This week, activists with Michigan Clean Water Action gathered at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce to protest the Chamber’s environmental positions, which favor corporate polluters at the expense of Michiganders’ right to clean air and water.
The link here is pretty simple: The Chamber represents businesses across Michigan, corporations often pollute our water and air, and having to take responsibility for the damage they cause to our health and safety would be awfully inconvenient and might—gasp—force them to not rake in profits while polluting our communities. So, corporate lobbyists at the Chamber use their outsized influence with their Republican pals in the legislature to push policies that prioritize corporate profits over the environment.
They’ve been at it for decades. Before 1995, our state had the strongest “polluter pay” laws in the country, meaning corporate polluters were responsible for cleaning up their own messes—makes sense, right? Unfortunately, the Chamber worked with Republican legislators and then-Gov. John Engler to roll back these important environmental protections.
More recently, the Chamber has gone to bat for Enbridge’s Line 5. Despite the danger this pipeline poses to our environment and public health, the Chamber is a vocal supporter of the tunnel deal Republicans pushed through during lame duck—because who cares about the possibility of a devastating oil spill in the Great Lakes when there’s fossil fuel money to be made, right?
Unsurprisingly, the Chamber is also strongly in favor of the polluter panels created by then-Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican lawmakers last year. These panels, which give businesses authority over environmental protection rules, effectively allow corporate polluters to self-regulate. When Gov. Whitmer tried to do away with them in January, the Chamber urged GOP legislators to overturn her executive order.
Of course, we can’t forget the Chamber’s support for the disastrous emergency manager law that eventually led to the Flint Water Crisis—a law Michiganders rejected at the ballot box, only for Republicans and corporate lobbyists to pass it again.
Michiganders deserve elected officials who are accountable to the public and will work to keep our air and water clean—but for too long, corporate lobbyists with groups like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce have been running the show in Lansing.
So, if you’re frustrated by our elected officials’ failure to protect our natural resources, blame the Republicans who push through anti-environment policies—but blame the Chamber, too.