Looking Ahead

With recent changes in the leadership of the state House, more emphasis on environmental regulation is expected in coming months. Lawmakers will likely debate the following:

Recycling tax

State legislation to levy an additional 1 cent tax on all retail purchases over $2 will likely be introduced to raise an estimated $44 million annually for additional recycling subsidies in the form of grants to local governments. Proponents of the proposed legislation argue that Michigan has the lowest recycling rate in the Great Lakes region and that the money raised by the new tax would jump-start recycling activity in the state. Opponents counter that the proposal’s broad constraints on local governments’ use of the money will not do much to help recycling, and that Michigan’s faltering economy does not need a tax increase. The state’s sales tax is currently 6 percent.

Great Lakes water withdrawal agreement

State legislation that would bind Michigan to stricter water use requirements under the U.S.-Canadian Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement will likely be introduced. Each of the eight Great Lakes states and the Canadian province of Ontario must endorse the proposed requirements, known as "the Annex," before the new rules can take effect. Efforts to pass the legislation in Ohio have failed and, to date, no state has agreed to implement the Annex. Proponents of the legislation argue that the lakes are endangered by overuse and that Michigan as the "Great Lakes State" must set the example by passing the legislation. Opponents of the legislation argue that passing it would not guarantee that other states would follow suit and that human impact on water levels is small and decreasing.

Trash tax

The Granholm administration has called for a surcharge of $3 per ton on trash deposited in Michigan landfills. The tax would apply to both trash imported from out of state and trash generated in Michigan. The tax is intended to dissuade the disposal of Canadian trash in Michigan landfills. Expect the debate to focus on the merits of making it more expensive to deposit out-of-state trash in Michigan landfills against the increased cost of waste disposal to Michigan households and businesses (for more information see "Discarding False Notions").

Ballast water treatment

As of Jan. 1, 2007 all ocean-going vessels must comply with new state ballast-water treatment requirements in order to dock at ports in Michigan. The regulations, devised by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality under legislation approved in 2005 are intended to prevent the introduction of non-native species into the Great Lakes. The shipping industry, arguing that the MDEQ’s proposed treatments have proven impractical or ineffective, is seeking a delay of the new permitting regime and warning that ships will not dock at Michigan ports if a delay is not granted. Such a delay would require the approval of Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the Michigan Legislature (for more information see "Great Lakes, Great Conundrum").