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E-M:/ Engler's words on immunity from civil and criminal prosecution for environmental violations

Enviro-Mich message from asagady@sojourn.com

I found this on the web page of the Heartland Institute concerning
Engler's comments on Michigan's pollution secrecy and 
environmental enforcement laxity legislation that Engler and 
Russell Harding shepherded through the legislature.   

I am unaware of any other piece where Engler more directly 
endorses business protection from enforcement efforts as he does
in this piece in his own words.    Our guv tends to let his hair down when he
is among his polluter friends....


Environmental Compliance: Full Immunity Is Key

     by Governor John Engler (R-Michigan)

In the Great Lakes State, we have enjoyed one of the most
remarkable economic runs in our history over the last few years.
Unemployment has fallen to record lows and the number of 
people with jobs has risen to record highs. The most recent figures
show Michigan leads the nation in personal income growth. 

Business is booming in our state and this administration has 
worked hard to help make that happen. We've cut business taxes
and reduced the amount of red tape employers need to wade 
through in dealing with state government. Most recently, we
introduced 11 Renaissance Zones, which offer firms the 
incentive of no taxes for locating in certain areas of our state. With this
surge of prosperity and growth, my administration remains vigilant 
in ensuring a proper balance between business and
environmental needs. 

In March 1997, I signed the Environmental Audit Privilege and 
Immunity Law to encourage thousands of businesses, as well as
municipalities and public agencies, to comply with environmental 
regulation. This law grants businesses a privileged status and
immunity from fines and penalties if they conduct a self-audit 
and promptly disclose and correct any violations found. This is a
significant move toward increased compliance with Michigan's 
environmental laws. 

Until the Immunity Law was put on the books, a vast number of 
small businesses had been outside the environmental regulatory
structure. It is virtually impossible for the Department of 
Environmental Quality to inspect every facility and, as a result, it was
estimated that thousands of firms did not have the necessary permits, 
licenses, or approvals required under various state and
federal environmental protection statutes. 

Michigan needed a mechanism to remove barriers and provide 
incentives for businesses to identify violations, step forward, and
correct them. The fear of penalties, however, was a significant barrier 
to small companies disclosing violations and seeking
necessary permits to comply with environmental laws. 

Likewise, the fear that the state or third parties would use self-audit 
information to pinpoint otherwise unknown violations cast a
chilling effect on companies' willingness to conduct audits. Granting 
immunity encourages many of these businesses to come into
compliance with our environmental laws. 

It is important to note that the state's vigorous enforcement network 
remains intact, and that information previously required to
be reported or made available is not affected under this law. 
Virtually all of the information used in the state's regulatory
programs is still available. One of the criticisms of this law is that 
granting full immunity is too generous. Even at the federal level,
the Environmental Protection Agency only allows for "greatly reduced 
penalties." But that is not enough of an incentive to reach
the maximum level of compliance that we seek here in the Great Lakes State. 

While statistics are not yet available to show an expected increase 
in the number of self-reports filed in Michigan, my
administration remains very confident that this is the right avenue 
to take to increase compliance. 

We're not alone. The Detroit News agreed that the measure would 
"strengthen regulatory compliance and expedite clean-ups,"
and at least 15 other states have passed environmental self-audit 
legislation. Several more states have legislation pending. 

I appreciate the support of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce 
in enacting the Audit Privilege Law. Our natural resources are
better protected as a result.

Available through PolicyFax: This article is reprinted from Michigan 
Forward, the newsletter of the Michigan Chamber of
Commerce. For a copy of the Michigan Environmental Audit Privilege 
and Immunity Act, call PolicyFax at 847/202-4888 and
request document #2392603. For an eight-page legislative analysis 
of the Michigan law, request document #2392604. 

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