Bridge To Compromise Is Surer Route

April 26, 2002
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Across the country it is quite common to see battle lines drawn by environmental groups in opposition to one or another type of business operation, so it is especially noteworthy to read of West Michigan Environmental Action Council's continued work with state legislators as well as local businesses — minus the rancor. The focus for WMEAC is not what self-serving headlines it can make for its contributors but thoughtful, solid policy.

In the report this week, WMEAC Executive Director Tom Leonard lauds the state efforts to prevent the very real and continued threat of Great Lakes water diversion and House and Senate compromise legislation to ban Great Lakes directional drilling, some of which was aimed directly off Grand Haven's shore. We would emphasize Leonard's observation that these issues served to put "thirsty Washington politicians" and the rest of the country on notice that Michigan is serious about protecting its lakeshore and keeping its water.

Water issues linger, however, and one in particular exemplifies the delicate balance between business growth, governmental protections for growing populations and environmental issues. Laketown Township is attempting to build a water supply station near the Saugatuck Dunes State Park and would sell the natural resource throughout Allegan County and to the city of Holland. Tulip City is reported to be running near low-water capacity because of its sale of water to a new power plant in Zeeland. "We are concerned and are just pointing out that the long-term economic interests and the long-term environmental interests once again coincide here," Leonard said.

If state legislators, the governor and businesses can compromise on so large an issue as drilling, it is exceedingly possible to negotiate this Lakeshore web of cause and effect. Business and government partnerships forged for economic expansion projects are well practiced and extend to these environmental issues

Former Steelcase Chairman Peter Wege coined the phrase "economicology" in his book of the same title, providing examples in which "doing the right thing" environmentally provided new and more profit as well as preserving environmental quality.

Such compromises are inherently difficult but provide the badge of leadership for those responsible. It is especially important and timely as Michigan's Big Three automakers are facing off against new fuel emissions standards being debated in the U.S. Congress, and as Gov. John Engler pushes the automakers to join the new millennium with production of hybrid vehicles. The latter is most imperative as foreign vehicle manufacturers already have such vehicles on the road, costing less than $30,000, and impressing the buyers with a new quality standard.

While the west side of Michigan negotiates its many water issues, it is no less important for the east side to work on air quality.

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