Senate Bills 652, 653, and 654

SENATE BILLS AIMED AT MAKING IT EASIER TO “USE” OUR STATE’S ENVIRONMENT

Those concerned about clean air, water and land may want to learn more about Senate Bills 652, 653 and 654, which are intended to limit science-based regulations proposed by state departments to address environmental matters.

SB 652, for instance, sets up an “environmental rules review committee,” appointed by the governor, putting virtually all power for overseeing rules in the hand of a committee dominated by business interests.  The committee would specifically include someone representing the solid waste industry, one representing a statewide manufacturing organization, one for small business, one for utilities, one for the oil and gas industry, one for farmers…and then one for a statewide environmental group, one for local governments, one for a land conservancy organization, one representing the public and one who is a medical professional.

Missing, of course, are angling organizations, those who hike and camp, and many others who utilize our natural resources as recreation (and therefore are vital to our tourism economy), not as direct sources of income.

The directors of key departments involved can appoint a “science advisor.” But that advisor cannot be a state employee.

SB 653 does virtually the same thing for key environmental quality permits, setting up a 15 member panel dominated by business interests. Permits included in this review would include soil erosion control, solid waste disposal construction and operation, septic waste haulers, wetland dredging and filling…the list is long and it’s pretty easy to see that the goal is to make it easier for people to get permits that now can be rejected if they hurt air, water or land.

SB 654 creates a nine person “environmental science advisory board” in the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget. This board “shall advise the governor on issues affecting the protection of the environment or management of natural resources,” but only when the governor asks for such advice.

I know Anglers’ members come from all walks of life, from at least two political parties, and have varying degrees of interest in these larger environmental matters. The board has not taken a position on these three bills, but many of the groups we have worked with over the years are very concerned. One of those is the Michigan League of Conservation voters. If you want to weigh in on this matter, you can do so easily at this site, which the League has developed.

These bills are now on the Senate floor, ready for action. I appreciate that there may be multiple views on this issue. And I know that the recent track record of state departments on key issues affecting the Au Sable is not very good – just look at the fish farm situation, where state officials have given a green light to a potential environmental disaster.

But I see very little chance that groups set up as required under the legislation would have overturned that permit. As someone who has watched our state move backwards when it comes to protecting our natural resources, I will be letting my lawmakers know I am opposed to the package as it now is written.

Tight lines,

Joe Hemming

President

 

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