Citizenship Advocacy Opportunity: Changes to Michigan Environmental Policy

The Michigan State Legislature is about to pass some bills that affect the Department of Environmental Quality’s ability to protect our environment. The House just passed bills creating an Environmental Rules and Review Committee and a permit appeal panel that would have authority over the DEQ. The Senate already passed a similar set of bills, although there are a few differences that will have to be resolved for the final version that will be sent to the Governor for review and action.

The bills are complex, (for details, see www.legislature.mi.gov) but here is a very brief overview:

Senate Bill 652 would create the Environmental Rules Review Committee as an independent body in the Office of Performance and Transformation to oversee all rule-making of the DEQ. The Committee would have a majority of industry representatives.

Senate Bill 653 would establish a permit appeal panel in the DEQ, consisting of 15 individuals appointed by the governor. All members would have to meet certain requirements.

Groups supporting the Senate-passed bills include business, industry and agriculture organizations. They say that the bills are needed to provide for a fair review of a denied permit without having to go to court, and for increased transparency. Opponents include environmental organizations, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of the Chippewa Indians, and the Michigan DEQ. Concerns expressed by opponents include the make-up of the boards which will include a number of interests that may benefit financially from the decisions made, potential delays, decreased accountability for the Governor and Legislature, and costs of potential litigation. It is not clear who is supporting or opposing the House-passed version.

This legislation matters, so learn more about it and make your opinions known to your state Senator, the Governor and other officials.

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