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E-M:/ more on the right to know nothing

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

Action on a bill that is now on its way to the Governor's desk signals the
DEQ's attitude toward the public's right to know -- namely, that the less
the public knows, the better.

Introduced as a "simple" bill to extend the expiration date on various DEQ
fees to the year 2003, H.B. 4471 was massaged on the House floor with the
addition of a new section of which most Representatives weren't aware.  It
had nothing to do with fees.  It authorized DEQ to allow the discharge of
groundwater contaminated by leaking tanks into lakes or streams without a
Clean Water Act permit.  DEQ has been illegally permitting such discharges
since the mid-1990s, thinking incorrectly that it had been granted that
authority by the Legislature.

MEC testified against this provision in the Senate environmental panel.
Committee Chair Sen. Ken Sikkema agreed that the new Section 3109a was a
policy change to the bill.  MEC proposed a number of ways to address the
issue, most of which boiled down to protecting the public's right to know
about these decisions before they were made.  Over DEQ's objections, Sen.
Sikkema amended the bill on the Senate floor to require the proposed
"mixing zones" for leaking tanks be published in the DEQ calendar, which
provides 7 days notice before decisions are made final.  DEQ continued to
oppose this provision but ultimately gave up fighting the change.

The moral of the story is, even the DEQ's own limited, generally
non-informative Calendar is too much of a public participation mechanism
for the DEQ itself.  Citizens who think they have a right to know before
DEQ authorizes the use of rivers and streams as sewer treatment or toxic
dilution plants are out of line.

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

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