According to Michigan officials, greater opportunities for transparency and input into critical environmental quality rule-making processes, as well as an alternative appeals process for applications received by the Department of Environmental Quality, are now in place under legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.
“When state leaders make decisions impacting environmental quality, Michiganders deserve full transparency,” Snyder said. “These bills enhance opportunities for independent experts to weigh in and provide information that will help ensure new environmental processes meet the highest levels of quality and safety standards.”
Senate Bills 652-654, sponsored by state Sens. Tom Casperson, Darwin Booher and David Robertson, respectively, establish three independent bodies with diverse representation of topic experts to enhance transparency and rule-making processes, provide additional review of DEQ permitting processes and decisions, and advise on issues affecting the protection of the environment.
- SB 652 creates the Environmental Rules Review Committee (ERRC) within the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget to oversee the DEQ’s rule-making process. The committee will include directors or their designees from the DEQ and Michigan departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture and Rural Development and Natural Resources as non-voting members. Voting members appointed by the Governor will represent waste management; manufacturing; small businesses; utilities; environmental, oil and gas; conservancy and agricultural organizations; local governments; public health professionals and the public. It is now Public Act 267 of 2018.
- SB 653 creates the Environmental Permit Review Commission within the DEQ to advise the director on disputes related to permits and permit applications. The bill gives authority and final decision-making ability on appeals related to pending permit decisions to an independent administrative law judge. Members appointed by the Governor must have the equivalent of six years of full-time, relevant experience as a practicing engineer, geologist, hydrologist, or hydrogeologist or have a master’s degree from an accredited institution of higher education in a discipline of engineering or science related to air or water and have the equivalent of eight years of full-time relevant experience. It is now Public Act 268 of 2018.
- SB 654 creates the Environmental Science Advisory Board within the Department of Technology, Management and Budget to provide science-based advice to the Governor—or any state office, agency or department specified by the Governor—on issues affecting the protection of the environment or the management of natural resources. Members appointed by the Governor must have expertise in one of the following: engineering, environmental science, economics, chemistry, geology, physics, biology, human medicine, statistics, risk assessment or other disciplines determined appropriate by the Governor. It is now Public Act 269 of 2018.
Snyder also vetoed one bill:
HB 5095 directed the Department of Environmental Quality to adopt the United States Coast Guard’s (USCG) regulations on ballast water discharges, including an allowance for alternate management systems approved by a foreign administration. In his veto letter, Gov. Snyder expressed concern, stating that, “These ‘alternate management systems’ are not fully vetted by the USCG or the DEQ, meaning they may not be as protective as USCG or DEQ methods. Potentially increasing the risk for introduction of new aquatic invasive species into the Great Lakes, ultimately harming our waters and negatively impacting our State’s economy, is not something I can support.”
Snyder also signed three additional bills:
Senate Bill 542, sponsored by state Sen. Tom Casperson, limits the physician-recommended distance for which individuals must be notified prior to lawn and ornamental pesticide applications on non-adjacent properties to no more than100 feet. The bill also exempts structural pesticide applicators from posting yard or lawn markers after applications have been made on a structure or to lawn or ornamental sites that are within 10 feet of the treated structure. It is now Public Act 270 of 2018.
House Bill 4438, sponsored by state Rep. Tom Barrett, provides an exemption to allow a farm operation to service and transport portable toilets and use septage management equipment such as trailers, pumps, septage waste vehicles and storage facilities without being subject to certain licensing provisions if certain conditions are met. It is now Public Act 271 of 2018.
House Bill 5417, sponsored by state Rep. Steve Johnson, amends the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act to allow a bow or crossbow to be transported in a vehicle without being unstrung, uncased or in the trunk of a vehicle, as long as it is unloaded and uncocked. It is now Public Act 272 of 2018.
For more information on this and other legislation, visit www.legislature.mi.gov.