Environmental groups urge rejection of a proposed Michigan Department of Environmental Quality ( MDEQ) budget that will, when combined with early retirement vacancies, seriously impair the ability of the MDEQ to protect Michigan’s waters and enforce laws designed to protect natural resources. Overall, 162 MDEQ employees have decided to retire, or 10.4% of the total MDEQ workforce. On top of this, the administration has cut general fund support from $101 million for fiscal year 2002 (43 PA 2001) to $69 million in fiscal year 2003, a cut of over 30%.
“The final MDEQ budget of the Engler administration reflects the low priority this administration places on protection of public health and natural resources,” stated James Clift, Policy Director of the Michigan Environmental Council. “This short-sighted approach will place the public health at risk for years to come through exposure to unsafe beaches and illegal dumping that will go undetected. In the long-run this will jeopardize Michigan’s tourism industry which is directly dependent on protection of our natural resources,” stated Clift.
Senator Loren Bennett, the chair of the Senate Natural Resources Subcommittee also worked to remove provisions that would have required the department to issue a report detailing the level of effort they put toward enforcement and whether permit holders are complying with Michigan law. Although included in both versions of the proposed budget, the provision was removed from the final conference report. Environmental groups had urged adoption of the report to guide future legislators in determining whether department funding is sufficient to protect public health.
“The raiding of pollution prevention funds and the use of other one-time funding sources means this department will face hundreds of additional layoffs in the next fiscal year,” stated Dan Farough, of the Sierra Club, Mackinac Chapter. “ Governor Engler’s legacy to Michigan is going to be a MDEQ that has had its ability to protect our state’s most precious resource, water, severely diminished by budget cuts,” stated Farough.
The Conference Committee Report was adopted by the Senate on June 19th, and will be pending before the House of Representatives when it returns on June 27th.
James Clift, MEC (517) 487-9539
Dan Farough, Sierra Club (517) 484-2372