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E-M:/ MEC Capitol Update - June 1, 2001



Budgets

As a general rule, because of budget shortfalls we expect all budgets to be put in conference committee (of House and Senate members).  Hard decisions about cuts in programs will be made at that time.  Any boilerplate language (language included in the budget to put conditions on the spending of money) can be changed if the Senate and House version is not the same.  Votes on conference committee reports are up or down without amendment. Therefore, we will monitor and report what last minute changes are made in the bills at this stage.

Department of Environmental Quality – HB 4257 – Voted out of the Senate with the following changes from the House version:

Environmental Enforcement - Voted to gut language that would require a report on the number of inspection being required and whether permit holders are complying with environmental protection laws or not.

Oil and Gas Drilling Under the Great Lakes – The language placing a moratorium on issuing permits to drill below the Great Lakes was removed and substituted with language that will allow directional drilling to proceed.

Volunteer River and Lake Cleanup – The Senate added $50,000 to match the House appropriation of $100,000.

Department of Natural Resources – HB 4259  - Voted out of the Senate with the following changes from the House version:

Timber Mandate – The Senate agreed with House language on timber mandate language and items to be considered.  There are still concerns on budgets amounts and how that may effect the operations of this division
An attempt to place a moratorium on the leasing of Great Lakes bottomlands was defeated in committee.

Transportation Budget – SB 239
 
On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed the Transportation budget. It is scheduled to move to conference committee on Thursday. Many favorable amendments were added on the House floor:

Local bus operating received an additional $2.4 million with an amendment from Representative Stallworth (D-Detroit). This brings the total increase to $6.2 million over the Governors recommendation for bus operating and represents a four percent increase over last years funding.

The final phase for Lansing to Detroit [thru Ann Arbor] commuter rail study received $1.5 million dollars to fund preliminary engineering, environmental impacts and design thanks to an amendment offered by Representative Kilpatrick (D-Detroit).

Representative Kilpatrick also amended the budget for the establishment of a three-county Regional Transportation Authority in Metro-Detroit. Funding is contingent upon the "adoption and maintenance of a funding mechanism for creation of a coordinated tricounty mass transportation network."

Other legislation:

Clean Air Act fees – HB 4792

On Thursday (5/24), the House Commerce Committee reported the bill to reauthorize Clean Air Act fees in Michigan.  The bill would authorize Clean Air Act fees of about $11.7 million in the first years and less in each of the following years. MEC testified in opposition to the bill as failing to provide funding for a program that can assure polluters are complying with their air permits.  According to our calculations this bill will result in the Air Quality Division having to layoff around 20 employees in the next four years.

A work group of government, industry and environmental groups in October of 2000 agreed that $12.8 million was necessary to run the program.  The inadequacy of the current fee is demonstrated by the fact that the MDEQ admits that it does not even visit every “major” air pollution source once each year and rarely conducts an inspection that can determine whether a facility is in compliance.

Hazardous Waste Fees – HB 4626

The House Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Committee reported this bill on Thursday (5/31)  MEC opposes this bill for two reasons.

First, it raids approximately $3.2 million in pollution prevention funds to pay for functions of the Waste Management Division not related to pollution prevention activities (permits and data processing) at the same time industry does not have to pay the new fees until October of 2002.  Second, it may not provide adequate funding for cleanups of hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities.

Annexation Procedures

The House Local Government and Urban Affairs committee is considering a package of bills (HB 4720 - 4725) to standardize the procedure for voting to approve or reject local government annexation proposals. In some instances, the bills would amend current law to grant the right to vote on a proposed annexation where no right currently exists.  The committee continues to take testimony on the package next week.

Prepared by:

James Clift, Policy Director
Conan Smith, Land Programs Director
Dusty Fancher, Policy Specialist
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette Drive Suite 2A
Lansing MI 48912
517-487-9539 ph
517-487-9541 fax
dustymec@voyager.net
www.mecprotects.org