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Environmental cleanup money in MI running out

Gas pump photo
Gov. Snyder proposes using a portion of gas tax revenues for cleanup projects.

The state is close to running out of money to clean thousands of abandoned, polluted properties all across Michigan.

The state spends about $15-million a year cleaning up abandoned industrial sites. The money comes from bond sales approved by voters back in the 1990s. That pot is almost exhausted.

Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a one-time shift of money to pay for the cleanup program in the coming fiscal year. The money would come from the fund that pays for decontaminating underground fuel tanks that’s financed by a portion of gas taxes.

But that’s not a permanent solution.

“This is a one-time, short-term fix,” says Melody Kindraka with the state Department of Environmental Quality. “We do recognize that a longer-term fix is needed, and we look forward to working with the Legislature and our stakeholders to not only identify those options but put something in place.”

State Sen. Mike Green (R-Maryville) told The Associated Press he’s drafting a new bond proposal to put on the 2018 ballot.

“They’re basically out of money,” says James Clift with the Michigan Environmental Council, “so they’re looking for other sources, so it would have to be on the 2018 ballot if they’re going to fill this hole.”

Clift says he’d like to see a mix of funding sources. He says one problem with using bond sales is the amount that can be used for cleanups is reduced by interest payments, but he says something has to be done because there are still industrial sites all over the state that need to be cleaned up.

“These are properties that if brought back onto the tax rolls will help us prosper in the future, and these are ones that have been neglected for decades, and ignored, and (we are) trying to get them front and center again.”

Clift says there’s interest in making the cleanup program part of the Snyder administration’s larger strategy on infrastructure.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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