoff Dairy Development LLC, an Ohio-based company that helps farmers from the Netherlands set up dairy farms in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. The company has paid hefty penalties for manure spills and failing to set up new sewage treatment systems at its two farms near Hudson in Lenawee County.

Heaped on top of those concerns, environmental groups note that Snyder will inherit a $1.42 billion budget deficit when he takes office in January. And his plan to eliminate the Michigan Business Tax is estimated to leave the state with an additional hole of $1.5 billion or more.

"He's not said how he will offset these cuts yet. He dodged that question in the debate," Werder said. "These aren't criticisms. These are areas of concern we'll have to watch closely."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Fri, Nov 5, 2010 : 10:10 a.m.

I have asked myself these three questions. 1. Is there a greenhouse effect? 2. Is it being caused by humans?(maybe or maybe not depending on whether you think the human CO2 contribution or the "bobble" in the earth's orbit is causing warming) 3. Can any American citizen or the American govt stop this? My belief is NO, as the biggest greenhouse contributors are China (and soon to be India). Short of war the U.S. cannot influence China policy or Indian policy. Many of the countries who signed Kyoto violated it soon after. The only thing that will stop the use of fossil fuel is that its cost will increase beyond the cost of other energy souces. Developing countries will not increase their cost of energy and reduce their living standard because developed nations say not to use fossil fuels. These developing countries think it is inherently unfair because the developed countries went through this stage of development to increase their standard of living. Think globally and act locally is a joke when applied to the greenhouse effect. Nothing we do in the U.S (if you believe in the greenhouse effect) will prevent China or India from burning all the coal or oil in the world.


Fri, Nov 5, 2010 : 5:13 a.m.

Ian, I would really like to know what motivates people like you to ignore such overwhelming evidence that man is causing global CO2 levels to increase at unprecedented rates and that this will cause the earth to warm. Its like denying that 2 + 2 = 4. Man is putting out huge and unprecedented amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere and the amount is growing with the development of countries like China and India. MEASURED global CO2 levels are reaching unprecedented levels. CO2 causes the energy from sunlight to stay in our atmosphere rather than escape back into space. Global temperatures are on the rise and global ecosystems are changing as a result. Despite the seriousness of this subject, your posts to this opinion page have no factual support. It sounds only like some kind of defensive rant. I understand the motivations of the few pseudoscientists and other blowhards on Fox New's payroll but I can not understand anyone else with a rational mind falling for their garbage. Do you fear that if you accept the reality of climate change that you might have to change your lifestyle? Do you believe that you are somehow protecting the wisdom of your grandparents? I wish someone would explain.


Fri, Nov 5, 2010 : 1:11 a.m.

Ian, you are spot on! when my son comes home from school.. with all the green tree hugging material.. I do my part.. I tell him to file it in the recycling bin!


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 4:26 p.m.

@Leaguebus again For your info, CO2 only makes up.038% of all greenhouse gases. Of that, only 1/3 is man-made. So, you are telling me that.013% of what humans put into the atmosphere is going to destroy this planet? We've had much higher levels of CO2 and temperatures pre industrialization. Were SUVs roaming the earth Along with T-Rex? Only 30-35 years ago people were panicking because our leaders told us we were headed for a new ice age. Now people are afraid of over heating. Don't be so naive. Plus, even if the earth warms as predicted, there will be many positives. Not only the negatives they keep hyping. Finally, climategate proved that all the data was fabricates. Conveniently, the scientists involved in the fraud, with the blessing of the UN and Al Gore, when caught, destroyed all the data.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 3:15 p.m.

@Leaguebus, I'll see your meager 2,500 scientists with my 31,400 real scientists. Of these, there are over 9,000 PhDs. This site names names. Maybe you will knw a few of them. By the way, most of the UN IPCC "scientists" are not scientists. They are bureaucrats. I'd suggest you stop looking at junk science. By the way, it is the fluctuation in the sun that is causing the earth to warm and now cool.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 2:05 p.m.

There are rational ways to move an environmental agenda ahead without tripling electricity costs and creating a hostile environment to business (notably manufacturing) People on the extreme right or left need to be ignored.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 1:48 p.m.

Once he becomes the next Republican governor of Michigan, Snyder should ask himself this question every morning before going off to work: What would Bill Milliken do? As a rookie GOP governor at the time, Milliken embraced the first national Earth Day in April 1970, and subsequently went on to support many pro-environment initiatives at the state level during his long tenure afterward. Snyder can always, of course, still call upon the former governor if he should desire additional background or advice on environmental or other matters. At this point, one can only hope that Snyder will not govern in such a way as to cause Milliken to regret endorsement of his candidacy. ------------ Quoting longtime Michigan environmentalist Dave Dempsey: "At a speech on Earth Day [1970], Governor Milliken talked of making Michigan "a model state" in the fight against pollution.... In fact, he was about to become the first governor in Michigans history to demonstrate courageous leadership in the fight to protect the environment, fusing with the new public movement to enact landmark reforms."


