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E-M:/ DEQ ceding authority on Michigan Peat case

Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org

For those who missed the news reports, DEQ Director Russell Harding announced
at the end of last week that the agency has decided to give up to the US EPA
authority over the pending wetland permit application at the Minden Bog, while
retaining authority over retroactive permit problems.  The reason for this
presumably first ever voluntary ceding of authority over a wetland permit by
the State of Michigan since gaining authority from the federal government: the
threat of a takings suit against the state by the applicants.

A good editorial in the Detroit Free Press today tells the real story here --
that the other shoe is falling on the Nordhouse Dunes "cut our losses and run"
strategy foisted on the state of Michigan by Governor Engler in 1995.  The
Nordhouse settlement is a legal and environmental regulatory disaster that
will keep on taking -- from our pocket books, from our environment, from our
children.  There is a sickening irony in reading Russ Harding's words now
saying that the state really would like to protect this wetland, but the
courts today in Michigan make that too much of a risk.

Governor Engler, Mr Harding's boss, negotiated the Nordhouse settlement,
signed the deal and aggressively shoved the settlement through the
legislature, locking into legal concrete the worst legal precedents in the
country regarding takings.  This can't be seen as just one major screw up
under distressed circumstances.  Governor Engler and his administration have
sought to carve out notoriety for themselves in the takings issue, buying
wholesale the extremist agenda of some of the most anti-environmental
organizations of the country.  Members of the Michigan Appeals Court, which
contributed heavily to the outlandish decisions locked in by settlement, were
appointed by the Governor. A year ago Governor Engler gave his name to an
amicus brief in an outrageous takings lawsuit brought in the Sylvania
Wilderness area in the Ottawa National Forest.  That claim, which was rejected
by the US Supreme Court, but is being kept alive in a separate suit filed in a
different court, seeks to curtail public agencies' authority to exercise
reasonable regulation of use of waters within the boundaries of a public land.

Having successfully compromised the ability of the state of Michigan to
enforce its own environmental laws, the Engler Administration is now turning
to the EPA, which they have previously characterized as everything just short
of jack booted thugs, to bail it out, all the time bemoaning how unfortunate
it is.  Let them eat their words.

Anne Woiwode

ENVIRO-MICH:  Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
and Conservation Issues and Michigan-based Citizen Action.

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