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Farm Bureau opposes bill to remove legislative rulemaking authority on water quality

The legislature rescinded the department’s water quality rulemaking authority nearly two decades ago when it was enacted by then Governor Jennifer Granholm. Image credit: House TV
Date Posted: January 26, 2024

Michigan Farm Bureau on Jan. 19 testified before the House Natural Resources, Environment, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee in opposition to legislation that would restore water quality rulemaking authority to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (MDEGLE). 

If approved, House Bill 5205, sponsored by Rep. Emily Dievendorf (D-Lansing), would mark a dramatic shift in governance. The legislature rescinded the department’s water quality rulemaking authority under Part 31 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act nearly two decades ago; the law was enacted in 2004 by then Governor Jennifer Granholm, who supported and approved the bipartisan agreement (more on that here). 

In his remarks before the 9-member committee, MFB Legislative Counsel Ben Tirrell justified the organization’s position with several arguments that speak to the importance of retaining a separation of powers through direct legislative oversight of MDEGLE’s expansive authorities to protect water quality. 

“Michigan Farm Bureau policy recognizes the necessary role the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy plays, explicitly supporting the timely, effective and consistent enforcement of environmental laws and issuance of permits,” Tirrell said, adding that MFB policy insists on applying sound science and performing economic impact analysis to MDEGLE rules and standards prior to promulgation.

“This is something MDEGLE continues to fail to do; creating arbitrary standards and ignoring the implications, especially for small rural businesses like farms and associated processors.”

Tirrell concluded his testimony by urging the legislature not to relinquish their authority and responsibility. 

“Michigan Farm Bureau members share your commitment to preserving our state’s natural resources and protecting the environment,” Tirrell added, saying House Bill 5205 is not the way to accomplish this goal. 

“Michigan needs thorough scientific and economic review of potential environmental rules, as well as the transparency and opportunities for stakeholder input that the legislature currently provides.”

Other groups opposing the legislation include the National Federation of Independent Business, Michigan Association of County Drain Commissioners, Michigan Homebuilders, Michigan Realtors and County Road Association of Michigan. 

Among those supporting the bill are the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, Michigan Environmental Council, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, Clean Water Action, Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, and Michigan League of Conservation Voters.

Note: watch Tirrell’s testimony (starting near the 42-minute mark).

Ben Tirrell headshot

Ben Tirrell

Legislative Counsel
517-679-5924 [email protected]