Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pollution law enforcement in Michigan: Waiting to see how the Snyder/Wyant agenda plays out

Dan Wyant
Dan Wyant is the new chief of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

During this interview with the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) Wyant touched on numerous topics of interest for those who want fair, firm and uniform enforcement of laws protecting Michigan’s lakes, woods, cities and people.

Some of Wyant’s answers to MEC’s questions are reassuring. For instance, he said the administration has no intention of rolling back regulations on factory farm pollution.

Some raise yellow flags: He’s big on “voluntary” compliance programs for those same farms (that’s fine as long as “voluntary” isn’t code for replacing enforcement of mandatory laws).

On other answers, he punts to his boss, Gov. Rick Snyder: Wyant’s position on the wisdom of new coal-burning power plants  will come from Snyder. So, we’ll wait and see.

The most important aspect of Wyant’s DEQ leadership will be the message that he and Gov. Snyder send to DEQ staff. The staff must hear that the administration has their backs when they enforce pollution laws fairly and firmly – whether the violator is the corner dry cleaners or a powerful international company.

There is a lot of pressure from interests that would like Michigan’s environmental regulators to back off and stand down. Some in the anti-government crowd were even hoping that Snyder would eliminate the DEQ entirely. That’s not going to happen.

Both Snyder and Wyant have said publicly that Michigan's splendid natural resources are drivers for our economy -- both in terms of tourism and the quality of life that makes people want to live, work, raise families and build businesses here. They've also said they want to cut red tape, speed issuance of permits to pollute and remove regulatory hurdles for business.

Doing both -- firmly enforcing pollution laws while reducing regulatory red tape -- is possible. It will take determination, quality leadership and buy in from the DEQ staff. 


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