The road to another Flint is paved with Republican shoulder rubs.
Bridge, a nonprofit, nonpartisan Michigan news outlet, published a report on Thursday revealing the cozy relationship between a polluting shoe company’s lobbyist and Rick Snyder as the pair worked last winter to pass a law making it more difficult for the state to regulate harmful chemicals that can seep into groundwater.
The necessary actors to know here are attorney Troy Cumings, who represented Wolverine Worldwide, and then-Gov. Rick Snyder. On Dec. 31, as part of a final piece of lame-duck legislation, the outgoing governor signed S.B. 1244 into law. Among other things, the 50-page bill aimed to limit Michigan to solely considering data from an outdated federal Environmental Protection Agency database, known as IRIS, when it comes to community health impacts for toxic chemical exposure. The bill was introduced by Sen. Jim Stamas, who argued previous laws gave state regulators too much leeway, ultimately hurting businesses trying to operate on polluted sites—that is, he was mad private companies actually had to pay to clean up their messes.
In totally unrelated news, Cumings had just represented Wolverine when then-Attorney General Bill Schuette brought litigation against the company for contamination stemming from one of its tanneries. (Cumings was also simultaneously working for Schuette’s failed gubernatorial campaign, having also been the director of his 2010 transition team.)
When contacted by Bridge, both Cumings and Wolverine denied the bill was written specifically by or for the company. But after diving through over 500 pages of FOIA’d emails, the site makes a pretty compelling argument that, at the very least, Snyder didn’t much care about hearing out scientists’ concerns—as Snyder’s staffers attempted to vet the bill, they invited exactly one (1) environmentalist to their office for consultation, according to Bridge.
Oh, and this was all six months after Snyder signed a trio of laws that instituted “polluter panels,” which created committees stuffed with industry leaders and handed them the power to override the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.