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E-M:/ Engler and environment
The following is a reprinting of the lead article from the April edition
of the E.D.E.N. Calendar.
John Engler: The Hell With the Environment Governor
In six plus years as Michigan's Governor, John Engler has done an
unbelievable job of not protecting the environment. The only thing more
unbelievable is that Michigan residents haven't stormed the capitol with
torches and pitchforks demanding his head on a platter.
It seems Governor Tax-cut has begun to see himself as something akin to
an executive monarch as evidenced by his disdain for the U.S. EPA and
eliminating all health advisories for lake fish. Nevermind that the
largest Great Lakes salmon can be over thirty years old and thus were
around when PCB contamination was widespread in the Great Lakes. And
nevermind that Michigan is the only state in the Great Lakes basin to
ignore the potential health threats to children and pregnant women. Big
John is not going to let "Big Brother" tell him what to do in his
kingdom. And if kids and developing fetuses have to pay the price,
well, that's the price of principle.
Fortunately, efforts by sounder minds have reminded his highness of his
true place in the grand scheme. The Ecology Center of Ann Arbor, for
example, went into action and had supporters send Engler paper plates
with fish (printed or drawn on) and messages asking him to protect
The Governor has since backed off his royal edict lifting the ban.
Environmentalists would like to believe their actions motivated him. But
it probably had more to do with the fact that the all clear signal
directly contradicted a State issued brochure. That and the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) threatened to mail health
advisories to all 1.7 Michigan fishing permit holders if the State
The fish advisories aren't the only disagreement between Engler and the
EPA. The Engler administration staunchly opposes the stricter air
quality standards for ozone and particulates proposed by the EPA.
Apparantly Engler scientists are more knowledgable than the EPA's.
The EPA may've started the animosity by finding fault with the State's
"Air Emissions Trading Program". EPA staff have the audacity to suggest
that this program could lead to more pollution in already pollution
saturated urban areas. The nerve, protecting health instead of sacred
Then there's the skirmish over "The Environmental Audit Privilege
Immunity Act". True to his make-life-easier-for business philosophy,
the Governor, his staff henchman and legislative cronies orchestrated
this law to allow potential polluters the opportunity to audit
themselves, report any indiscrepancies and through the process immune
themselves from almost any penalties for polluting except in the most
flagrant cases of criminal activities. This law also allows the
corporation to keep secret it's audit findings. It is this secrecy that
the EPA finds objectionable.
The Engler revolution has from the beginning been environmentally
unfriendly and short-sighted. A plethora of advisory boards and
commissions with citizen positions and oversight have been
systematically eliminated or circumvented. For example, The Hazardous
Waste Policy Committee created by former Gov. Blanchard worked for over
two years to create a Hazardous Waste Plan for Michigan. This Committee
was immediately dissolved by Engler and it's work disgarded.
Another example was the division of the Department of Natural Resources
(DNR) to create the new The Department of Business Accommodation alias
the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Whereas the DNR was
obligated to answer to the Natural Resources Commission (NRC), a
constitutionally created body that included appointments from the
general public, the DEQ answers to the Governor directly. It's no
coincidence that all pollution enforcement and emissions permitting fall
under the jurisdiction of the DEQ, while the DNR has the job of such
duties as setting the costs of hunting and fishing permit fees.
Isn't it interesting that a Goverrnor who trumpets less government and
more government efficiency has chosen to add a new department and ignore
two years of government supported work?
The formation of the DEQ and the appointment of hand-picked henchman
Director Russell Harding are the perfect example of just how
environmentally callous Engler is. Harding has almost no track record
when it comes to guarding the environment. His willingness to lead the
charge for dismantling the "Polluter Pay" law, while Deputy Director of
the DNR, made him gold in Engler's eyes. Harding regularly ignores the
reports and recommendations of his field staff when setting policy or
There's more. Once that pesky "Polluter Pay" law was gutted, Engler
actually tried to siphon funds from the Michigan Land Trust to pay for
pollution cleanups. That darn old Constitution prevented that. Engler
has also toyed with the idea of selling public lands to enlarge the
general fund. Both of these ideas can't be done behind closed doors to
avoid, gasp, public participation, so the politically astute Governor
had to content himself with "feeling out" the political waters.
Engler's environmental policies are plain and clear. Anything that
inconveniences business will be snuffed out if possible. Don't think
so? Look through the DEQ bulletin and notice how many items are
workshops to instruct businesses on how to get permits or how to comply
with laws. These are designed to help business avoid attracting the
attention of federal regulators.
Listen to the Governor spout about how there are too many laws
restricting the activities of business. Regulation is bad, voluntary
compliance is good. This philosophy flies in the face of common sense.
We already know that corporations like Dow Chemical will regularly
litigate, lie or whatever it takes to shirk responsibility for cleaning
up their own messes.
Toronto, Canada will be sending thousands of tons of solid waste to
Southeast Michigan. Unsafe casks of high level nuclear waste are being
stored at the Palisades nuclear power plant within one mile of Lake
Michigan. Crucial wetlands are disappearing to development. Where is
Michigan's chief executive on these matters? Why isn't he out front
protecting the current and future interests of the people of Michigan?
Given his track record, Mr.Engler is probably out to lunch with the same
greedy business moguls jeopardizing our natural resources. Afterall,
Governor John Engler has his principles and the hell with the
ramifications to the environment.
-This ranting was brought to you by Scott Heinzman
Note - The author recognizes that the DNR performs many important
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