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E-M:/ Senate MDEQ Budget - Taxpayers Subsidize Polluters

Senate MDEQ Budget Continues Taxpayer Subsidy to Water Polluters

Lansing – Polluters would continue to discharge for free into Michigan’s rivers, streams and lakes under a proposed budget passed by the Senate Appropriation Subcommittee on Environmental Quality on Wednesday.  Governor Granholm’s budget had recommended ending the taxpayer subsidy that has been in existence for the last twenty-two years, but the committee rejected it, resulting in an additional $2.6 million dollar cut to the program.

“Continuation of this subsidy during our current budget crisis is a slap to the face of Michigan taxpayers,” said Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director of Clean Water Action.  “Not only do residents have to put up with toxic chemicals in their communities, this budget makes them pay for it.”
Under current law, polluters that dump over one million pounds of toxic chemicals into our lakes and streams get their permits for free. Meanwhile, Michigan taxpayers have paid $5-$10 million a year for the program costs related to issuing permits, monitoring compliance and enforcing permit violations. The Governor’s proposal would have required permit holders to pay users fees in an amount sufficient to operate the program.  The Senate version includes some fees, but less than half of the amount necessary according to the Department of Environmental Quality workload analysis.
Due to our current budget crisis, failure to follow the Governor’s recommendation will result in field staff cuts that insure polluters are obtaining required permits and not exceeding their discharge limits.  Recent reports have documented the inadequate nature of the current program that results in facilities being inspected only every three or four years, and major facilities are only subject to unannounced sampling inspections every five to six year.

“The recent PCB contamination of canals in Lake St. Clair Shores, and dioxin contamination of the Saginaw and Tittabawasee Rivers should be a wake up call to our elected officials that our water resources protection programs need to be strengthened,” said James Clift, Policy Director of the Michigan Environmental Council.  “Our water resources are too important to ignore, we need to be vigilant in overseeing operations that emit toxic chemicals into out waterways.”

The budget is expected to see action before the full Appropriation Committee next week.  The authorizing fee bill may be before the Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

James Clift. (517) 487-9539
Cyndi Roper (616) 742-4084

June 5, 2003