Senate committee passes DEQ oversight legislation | Michigan Farm News

Senate committee passes DEQ oversight legislation

Category: Politics

by Nicole Sevrey

Generic Farm_DEC_MFN_2017

The Senate Natural Resources Committee this week passed legislation to aid in increasing transparency and accountability within the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The legislation, supported by Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB), is expected to receive a vote by the full Senate next week.

Voting yes were Senators Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba), Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair), Dave Robertson (R-Grand Blanc) and Jim Stamas (R-Midland). Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) was the lone no vote.

MFB and 18 other organizations representing livestock, dairy, row crop, specialty crop farmers and more, submitted a letter of support to the committee prior to the vote.

“We testified before the committee in support of the proposal because our member-developed policy specifically asks for the governance style outlined in the bills,” said Matt Smego, MFB’s government relations manager. “Farmers deserve reliable communication from DEQ staff and our members want a stronger focus on cooperative solutions so we maintain environmental protection without creating undue regulatory burdens. This legislation creates a better structure to ensure that.”

The three-bill package includes:

  • Senate Bill 652 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 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 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.

Farmers are encouraged to continue asking legislators to support the proposal. Follow these three easy steps to send a simple, pre-written message to your representative and senator:

  • Text the word DEQ to the number 52886.
  • You’ll receive an automatic reply. Follow the link to complete the action request.
  • Fill in your name, email and address and hit submit.