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E-M:/ facts on deq enforcement

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

A DEQ spokesperson recently responded to criticism by a Democratic
legislator about the department's lax enforcement policies by saying, "I'm
really tired of them throwing out these generalities.  Clearly the numbers
don't show it."  He said DEQ has opened 267 cases since October 1, 1995.

If opening cases is a measure of anything, here are the correct statistics:

In fiscal year 1998, DEQ's Office of Criminal Investigations opened 76 new
cases.  In comparison, the old DNR environmental investigations section
opened the following numbers of cases early in the 1990s:


DEQ's February 1, 1999 report on the previous fiscal year says that courts
ordered fines and penalties of "almost a quarter million dollars" in fiscal
year 1998.  Here are the comparable numbers for early in the 1990s:


The 1990 figure was considered abnormally low at the time.  The then MDNR
enforcement section supervisor said, "1990 was a year in which many new and
very complex cases and investigations were opened, involving a great deal
of investigative resources.  At the same time, the development of these,
and numerous open cases from previous years, was such that 1990 saw far
fewer than normal closures and settlements."

But DEQ is apparently sensitive to the criticism.  An internal memo
distributed last week to DEQ managers says the agency wants to issue a
quarterly report on enforcement, no doubt as ammunition in its spin
doctoring campaign.

There is also word the agency will be bringing some high-profile cases in
the near future to ward off further criticism of its lackluster enforcement

So perhaps the criticism is paying off after all.  The measure will be
whether the enforcement effort fades after generating a few headlines.

Dave Dempsey
Policy Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI 48912
517-487-9541 (fax)

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