Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Gov. Milliken, My New Favorite Republican

William Milliken is my new favorite republican. Once upon a time, long ago and right here, a republican governor signed revolutionary environmental protection legislation--fitting in a state with a motto boasting its natural resources. Passed in 1970, Michigan's Environmental Protection Act set an ambitious standard recognizing the right of anyone to sue over damage to the water, air or land. It was recognition of the commons--the resources we share as citizens--and our rights and responsibility to protect them. But the state Supreme Court on July 25th decided to negate that legislative intent.

Quoted in the Muskegon Chronicle, Milliken said:

"It was clearly the intent of the Legislature and clearly my intent when I signed that bill that any citizen would have the right to sue."

"They (the Supreme Court) have so narrowed down the ability of a person to bring a lawsuit, it has negated the intent of the Legislature."

How clear can you be? There it is laid out plain as 1+1=2. I'm no lawyer, but I thought legislative intent mattered in the Court.

According to the Chronicle, the majority said that the word "anyone" violated the U.S. Constitution. Chief Justice Taylor said that the U.S. Constitution only allows parties directly harmed to sue. Agreeing with him--justices Corrigan, Young, and Markman; dissenting Cavanaugh, Kelly, Weaver.

I'm seeking a pleasant peninsula, but according to this Court my right to sue is determined by my property ownership. So, my ability to advocate for environmental stewardship in the courts is restricted by location of my property lines or maybe the easement. Are property owners really the only citizens who can be directly harmed by significant environmental changes brought about by industrial activity? Of course not. All of us have a right to clean air, water and land. And all of us have the responsibility to protect what makes Pure Michigan.

Governor Milliken and the legislature said so. And that's good enough for me.