House Democrats introduced legislation Monday that would hold companies accountable for polluting the air, land and water in Michigan by increasing financial and criminal penalties.
The eight-bill package would fine companies that violate the Natural Resources and Environmental Protections Act (NREPA) based on revenue, rather than a fixed amount, eliminate the statute of limitations to file a civil claim due to environmental issues and allow CEOs to be held financially and criminally responsible for business decisions that result in pollution.
“Families, communities, taxpayers expect accountability from major corporations, and justice when they violate the public trust in such a negligent way,” said state Rep. Jim Ellison (D-Royal Oak), who sponsors House Bill 5453. “Justice is ensuring our communities and our environment are made whole when they’re abused at the hands of greedy corporate polluters. Accountability is ensuring those who cheat the system and cause that pollution pay with their money and their time. Our package does both.”
Sites across Michigan are contaminated by a variety of chemicals, including PFAS, dioxane and hexavalent chromium, commonly referred to as green ooze.
The green ooze leak on I-696 in December is the latest in a string of environmental issues cropping up around the state in recent years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) are investigating the toxic spill.
State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) told reporters last month he is “not anticipating taking any action at this time.”
“Until now there’s been very little regulation for bad actors or protections for the people they’re poisoning. It’s really been a case of letting the fox guard the hen house,” said state Rep. Padma Kuppa (D-Troy), who sponsors House Bill 5452. “Children are taught to clean up after themselves, to wipe up their spills and tidy their messes. Michiganders have a right to expect the same level of responsibility from corporate polluters and the leaders who run those companies.”
Other sponsors of the bill package include State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia), State Rep. Issac Robinson (D-Detroit), State Rep. Cynthia Johnson (D-Detroit), State Rep. Bill Sowerby (D-Clinton Twp.), State Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek) and State Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit).