The Ecology Center voiced support for legislation introduced today to hold polluters accountable for cleaning up contamination. The seven-bill package, led by Sen. Jeff Irwin and Rep. Jason Morgan, would increase transparency for contaminated site cleanup and put in place accountability measures so corporations that pollute our land and water are responsible for paying to clean it up, not taxpayers.
“Corporate polluters must pay for the burden they place on communities' health,” said Michael Garfield, director of the Ecology Center. “Too often, communities living near polluting industries face higher rates of cancers, asthma, and other diseases. This package of bills will make it easier for those harmed by pollution to seek justice and holds polluters accountable to cleaning up their mess."
Michigan has more than 24,000 known contaminated sites. The corporate polluters who caused the damage have evaded responsibility for cleanup costs at about half of those sites, putting the financial burden of “orphaned” sites on the state and, ultimately, taxpayers. Even at sites with a “responsible party,” current law allows polluters to leave contamination in place if they limit access. The Polluter Pay legislation will set more stringent cleanup standards, increase transparency, prevent sites from becoming orphaned, and make it easier for those harmed by pollution to seek justice.
From 1990 to 1995, Michigan was a national leader in holding corporate polluters accountable thanks to strong “Polluter Pay” laws. During that five-year period, Michigan taxpayers saved more than $100 million because corporate polluters were better held accountable for paying for their mess. In 1995, those laws were stripped away, and the number of contaminated sites has increased.