“Polluter Panels” to Oversee Environmental Rule-Making in Michigan
You’d better buckle up, because it’s going to get much harder to hold industry accountable for our health and natural resources here in Michigan.
Last week, Governor Snyder signed a pair of bills (SB No. 652 and SB No. 653) that allow regulated industries to serve on panels with the power to override the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, an agency responsible for the health and integrity of the state’s natural resources.
Senate Bill 652 in particular raised more than a few eyebrows, and lead to critics dubbing the bills the “Fox Guarding the Hen House Acts.” It will create an Environmental Rules Review Committee to veto DEQ rules and regulations before they go into effect. The committee will “oversee all rule-making” of the Department.
State agency directors will be non-voting members of the committee, and the governor, with the advice and consent of the state Senate, will appoint the committee’s voting members to include a public health professional, two individuals representing the general public, and representatives from each of the following constituencies:
- The solid waste management industry
- Public electric utilities
- The oil and gas industry
- A statewide manufacturing organization
- A statewide small businesses organization
- A statewide agricultural organization
- Local governments
- A statewide environmental organization
- A statewide land conservancy organization.
Despite the governor’s own data showing that the DEQ has denied less than one-half of one percent of pollution permit requests in the past year, the bills were supported by business and industry groups including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Oil and Gas Association, the Michigan Manufacturers Association, DTE Energy, Consumers Energy, and others.
The DEQ’s mission statement currently touts its role as a “partner in economic development,” and Freshwater Future has been one of many that has criticized the department’s unwillingness to adequately address pollution prevention across the state. These new laws will only further entrench industry perspective and influence on environmental decision-making in Michigan and we’re disappointed the Governor did not veto this regrettable legislation.