Michigan business groups back fees for cleanup, water needs

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announces support from the business community for his proposed fee increases to pay for environmental cleanup and water infrastructure needs on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, at his office in Lansing. Also pictured, from left to right, are Republican state Rep. Larry Inman, Michigan Farm Bureau President Carl Bednarski, Michigan Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rich Studley and Republican state Sen. Mike Nofs. (AP Photo/David Eggert)

LANSING, Mich.– Two influential Michigan business groups on Thursday got behind fee increases proposed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to pay for environmental cleanup, water infrastructure and recycling needs, saying they will push the GOP-led Legislature to act before he leaves office at year’s end.

Michigan Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rich Studley said he “strongly agrees” that the state must address its “environmental infrastructure” — contaminated brownfield sites along with waste management, drinking water and sewer projects.

“A lot of the good things in life are not free,” he said during a news conference at the governor’s office, which was timed ahead of lawmakers’ return to session next week. Also joining Snyder were Michigan Farm Bureau President Carl Bednarski and two Republican lawmakers who are sponsoring the $179 million plan, which Snyder first outlined early this year only to see legislators put it off despite Michigan’s water issues.

It would raise the landfill dumping fee from 36 cents per ton — which is higher than five other Great Lakes states — to $3.99 per ton, which Snyder said would still be lower than the regional average.

It would cost households no more than an additional $3.99 a year.

The money would be used to clean up contaminated sites, address emerging contaminants such as per- and -polyfluorinated substances — a group of chemicals used in industrial applications and consumer goods ranging from carpeting to firefighting foams — boost asbestos removal and provide recycling grants.

The “tipping” fee would replace the Clean Michigan Initiative, a bond issue approved by voters in 1998 that generated $675 million but is expected to dry up. Snyder opposes pursuing a new bond initiative.

The plan also would impose a new state fee on water customers, capped at no more than $20 a year per household and $400 per business annually.

Snyder said the recently discovered contamination of the city of Parchment’s water supply with PFAS shows how both the fee hike and the new fee are needed. Residents were given bottled water for a month until an advisory was lifted.

“It’s tough to ask your citizens to pay a fee,” Snyder said. “But this is about providing infrastructure, core things that are important roles that government provides. That’s important for our quality of life, our economy and our world. It’s time to step up.”

Though the House has scheduled nine session days and the Senate 14 session days before the November election, legislators could wait to vote on Snyder’s proposal until the “lame-duck” period after the election.

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