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Michigan Environmental Council asks EPA to probe flaws in state's air quality program

Underfunding leaves polluters unmonitored, puts Michiganders' health at risk
Mar 17, 2010
The Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) today requested the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigate deficiencies in Michigan’s implementation of the Clean Air Act. Those deficiencies stem from underfunding of the state’s air program.

MEC’s analysis indicates that these shortcomings are resulting in the release of air pollutants at levels that place the health of Michiganders at risk. Under the Clean Air Act,  states must collect a certain level of permit fees (referred to as the presumptive minimum) or demonstrate they can run a credible program with less money. Michigan has failed to raise the presumptive minimum for a number of years and is now failing to implement significant portions of the Clean Air Act.

Program deficiencies include:

-- An inadequate number of major facilities in the state get a full compliance evaluation before being reissued their permit to discharge air pollutants for an additional five years (through their renewable operating permit).

-- Many complaints go unanswered due to staff shortages.

-- The state is no longer able to adequately work with industry to develop pollution prevention programs and strategies.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA will investigate Michigan’s program. If it agrees that the program is underfunded it will issue a Notice of Deficiency in the Federal Registry. If Michigan fails to address the shortfalls, then it is subject to sanctions including the loss of federal highway funds.

“Our hope is that the state legislature will act to reduce the crippling shortfall in funding, and the program will again comply with the laws that require it to protect public health,” said James Clift, policy director with the Michigan Environmental Council. “Should that happen, we’re ready to ask the EPA to drop the investigation.”

Clift added that health and environmental advocates have warned legislators for years that funding for the air program – as for other crucial health and safety programs – has deteriorated to critical levels.

“We’re reluctant to go this route, but we’ve run out of options,” he said.

MEC made the request in a letter addressed to Cheryl Newton, Director of the Air and Radiation Division for US EPA Region 5 in Chicago.
James Clift, 517-256-0553
RELATED TOPICS: environmental toxins
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