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Protecting the Great Lakes and Clean Drinking Water

As someone who has lived in Michigan his entire life, Gary understands the importance of the Great Lakes to Michigan’s economy and our way of life. The Great Lakes not only support thousands of Michigan businesses and more than 1.3 million jobs in our state, they supply clean drinking water to more than 40 million people. Simply put, Michigan wouldn’t be Michigan without healthy and vibrant Great Lakes. That’s why Gary has made protecting Michigan’s precious natural resources a top priority. 

Securing Historic Funding for Great Lakes Restoration & Protecting Lakefront Communities

From Escanaba to Detroit, from Muskegon to Saginaw, Gary has seen firsthand how successful the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) has been in restoring habitats and ecosystems around the Great Lakes basin. That’s why in 2019, Gary led the Senate in securing the first-ever increase in funding for the GLRI since the program was established. He then secured the single-largest investment in the GLRI in 2021 through the bipartisan infrastructure law to accelerate the restoration of nine high-priority areas in Michigan whose lakes, rivers, and watersheds flow into the Great Lakes. This historic infrastructure bill that Gary fought to pass into law also allocated $55 billion overall to ensure Americans have access to clean drinking water, including funding dedicated to replacing dangerous lead service lines. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee – which helps allocate federal resources – Gary is working to build on that success and deliver continued support to the Great Lakes.

Gary has heard from communities across Michigan about how severe weather and high-water levels on the Great Lakes are causing serious damage to our shorelines and harming Michiganders’ properties and livelihoods. That is why Gary authored bipartisan legislation into law in 2021 to establish the Safeguarding Tomorrow Revolving Loan program, which offers low-cost loans that local governments can use to build resilient infrastructure and help protect Michigan’s beautiful coastlines. Gary fought and secured $500 million in the bipartisan infrastructure law to kick-start this program, and Michigan was awarded $5.1 million in the first round of funding in September 2023.

Gary also knows how critical the Soo Locks are to maintaining strong supply chains and robust commerce on the Great Lakes. That’s why Gary fought and secured $479 million in the bipartisan infrastructure law to invest in modernizing the Soo Locks, and he is committed to delivering additional funding to support the construction of a new lock and protect this vital gateway on the Great Lakes.

Combatting Climate Change

Climate change continues to threaten Michigan’s future – from our environment to our economy. That’s why Gary got to work and helped enact the Inflation Reduction Act. This historic law is making major investments in combatting climate change, while lowering energy costs for working families, increasing American clean energy production, and reducing our carbon emissions. The Inflation Reduction Act created tax credits to help average Americans invest in clean energy alternatives like electric vehicles and energy efficient home improvements, while also providing tax incentives for American manufacturers to accelerate production of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and critical minerals. Together, these investments are creating jobs and economic opportunity for Michiganders, improving our energy security, and helping to confront the climate crisis. 

Working to Address PFAS Contamination

PFAS contamination has devastated communities across our state. Gary has heard firsthand from his constituents about just how much exposure to these chemicals has changed their lives. That’s why he went to work to mitigate their harmful effects in Michigan.

In August 2018, Gary passed a measure into law urging the Department of Defense to phase out its use of PFAS-laden firefighting foams. PFAS chemicals – also known as “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break – have been found at active and decommissioned military installations across Michigan that used these dangerous foams. As a result, local water sources have been contaminated, affecting the drinking water quality for residents.

In September 2018, Gary helped convened the first-ever hearing on PFAS in the Senate, assessing the federal response to contamination and remediation. He then convened a field summit in Grand Rapids in November 2018 to shine a light on how the local, state, and federal governments are coordinating their response to PFAS.

In October 2018, Gary passed his provision into law allowing airports to phase out the use of firefighting foams that contain PFAS.

In April 2019, Gary hosted the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda to meet with residents and community leaders severely impacted by PFAS exposure and pressed the Air Force to take action during the meeting. In December 2019, the annual national defense bill was signed into law with provisions Gary led, banning the Department of Defense from purchasing firefighting foams containing PFAS. The bill also immediately prohibited the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS in military training exercises, and enhanced cooperation between states and the Department of Defense on PFAS clean-up efforts for contamination stemming from military-related activities. Gary later secured $13.5 million in federal funding for PFAS remediation efforts at Wurtsmith.

Gary has also authored bipartisan legislation into law to address and prevent the spread of PFAS contamination. Gary’s Preventing PFAS Runoff at Airports Act is helping commercial airports purchase relatively low-cost devices that limit and prevent exposure to PFAS to protect not only our environment but also families, first responders, and the Great Lakes from these toxic chemicals. Gary’s Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act is helping protect the health and safety of firefighters and emergency responders by directing federal agencies to develop best practices, training, and educational programs to reduce PFAS exposure. Gary’s law also requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop educational resources for firefighters on alternative firefighting foams and personal protective equipment (PPE) that do not contain PFAS.

Improving Oil Spill Preparedness & Pipeline Safety

In 2010, an oil spill on the Kalamazoo River became one of the largest on-land pipeline ruptures in our nation’s history. Gary knows that an oil spill on the Great Lakes — especially in the Straits of Mackinac — would be catastrophic to our state. However, we currently do not have enough research on how to effectively cleanup and address an oil spill in freshwater bodies like the Great Lakes.

Upon learning this, Gary quickly got to work and authored bipartisan legislation that was signed into law in December 2018 to establish a Great Lakes Center of Expertise for Oil Spill Preparedness and Response through the U.S. Coast Guard. The Center of Expertise examines the impacts of oil spills in freshwater environments and helps develop effective responses. Once Gary’s bill was signed into law, he secured $4.5 million worth of funding to kick-start the center and provide the Coast Guard with the resources they need to get to work. He then announced the center will be dual-headquartered with two locations in Michigan to maximize research and operational capabilities. In August 2022, Gary participated in the official ribbon-cutting ceremony of the U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes Center of Expertise at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie.