Michigan Environmental Report
A letter from MEC Policy Director James Clift --
I am excited to announce that, after nearly 20 years with Michigan Environmental Council, I have been offered and am accepting a new position with the State of Michigan as the Senior Great Lakes Advisor to Liesl Clark, the Director of the Department of Environment Quality (soon to become the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy). This is an incredible opportunity to build on the work that has been my lifeblood at MEC for nearly two decades and a chance to be impactful and intimately engaged in the administration’s critical decision-making on water issues. I will be assuming the post in a little less than a week.
As you may know, this comes on the heels of the departure of our President, Chris Kolb, who left MEC to become the governor's Budget Director. While this amount of leadership change can be difficult for an organization to absorb, I leave MEC knowing that it remains strong, with a team of smart and enthusiastic leaders who are ready to step up, and a passionate Board of Directors who are eager to help usher the organization into the next phase.
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:
LANSING - Today, February 1, Governor Whitmer issued an executive directive (ED) that makes it clear that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is important to her administration and encourages state departments to work with residents who request information. The ED includes ways in which state departments could enhance their transparency, including holding more publically accessible meetings. It also asks for departments to name a liaison who will provide assistance for people navigating the FOIA process and to create advocates in transparency when available. Michigan Environmental Council issued the following statement in support:
One month into 2019, and new and old elected officials are getting settled here in Lansing, but there is no time to waste. A whole slew of public health and environmental issues are threatening Michigan and its residents. Decision-makers in the Capitol need to deal with these issues thoroughly and swiftly, but they do not have to do it alone. Michigan Environmental Council and Michigan League of Conservation Voters, in conjunction with our many member and partner organizations, have put together an Environmental Roadmap for lawmakers and the new administration, a multi-year plan for addressing Michigan’s top environmental and public health challenges.
We are into week two of lame duck* with two weeks left to go. As promised, we have an update for you on what is happening at the Capitol. It’s not pretty.
*Lame duck: a period of time when successors have been chosen for elected officials. Politicians who will be leaving their position remain in power until they are officially replaced on inauguration day.
This is the second installment of our Capitol Countdown to the New Year. Through the end of the year, we’ll be keeping track and reporting back to you on lame duck legislation that will either hurt or help the health of Michigan’s people and environment. We have also created forms that make it simple and fast for you to email your state lawmakers (see the links below).
We have a huge and urgent problem. The Michigan House is poised to vote on a bill that would bar any state agency from setting more protective standards than the federal government. House Bill 4205, also known as “No Stricter than Federal,” was taken up in the Michigan House this week, after sitting stagnant for more than a year. We successfully held off a vote for now, but the bill will be back up next week and pressure is mounting on legislators to vote yes.
On Wednesday, November 28, the Senate Natural Resources Committee heard testimony on SB 1211 introduced by Senator Tom Casperson. Michigan Environmental Council, as well as many other environmental organizations, are strongly opposed to this bill. SB 1211 will completely overhaul how Michigan’s wetlands, inland lakes and streams are regulated by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Currently, Michigan is one of two states with delegated authority from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to administer the Clean Water Act. Michigan’s program is already noncompliant with federal standards, and SB 1211 will push us further out of compliance. The result is increased degradation of our water quality and the elimination of lakes and wetlands vital for ecological health and outdoor recreation. Michigan Environmental Council released the following statement in response:
On Tuesday, November 6, Election Day will finally be here. With Michigan’s environment facing threats on multiple fronts, strong leadership is more important now than ever. We understand that taking just an hour out of your day to go vote can be difficult, so here are some helpful tips to make your Election Day a good one!