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E-M:/ groups ask for probe of charges against deq wetlands program

Enviro-Mich message from Dave Dempsey <davemec@voyager.net>

For immediate release	Contacts:  Lana Pollack, MEC, 517-487-9539
Monday, October 12, 1998	Alison Horton, Sierra Club, 517-484-2372
				Terry Miller, Lone Tree Council, 517-686-6386


	Three Michigan environmental groups today asked the U.S. EPA to
investigate charges made by state Department of Environmental Quality
employees that enforcement of Michigan's wetland law has been gutted and
political intervention has resulted in the illegal issuance of permits to
destroy wetlands.

	The groups are also asking the chairs of the State House and Senate
committees on environmental affairs to hold oversight hearings on the state
wetland program.

	The charges were made in a report written by DEQ employees and released
September 24 by the Washington, D.C.-based Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility, an organization which defends the legal
rights of public employees to speak out about abuses of the public trust.

	The Michigan Environmental Council, Sierra Club, and Lone Tree Council
wrote Region V EPA Administrator David Ullrich asking for the EPA review.
Under the federal Clean Water Act, EPA has oversight of state wetland
permitting programs.

	"These are serious charges," said Lana Pollack, MEC President.  "If they
are true, EPA has an obligation to insist on reforms in Michigan's wetland
program.  Our wetland resources are too valuable to be sacrificed to

	"The Engler Administration has dismissed the charges in this report the
way they routinely dismiss criticisms of their environmental track record -
with assertions that the environment is cleaner and healthier than it ever
has been.  But, as usual, they fail to back up their claims with a full and
honest representation of the facts," said Alison Horton, director for the
Michigan Sierra Club.  "Clearly, the U.S. EPA has to step in if citizens
are to get the truth about what's really happening to our wetlands and are
to get the kind of protection of wetlands resources that the law requires."

	Terry Miller, Chair of the Bay City-based Lone Tree Council, said:  "In
1997, we found similar evidence of political interference, and tampering
with decisions of DEQ field staff by DEQ management -- the very people paid
to protect Michigan's wetlands.  We asked then, and we ask again -- that
these practices be investigated and stopped. Failure to do so encourages
the continued rape of Michigan's natural heritage."

	Michigan has lost 5.5 million acres, or about 50% of its original wetland
base, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Dave Dempsey
Policy Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI 48912

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