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E-M:/ MEC Capitol Update - June 8, 2001

Things are moving fast at the Capitol - and its not too pretty.


Department of Environmental Quality – HB 4257 – Sent to Conference Committee. Major items of difference include:

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 Senate inserted language that will allow directional drilling to proceed.

Department of Natural Resources – HB 4259  - Sent to Conference Committee. Major items of difference include:

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

Oil and Gas Drilling Under the Great Lakes – The Senate inserted language that will allow directional drilling to proceed.

Other legislation:

Clean Air Act fees – HB 4792 – Scheduled for a hearing in Senate Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday (6/12) at 1 p.m.

The House moved legislation 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 23 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 - House floor
The House Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Committee reported this bill on Thursday (5/31)  It will be taken up next week in the House.  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.

Agricultural Land Taxation - HB 4456, sponsored by Representative Jud Gilbert (R-Algonac),was discussed in the Land Use and Environment Committee on Thursday. This bill would allow a township to adopt an ordinance that would tax farmland based on its' 'agricultural use value.' Currently farmland in Michigan is taxed at its highest and best use, making Michigan one of only two states which do not give a tax break to farmers.

Sewage Legislation – SB 105, SB 106 and HB 4926 will be taken up by the House Land Use and Environment Committee on Tuesday (6/12) at 10 a.m. MEC is generally supportive, although we still want to see SB 107 (inspection of septic tanks) move out of the Senate.

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