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 1:39 p.m.

Now that we're in power lets rape the earth, even the elite left can't stop us now.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 1:17 p.m.

"His campaign was then taken over by the Republican Party, which of course is no friend of the environment." Yeah! Cause they aren't from around here, and just don't care. Here a tissue LOL!


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 12:39 p.m.

Snyder certainly will "push forward an environmental agenda." The question is whether that agenda will be the one he did promise publicly to the voters -- green, sustainable, conservation-based -- or some ~other~ one that he may have promised privately to campaign donors and GOP supporters. The former agenda would be good for Snyder, Michigan businesses, and all our state's inhabitants -- human and otherwise. The latter agenda (paralleling the Engler model) would benefit a few very wealthy people, and devastate Michigan's future.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 12:35 p.m.

@Ian Stop reading Junk I know 2500 scientists from 130 countries who dispute your beliefs on global warming. The following is from the National Geographic News, October 28, 2010. "Are Humans Causing It "Very likely," the IPCC said in a February 2007 report. The report, based on the work of some 2,500 scientists in more than 130 countries, concluded that humans have caused all or most of the current planetary warming. Human-caused global warming is often called anthropogenic climate change Industrialization, deforestation, and pollution have greatly increased atmospheric concentrations of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, all greenhouse gases that help trap heat near Earth's surface. (See an interactive feature on how global warming works.) Humans are pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere much faster than plants and oceans can absorb it."


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 12:16 p.m.

Question is Al Gore going on the Trip to India with our Esteemed President? Will Nancy Pelosi go or is she jetting around somewhere else? How many jobs is the President taking with him this trip?


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 11:34 a.m.

It is disgusting to hear such blatant disregard for the environment and public lands from the right. I can't imagine the kind of world they want to live in. Rick Snyder will do as he promised. He will get government out of the way and deregulate. Protection from corporate polluters whose only reason for existence is profits, and short term profits at that, is one of the most important jobs the government has. How anyone could have voted for such a promise is beyond me.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 11:30 a.m.

@Veracity, "CO2 is not the only contaminant from burning coal and the resulting ash is toxic." Please let's get our facts straight. CO2 is NOT a contaminant! How is a naturally occuring gas which our plants rely on to grow be a contaminant? Plants grow faster in a CO2 rich environment. CO2 being a contaminant is a lie to get us to accept man-made global warming. So they can tax us for basically breathing. Carbon tax is nothing more then helping people like Al Gore get rich. CO2 has NOTHING to do with global warmings. It is really strange how smart people fall for lies just because that is what they are told.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 10:34 a.m.

New power plants will use natural gas, as shale gas is widely available. It is a huge improvement over coal and it is extremely cost-competitive. Cap and Trade is as difficult to understand as the NFL salary cap. It is a ridiculous system to pick winners and losers based on subjective judgement. Tax energy and let the market determine the best and most efficent methods to use energy. Tear out all the dams (including the ones in Ann Arbor). Ifyou want higher MGP, tax gas and rid ourselves of the idiocy of CAFE where companies build cars nobody wants and are sold at a loss.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 10:15 a.m.

New power plants should use natural gas which is competitively priced, cleaner than coal (50% less CO2) and abundantly available within the United States. CO2 is not the only contaminant from burning coal and the resulting ash is toxic. Has everyone forgotten about the coal ash contamination from an ash pond spill at the Kingston Fossil Plant near Knoxville, Tennessee in 2008?


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 10:08 a.m.

I voted for Snyder, but if he lets corporations destroy the environment while paying lip service to protecting it, I'll be glad to move to a state where I can breathe and drink clean water. It'll also be interesting to see what he cuts out of the government. The government isn't nearly as inefficient as the right makes it out to be, and we depend on them to manage public services that are expected and necessary in a modern society. Many of those services can't and won't be provided by the private market because there's no profit in it, or it's logistically impossible (do you want to sell all the roads to private interests and stop every mile to pay a toll?). You get what you pay for. If overall tax revenue is going to be cut, then we will have to lose public services and Michiganders will have to pay for them out of their own pocket - if they're even available. If we want to retain services, we'll need to find a way to produce the tax revenue. As I said, I voted for Snyder. I just hope he (and the other Republicans/Tea Partiers) don't believe their rhetoric and take real responsibility for the cuts they propose.

David Cahill

Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 10:04 a.m.

I would emphasize the "caution" in "cautiously optimistic". I have heard that after Snyder won his primary, he fired his campaign staff. His campaign was then taken over by the Republican Party, which of course is no friend of the environment.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 9:59 a.m.

There aren't many industries that pollute more than factory farms, coal power plants, or paper mills. I guess we'll just wait and see if Snyder can stand firm against the tide of "ME-ME-ME, Short-Term Profit over Sustainability, No Government Control unless it is Your Womb" that is the general GOP mantra.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 9:35 a.m.

