Michigan Legislature Continues To Dismantle Environmental Regulations

Under bill 272, recently passed in the Michigan Senate, no environmental regulation could exceed current Federal law, potentially reversing decades of environmental progress. Among other things, the new rules would:

– Prohibit an agency from promulgating a rule more stringent than the applicable Federal standard unless specifically authorized by statute.

– Require an agency to consider exempting small business from a rule under certain circumstances and expand the methods by which an agency must reduce the economic impact of a rule on small business.

According to a May 5 article from The Michigan Messenger:

The new law could benefit Dow Chemical, which is responsible for dioxin contamination in the city of Midland, the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers and Saginaw Bay.

In 2009 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took lead responsibility for enforcing clean up of the watershed section of the contaminated zone, leaving the state responsible for working with Dow on pollution in the city of Midland where dioxin pollution has settled over much of the city.

Under federal rules dioxin at levels of 1000 parts per trillion requires cleanup. State law requires clean up at 90 ppt. With pollution in Midland at around 300 ppt, the Senate law could allow Dow to avoid difficult and expensive cleanup of the city.

EPA has acknowledged that its 1,000 ppt cleanup level is outdated and the agency has promised to update dioxin cleanup requirements to comport with current scientific understandings of the chemical’s toxicity, she said. This process, however, has been stalled under pressure from the chemical industry.

The Senate action will hamstring efforts to protect the Great Lakes, the Michigan Environmental Council said.

In 1976 Gov. William Milliken reduced the algae beds that were covering Lake Erie by issuing an administrative rule limiting phosphorus, the group said. Under the Senate law, the governor would be blocked from taking such action.

I grew up not far from the banks of the Tittabawassee River, where we could smell the chemical-laden water that never froze in winter. With stricter regulation, this slowly changed, and the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers became year-round Walleye fishing hot spots. Maintaining strong environmental laws is the only way to preserve the Michigan that hunters, anglers and nature enthusiasts have come to enjoy. Senate Bill 272 is clearly a loss for the habitat fish and wildlife need to thrive.

Freshman State Senator Howard Walker joined all his Republican colleagues in voting for the measure. All Senate Democrats opposed it. It moves to the House now, giving Northern Michigan residents a brief opportunity to voice their concerns to their Representatives and the Governor.

To read the full article and see more details of the bill, click here.


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