Major Reorganization for Environmental Quality Offices is Good Sign for Michigan’s Environment

LANSING - Today, February 4, the Whitmer administration issued multiple executive directives which will result in a major reorganization of Michigan’s environmental quality departments and needed progress in tackling PFAS contamination and climate change. The Governor’s office announced that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will be replaced by a new department called the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, which will include a new Office of Energy and Climate Change and will bring back the Office of the Great Lakes from the Department of Natural Resources. The directives also highlight the Governor’s commitment to promoting environmental justice and public health with the establishment of an Interagency Environmental Justice Response Team and the Office of the Environmental Justice Public Advocate. The Michigan Environmental Council had the following to say in support:

“It’s great to see the Whitmer administration following through on their campaign promises and making a concerted effort to protect the health of Michigan’s people and environment,” said Michigan Environmental Council Policy Director James Clift. “We hope this reorganization will return Michigan to a leadership position in protecting our residents.”

Governor Whitmer also announced the elimination of the environmental rules review and permit oversight committees, which were created by the legislature and heavily dominated by representatives from industry and the regulated community.

“We commend Governor Whitmer for eliminating these undemocratic rule and permit panels,” said Clift. “The removal of these committees puts the control of Michigan’s environmental protections back where it should have been all along, into the hands of elected officials who can be held accountable by voters.”

In addition to this, the directives create offices of an environmental justice public advocate and drinking water public advocate to investigate complaints.

“An environmental justice public advocate and drinking water public advocate establishes accountability that has been sorely lacking in our state government and will allow the new environmental department to be more responsive to the concerns and needs of impacted communities,” said Michigan Environmental Council Community Engagement Director Sandra Turner-Handy. “Minority and low income communities across our state are disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation, and we thank the Whitmer administration for addressing some of the recommendations put forth by the 2017 Environmental Justice Work Group, and taking step towards preventing another environmental crisis from impacting the health of Michigan residents in the future.”

Lastly, the announcement today addressed climate change by creating an Office of Energy and Climate Change and pledging to keep Michigan committed to the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce carbon emissions in order to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“With our federal government abdicating its responsibility to address climate change, it's imperative that Michigan steps up to the plate and takes action to comprehensively and rapidly decarbonize our economy,” said Michigan Environmental Council Energy Policy and Legislative Affairs Director Charlotte Jameson. “By taking these first critically important steps, Governor Whitmer has made it clear that her administration is committed to doing what is necessary to mitigate climate change. We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and partnering with the administration and the legislature to move Michigan fully towards a cleaner, more sustainable future.”

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  • Bob Vance
    commented 2019-02-05 08:52:36 -0500
    …will she replace the industry dominated oversight committees with citizen and environmental expert panels? Elected officials, regardless of party, most often since Citizen’s United work to placate their corporate donors first… having oversight committees dominated by elected officials is often no better than having Snyder’s industry gofers. Also: In my 30+ years working in conjunction with state mandated and funded services it became commonly accepted that anytime there was a name change (they are expensive btw, just in terms of changing letterheads and online site-specific documents. Who gets those contracts?) it meant there would be cuts to funding and services. This was true regardless of aprty doing the name change. I would watch this action closely before I put out that it was overwhelmingly positive.