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MI groups demand more public input in EGLE decisions

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Monday, April 1, 2024   

Michigan U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib - D-Dearborn - is among the advocates urging Michigan's Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to more actively involve local residents in its decision making.

They want the agency known as EGLE to revise its criteria for public engagement, and inform residents sooner about decisions that affect the environment and public health.

Rep. Tlaib called the current engagement unacceptable at a news conference late last week.

"The public is only brought into EGLE permitting process when they have almost no power to change the outcome," said Tlaib. "And a corporate polluter has a huge head start with months of back and forth with EGLE."

Industries regularly complain about what they describe as excessive environmental regulation, although community groups describe these concerns as - at best - overstated.

EGLE is currently taking public comment on how it engages the public. The deadline to weigh in is today, April 1.

Donele Wilkins is founder and CEO of the Green Door Initiative, a nonprofit that works on environmental causes.

She said EGLE needs to be proactive, transparent and fair. This includes allowing individuals as much time as companies to participate in the permitting process.

"The agency has the ability to become proactive and respect the delegated responsibility given to them to protect Michigan and all of its residents," said Wilkins. "Bring the public in earlier, rather than at the end of a process."

And Simone Sagovac, coalition building and empowerment director for the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition, said it's important for EGLE to include measuring current pollution levels in communities before making permit decisions.

"It can't be that the companies control the EGLE process, which is supposed to be about protecting public health," said Sagovac. "We need to know if companies have been accountable to their pollution before they are granted another permit."

As one example, the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant has had permits from EGLE to discharge wastewater that it calls "safe" into Michigan waterways.

However, local environmental advocates argue that these permits were issued without adequately addressing public concerns.




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