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The Michigan Legislature is considering legislation to increase transparency and accountability within the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Supported by Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB), the three-bill package includes:
- Senate Bill 652, sponsored by Sen. Tom Casperson, creates an environmental rules committee. The committee would review, amend, deny and approve DEQ rule promulgation. This provision is modeled after an Indiana law in operation since 1996.
- Senate Bill 653, sponsored by Sen. Darwin Booher, develops an appeals board that, upon request, would serve as a scientific permit review panel to hear an appeal by a permit applicant that has been denied by the DEQ. This is similar to the structure currently in place for environmental remediation.
- Senate Bill 654, sponsored by Sen. Dave Robertson, reestablishes an Environmental Science Advisory Board to hear scientific evidence and provide recommendation to the Governor. Michigan operated an environmental science advisory board beginning in the 1990’s, but it was abolished by executive order in 2007.
“While we’ve seen improvements in communication between DEQ staff and farmers, as well as a stronger focus on cooperative solutions, we need to ensure that doesn’t fade when there are administrative leadership changes,” said Matt Smego, MFB Government Relations Department Manager. “It’s also important we maintain environmental protection without creating undue regulatory burdens.”
Smego added that the organizations member-developed policy specifically supports the governance style outlined within the bills.
MFB Policy #71 Streamlining Michigan Government states, “Michigan’s regulatory structure must continue to foster economic growth. Policy makers should have a clear understanding of the impact of regulations on business before voting to support new or more stringent regulations. Regulatory agencies should maintain constitutional roles and reasonable environmental protection without creating undue regulatory burdens.”
The Senate Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing this week on the legislation. It’s also anticipated a House version of the package will be introduced.