Terry Miller was one of the named plaintiffs in NELC’s Clean Water Act lawsuit against Dow Chemical Company (see related story on 2014 Winter – Dow Suit Changed Environmental Landscape In Central Michigan).
Terry is a founding member of the Lone Tree Council, a citizen group that has worked since 1978 to preserve and protect Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region, the urban areas of Midland, Bay City, and Saginaw, and rural areas reaching out into Michigan’s “thumb.”
How would you characterize your work to protect the Great Lakes Bay Region?
We are in our 35th year of environ- mental activism, and the critical is- sues never seem to go away.
Most recently we joined Sierra Club and other state organizations in op- posing Michigan’s second-largest utility, Consumers Energy, in its effort to build a new coal-fired generating plant in Bay City. The utility has since cancelled that plant. We are also monitoring the Dow Chemical/EPA-directed dioxin cleanup of some 50 miles of river.
What has been the significance of your 1995 Clean Water Act lawsuit against Dow Chemical?
I think the Clean Water Act suit and its resulting 1997 settlement represent a model of environmental justice. The settlement required the company to address the outstanding issue of its chemical water pollution, and provided a grassroots opportunity to address locally identified projects that have improved our waters.
How has the lawsuit made a difference in your work to preserve and restore the environmental integrity of the Saginaw Bay region?
It is the settlement that keeps on giving. As part of its monetary penalty, Dow paid $800,000 into a local environment fund. Half of this was put in an endowment for long-term environmental benefits, and the remainder was placed into an interest bearing account.
Over a 16-year period, the fund grew to $1,198,820. Further, federal, state and local matching funds leveraged by these settlement dollars have amounted to approximately $20 million, a settlement-to-match dollar ratio of approximately 1:17.
To date, these monies have financed more than 30 watershed planning, water quality, resource restoration, and watershed education projects. And the endowment still provides for approximately $21,000 in annual grants.