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E-M:/ he_lp for polluters, not for people



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Date: Wed, 30 Sep 1998 16:06:06 -0400
To: enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
From: Dave Dempsey <davemec@voyager.net>
Subject: he_lp for polluters, not for people
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MEC has worked with Rep. Ray Basham, one of the most environmentally
conscientious members of the Legislature, on a bill to establish an
environmental ombudsman to help citizens (and businesses) navigate through
the DEQ's closed doors.  There is already a business ombudsman at the Jobs
Commission and a Small Business Ombudsman in the DEQ's Clean Air Program.
Apparently, judging by the DEQ's analysis below, people don't need
ombudsmen, only polluters do.

JOHN ENGLER, Governor
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
HOLLISTER Building, PO Box 30473, Lansing MI 48909-7973
INTERNET: http://www.deq.state.mi.us
RUSSELL J. HARDING, Director


September 10, 1998



1. Bill Number and Sponsor:

House Bill 5934
Representative Raymond Basham, et al.

2. Purpose:

To create the office and position of "Environmental Ombudsman" in the
Department of Environmental Quality (Department).

3. How Does This Legislation Impact Current Programs in the Department?

This new Office of Environmental Ombudsman would create a new layer of
bureaucracy, adding confusion and delay to the current process of dispute
resolution.

4. Introduced at Agency Request:

No.

5. Agency Support:

No.

6. Justification for the Department's Position:

This new office is not necessary and would actually confuse and delay
problem resolution. The Environmental Assistance Division currently provides
ready access to all Department programs and information and each regulatory
program has processes to identify issues and resolve disputes, including
prompt access to the decision-maker. Creating a new office to provide
information and resolve disputes would duplicate the current systems, create
another layer of bureaucracy, create confusion, and in most cases slow down
resolution of problems. The extensive responsibilities set out in the
statute would necessitate a large staff for this office, decreasing
resources available for more effective problem resolution approaches, and
resulting in poorer service to the public.

Prompt access to information and a clear process for dispute resolution are
high-priority issues for the Department, and the Department opposes an
approach that would lessen the effectiveness of the current system. Strong
performance in this regard is the responsibility of individual program
directors and the Department management and accountability is clear.
Creation of a new Office of Ombudsman would cause confusion in
responsibility, decrease accountability, and work against timely resolutions
of disputes.

7. State Revenue/Budgetary Implications:

The extensive responsibilities of the new office would demand a significant
level of funding and new positions. If funding and positions were taken from
existing programs, there would be a corresponding decrease in service, with
little benefit to the public.

8. Implications to Local Units of Government:

This legislation would put in place a less effective system to resolve
disputes, negatively impacting local units of government.

9. Administrative Rules Implications:

The extensive responsibilities of this office may necessitate rules.

10. Other Pertinent Information:

None.

Russell J. Harding, Director
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality



Dave Dempsey
Policy Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI 48912
davemec@voyager.net
www.mienv.org



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