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E-M:/ the "e" in deq stands for economy



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Enviro-Mich message from Dave Dempsey <davemec@voyager.net>
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Today's Free Press carries a short piece about another pro-polluter
decision by the DEQ Director.  It's the second story in statewide news
briefs at:

http://www.freep.com/news/mich/qdate28.htm

Following is a slightly longer account prepared by MEC based on documents
we obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.


MINING COMPANY GOES TO HARDING TO GET SPECIAL BREAK
WHICH AIDES WARN COULD SET DANGEROUS PRECEDENT

	After being turned down by field staff, field supervisors, and Lansing
division chiefs of the Michigan DEQ, lawyers for the Upper Peninsula's
Tilden Mine finally found a receptive audience when they asked Director
Russell Harding for an unprecedented regulatory break this spring.
	Overruling his staff at all levels, Harding said the Mine could treat all
of its spills at the site as a single "facility" under the state's cleanup
law, thus resulting in lowered reporting requirements, more lenient
deadlines, and potentially reduced costs.  It also wiped out potential
environmental enforcement action against the company for sloppy reporting
and cleanup of the tank spills.
	Until this decision, the state had strictly enforced its policy that
spills from leaking underground storage tanks should be treated separately
from other chemical spills unless they had "commingled." The two kinds of
spills are handled under two separate parts of the state's natural
resources and environmental protection act and are subject to differing
reporting and cleanup requirements.
	In an especially ironic twist, Arthur Nash, a DEQ official who warned
Harding in a briefing memo that the "law should not be used to allow an
owner to avoid enforcement action" and the Tilden Mine request "may be
viewed as a strategy to set a precedent and avoid regulation," ended up
signing a letter drafted by the company's attorneys which gave the Mine
everything it wanted.  The letter was sent after Harding met with the
attorneys and reversed DEQ staff.
	MEC obtained documents illustrating the chain of events leading to the
special break for Tilden Mine through the Freedom of Information Act.
· Between November 1996 and November 1997, he Mine reported leaking
underground storage tank (LUST) releases, regulated under Part 213 of the
environmental code, at four different sites over a several year period.
· The company also has a chemical spill site which is regulated by Part 201
of the law.
· The Mine submitted late and faulty reports on its LUST releases and was
prodded by DEQ field staff to come into compliance with Part 213.
· The Company's attorneys, from the firm of Warner, Norcross, and Judd,
then submitted a request that all the releases be handled under the
less-stringent Part 201.
· Between February 1998 and autumn 1998, DEQ field staff in both the
Storage Tank Division and Environmental Response Division rejected the
request.
· This decision was appealed by company lawyers to field supervisors and
Lansing division chiefs and in early 1999, the appeal was rejected.
· The lawyers than appealed to Harding.  Harding met with the lawyers
without division chiefs present on March 23 and overruled his staff.
· On April 15, Nash sent a letter to the company that was almost identical
to a draft submitted by its lawyers.
Prior to Harding's decision, Nash wrote in a briefing memo to Harding that
all of the tank sites were located at least 1,500 feet from the Part 201
site and that the spills were clearly not commingled.  "The law should not
be used to allow an owner to avoid enforcement action for failure to comply
with Part 213 corrective action and reporting requirements," Nash wrote.
"Tilden Mine is in noncompliance with the requirements of Part 213…and
their request may be viewed as a strategy to set a precedent and avoid
regulation under Part 213 for all LUST sites."

But on April 15 of this year, Nash signed a letter which conflicts with his
own recommendations.  A word-by-word comparison shows it is almost
identical to a draft submitted to Harding by the company's attorneys on
April 1.
Apparently, attorneys for polluters not only set policy at DEQ; they
actually ghost-write DEQ's permission to pollute on behalf of the agency.

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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