Hopefully, Snyder will work to find Federal money to clean up the Great Lakes - something that has been neglected by politicians for many years. Given the economic realities today, this may be difficult. But, even smaller amounts of funding can help. Regarding CAFO's: It's completely insane and illogical in this country that these operations can basically dump as much untreated waste products into the environment as they want. These megafarms of hogs, cattle, and chickens produce more waste than small cities, yet they're not required to have any kind of treatment facilities. Big Food basically owns the politicians. Until you unplug the flow of money from these companies into campaign coffers (and politicians pockets), we won't ever see any changes.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 9:35 a.m.

Addressing water to China is easy, the economics don't work. A company in Alaska has failed to get any takers for tankers of water to anywhere in the world. The cost of transport is too high. I don't think anyone is against keeping Asian Carp of out the Great Lakes. Coal Fired Power Plants are regulated at the Federal level once they are built, and the EPA is a Federal Agency. The state has very little they can do, since the Federal Government took over most of the regulation. There is already a new coal fired power plant that has been approved under Gov Granholm. It may or may not be built. As to the UP, the State has taken over hundreds of Thousands of acres of what was commercial forest and pretty much closed it to logging, increasing the agony in the UP. Re-opening that land to logging and taking fees from it, would allow at least part of the DNRE to be self funding. Gov Granholm's team mostly closed it off. Paper mills, lumber mills and other businesses that depended on this renewable resource have closed or downsized as a result. The new state parks tag should help fund the State Parks and give more people easy access to these great resources. Again this was done prior to Mr. Snyder taking office. Hunting license costs are going up, again this money is supposed to go to conservation and natural resources, and there has been a fight during the Granholm years on moving it into the general fund. As to large farms, if the State fully funded the Extension Service (about 95 percent of the cost is re-imbursed by the United States Department of Agriculture) many of the issues with run off would be avoided. The extension agents are well liked by farmers and they can get access to Michigan State Experts to help with the design of holding ponds and drainage to avoid many of these problems. What we have done in the last 8 years is to be penny wise and pound foolish. Careful thinking will reduce the cost to the taxpayer of conservation by allowing people who want to make use of our resources to do so and self funding much of the oversight and regulation. There needs to be regulation, and it needs to be well done, but it can take less from the general fund.

Top Cat

Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 9:09 a.m.

The "environment" in Michigan is that of a lot of misery due to people who are unemployed and underemployed. Mr. Snyder was elected overwhelmingly to address that issue. I expect that he will. The remnants of the old Michigan will desperately continue to grasp on to a model that failed a long time ago. They need to be marginalized and bypassed. People can and will pass judgement in the next election.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 8:48 a.m.

@EyeHeartA2, it is no secret that larger super tankers make their way to our great lakes, tank up and then head home to unload the cargo where fresh water is non-existent. Please, read: This is a billion dollar a year industry and will only increase as water shortages increase throughout the world.

Dante Marcos

Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 7:44 a.m.

If Snyder does anything, in office, other than work to increase investment returns to this fellow millionaires, I will change my name to Madame Jeb Hitler. I do sympathize with the fact that you're all very excited to finally have a Wolverine in the governor's mansion, but let's try to remember that when the Big House is empty, the ghettos are still full and the ignorant are still terrified.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 7:39 a.m.

It's nice to see the left still has no grasp of reality.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 7:19 a.m.

Here is the most likely scenario that will be Ricky's environmental agenda: 1. Deregulate and gut the EPA on the state and local level. Repeal basic safeguards to our air and water in favor of greater freedoms for large corporations looking to turn a quick profit by setting up messy and unregulated shops in Michigan, e.g. Chinese manufacturing, Canadas toxic waste, and mining. 2. Sell as much of the Upper Peninsulas mineral rights to China, which, by the way, desperately needs raw materials it to produce more electronics for cheap products available at Wal-Mart. Heck, after all, it is much cheaper to strip mine the UP then to recycle... and with virtually no regulations this will be a no brainer for the entire supply chain. 3. Sell more Great Lakes water to the southern states and China by repealing laws and rules that were set in play to safeguard our water supply. 4. At the State of State address in Lansing, wear a gas mask because the fumes of Michigans new direction are finally catching up.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 7:12 a.m.

5c0++ H4d13y, Good to know you read my posts with such interest. Thanks for the China suggestion...but I prefer American ingenuity any time.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 6:55 a.m.

Yeah, dang environmentalists and their wanting to not live in toxic waste....

5c0++ H4d13y

Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 6:49 a.m.

@Cash you need some new material. Maybe you can contract with someone in China to write some new talking points for you to use.

Ray D. Aider

Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 6:32 a.m.

The only correct answer to most "environmentalists" is Cap and Trade.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 5:38 a.m.

I wonder how he will move the Great Lakes to the Great Wall. Now that will be reinventing Michigan.