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E-M:/ mec criticizes deq clean water spending rules



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Enviro-Mich message from Dave Dempsey <davemec@voyager.net>
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MEC today criticized rules the state DEQ has proposed for the spending of
$90 million in clean water funding from last year's environmental bond
because the rules would fly in the face of public support for strong water
cleanup measures.

Monday is the deadline for comments on the DEQ rules, which will then be
submitted to the Legislature as a formality.  The rules can be viewed on
DEQ's web site at:  

http://www.deq.state.mi.us/swq/

Although the rules do not say so, DEQ has publicly confirmed that it
intends to hold back most of the clean water funding so that it can use $3
million per year for the next 15 years for water quality monitoring
programs.  This money would in part offset cuts in water monitoring
activities made by the Administration in the 1990s.  MEC opposes use of the
bond money for operating costs such as monitoring programs, pointing out
the state has huge budget surpluses which should be used to support this
basic function of government.

Governor Engler has recommended only $17.2 million of the clean water fund
be spent next year, a little over one-sixth of the total, while
recommending that approximately one-third of cleanup and redevelopment
funding be used this year and next.

MEC pointed out that DEQ has selectively used results of a December
stakeholder meeting to justify its predetermined ideas on how to use the
money.  For example, a large number of stakeholders voted for funding to
protect high-quality waters, including Lake Superior. The DEQ's initial
rules draft did not provide for such funding.  At MEC's request, the draft
rules include a definition of "high-quality waters" but do not provide that
any money must be spent on them.

Another example is the way in which the stakeholder suggestions for water
quality monitoring were handled.  One high-ranking suggestion was "increase
programs for drinking water monitoring including bacteria, toxic algae,
viruses and chemicals, and general water quality monitoring for surface
waters and atmospheric deposition sources."  A second was "develop a
comprehensive, user-friendly database, publicly accessible (e.g. Internet,
other multi media) that can be used as indicators/measurements of water
quality."

DEQ has selectively used these suggestions to support its bias toward
implementation of a monitoring strategy now over two years old and never
peer reviewed.  In the rules development process, Surface Water Quality
Division dismissed the Air Quality Division's proposal that monitoring
money be used for pinpointing atmospheric deposition sources, as
recommended by stakeholders.    It has also not pursued the stakeholder
recommendation specifically aimed at drinking water monitoring.  Finally,
despite MEC's continued suggestions in the advisory group process, the
rules say nothing about the establishment of a "comprehensive,
user-friendly database" enabling citizens to access and make use of the
monitoring data.  This must be corrected in the final rules if the process
is to have any credibility.

MEC again urged the DEQ to revise the rules to set aside funding for
specific water resource programs, including cleanup of Lake St. Clair,
protection of Lake Superior, defense of high-quality trout streams and
other pristine waters, and community-based cleanup projects.  A poll taken
by EPIC/MRA last week shows registered Michigan voters overwhelmingly
support this approach, which they saw promised on TV commercials promoting
the environmental bond last fall.


Dave Dempsey
Policy Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI 48912
davemec@voyager.net
517-487-9539 
517-487-9541 (fax)
http://www.mienv.org

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