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Conservation Groups Press Snyder to Reject DEQ Oversight Bills

If the bill giving industry oversight over the Department of Environmental Quality is signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, conservation groups fear that more injection wells such as this one in Osceola will be permitted across the state. (Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation)
If the bill giving industry oversight over the Department of Environmental Quality is signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, conservation groups fear that more injection wells such as this one in Osceola will be permitted across the state. (Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation)
May 24, 2018

LANSING, Mich. — Groups concerned about clean water and clean air are pressing Gov. Rick Snyder to reject several bills that would give industry new influence over the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Senate Bill 652 would create an environmental rules review committee that could overrule the DEQ, and more than half of the committee members would come from industry groups. Peggy Case, president of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, called the moves outrageous.

"The government basically has been turned over to private industry,” Case said. “We've been seeing this for years. It practically eliminates the DEQ and turns the process of permitting over to the industries that are being permitted. So it's the fox not only guarding the chicken house, but owning the chicken house."

Two other bills also passed, including SB 653, to create an appeals panel; and SB 654, which establishes a scientific advisory board.

Supporters of the bills claim DEQ bureaucrats have too much power and have been overzealous in denying permits to protect wetlands. Opponents fear that executives from the oil-and-gas and bottled-water industries will now get to write their own rules.

Case said she thinks many lawmakers are working on behalf of industry to the detriment of citizens and the environment, because they are term-limited and will need new jobs after the November election.

"It appears to us that these folks in the Legislature and the governor are streamlining through as many bills as they can, so that when their term limits are up - and a lot of them will be - they can go get the good lobbying jobs for these very industries,” she said. “You watch, that's what's going to happen."

Snyder is termed out and will step down in January. All of the members of the state House of Representatives and some of the state senators are up for re-election in November.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MI