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Terry Miller 06/03/05

Comments on the May 24th Hearing on House Bill 4617

Terry Miller

Lone Tree Council

Betty Damore, Paul Damore, James Cliff, and Terry Miller seethed in silence as a parade of Dow supporters, dioxin deniers, and private property defenders, were called to testify by the Chair of the Government Operations Committee of the State House yesterday (May 24th). The subject was Rep. Moolenaar’s bill , H.B. 4617, placing limitations on the state’s use of "facility" in labeling dioxin contaminated residential areas of Midland, the Tittabawassee flood plain, and potentially those living in the Saginaw River floodplain and bay shoreline properties.

Among other things, the bill would allow homestead residents to deny DEQ access to their property, and require "imminent and substantial" danger, and multiple proofs, including evidence of dioxin (costly samples, analysis) and proof of bioavailability and exposure (Garabrant study, year away) before the "facility" label is attached.

Frank Ruswick of the DEQ was grilled by committee members and accused by one committee member of "attacking basic property rights" for suggesting peoples’ homes were facilities. (Wasn’t it Dow that trespassed?). In an Alice in Wonderlandish exchange, the DEQ pamphlet that warned residents that they might be living in a contaminated area, with suggestions on how to minimize exposure, was not held up as a model of responsible government but challenged for its suggestion that the homes were now technically facilities. Again, no one raised the specter of Dow as the culprit in this little tableau, it was the big, bad state.

After Moolenaar, the DEQ and Dr. Garabrand spoke, Committee Chairman, Leon Drolet, R-Clinton Township, called a representative of the Homebuilders Association (dioxin was an "unsubstantiated risk"), Shirley Salas and Leonard, Scott Holman, and Bill Egerer. All told homey stories of raising healthy children, romping wildlife (including an eagle viewed from a dining table devouring its prey), and the "stigma" so violently stamped on their homes by the DEQ and activists. Then it was 12:10 – time!

James Clift, representing the Michigan Environmental Council, a coalition of over 70 environmental organizations; Betty Damore, a Tittabawassee floodplain resident; and Terry Miller, Lone Tree Council, all opposed to the legislation, were not called on to testify. Paul Damore, a student and Betty’s son, saw first hand how this controlled committee practiced "fairness and balance".

The Chair noted that since a vote to send the legislation forward would not occur, all were welcomed back to future hearings. To be sure, the Chair wanted to recognize those attendees, but not presenters because of lack of time, and how they stood on the bill. Among those listed as present and supporting the legislation (or its concept), a bill that would deceive potential buyers of contaminated property and make it more difficult to require Dow to clean up, were the Midland Chamber of Commerce, Farm Bureau, Midland City Manager, Karl Tomion, Saginaw County’s medical advisor Neil Varner, and Midland County Health Director Michael Kreceak (Could someone tell me why representatives of health agencies would be more concerned with property than people?) and a number of others. We had Betty, Paul, Terry and James, and we are very grateful to these defenders of rationality. I would suggest, however, that if this bill continues on its merry way, and another hearing is held -- we rent a bus.

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