In just over a week’s time, both chambers of the Michigan Legislature passed a measure effectively nullifying Gov. Whitmer’s Executive Order that would have abolished three Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) oversight panels advocated for by Michigan Farm Bureau in 2018.
Within two hours of the Senate Oversight Committee passing House Concurrent Resolution 1 the 38-member Senate approved the measure on a party-line vote of 22-16.
MFB Government Relations Manager Matt Smego testified before the Senate Oversight Committee alongside Jason Geer, director of energy and environmental policy for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
Smego shared support for the resolution and highlighted the importance of clean water and air to farmers and that MFB’s member-developed policy indicates the organization, without question, does not support those that knowingly or willingly pollute and the DEQ should take enforcement action against those individuals.
He also spoke specifically to the importance of the permit review panel.
“Our members feel very strongly about a process that further provides transparency and accountability of DEQ’s decision-making and makes their determinations for those decisions clearer,” Smego said. “There’s been a history where…it’s not necessarily just permit denial or acceptance, there may also be conditions placed in permits in order to move forward with acceptance.
“Those conditions aren’t always based on state or federal law. The panel gives the ability to have a voice to ask questions related to those conditions and is one of the aspects of the permit review process that creates a record that is publicly available to make more clear why those decisions are being made.”
Additionally, Smego noted the DEQ director can always have a discussion with the permit applicant prior to getting into the permit review panel process.
To move forward with any restructuring within DEQ, Whitmer will have to reissue a new Executive Order.
Whitmer had also requested Attorney General Dana Nessel to issue an opinion on the legality of the three oversight panels. It’s unclear at this point when or if Nessel will weigh in.