For the second time in the last 3 years, the State of Michigan has begun the process to ban coal tar sealers from use in the entire state. This would be the second state to pass such a ban. The State of Washington passed the nation’s first statewide ban in 2011.

The ban in Michigan is sponsored by Representative Dian Slavens. In a recent Great Lakes Echo article, offered the following:
Michigan state Rep. Dian Slavens, D-Canton Township, sponsored a ban after seeing similar legislation die last session.
“With it being a carcinogen, I thought we should keep pursuing it so we can get this legislation pushed through,” Slavens said. She is unsure what is holding the legislation up once it gets to committee.
“I have not heard from any groups, usually someone will call you up and say, ‘why are you doing this?’ she said. But I have not heard any negatives on my bill from any group.”

It is worth noting that The Echo story has an odd statement that the sealant industry trade group, the PCTC, and the USGS are in agreement about the levels of PAHs in the Great Lakes region which come from coal tar sealants. Last time I checked about the only thing these two might agree on is the day of the week.

Several other states have also attempted statewide legislation including: California, Maryland, New York, Indiana, and Illinois. New York came the closest after a ban passed their Assembly with an 80% margin, but was passed too late to be considered by the Senate. We covered the New York bill here.

Michigan has a rich tradition of environmental stewardship and has experience in dealing with coal tar sealant pollution. Last year I got an anonymous tip presumably from a State of Michigan government employee about a rash of coal tar sealant prohibitions throughout the state in 2008. I doubled checked that source which led to my understanding that at least 70 stormwater permits throughout Michigan had the provision for the permittee to stop using coal tar sealants. Technically the permits should be referred to as “government use restrictions” because they appear to restrict the use of sealant by the unit of government, but not the jurisdiction that they govern. I have since found these provisions in other NPDES permits around the country.

According to several sources, the sealant prohibition was a small part of sweeping changes that many of the communities had real problems with. They challenged this in court and as of now, most Michigan permittees have reverted back to their 2003 permits.

It is unclear the future of the ban in Michigan, but let’s hope legislators do their homework and not buy the version of reality that the coal tar sealant industry is selling.