LANSING – Signaling that Michigan must do more to protect its water resources, Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today honored Earth Day 2004 by signing key legislation to help the state enforce important pollution and contamination laws. The Governor also issued a special Earth Day call to the state Legislature to take action on the Water Legacy Act.
While attending the Earth Day 2004 celebration at the state Capitol, Granholm signed legislation to renew groundwater permit fees, which enables the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to issue permits and complete inspections for businesses that need to discharge treated water into the groundwater system. She also signed legislation that embodies the bipartisan agreement reached in March to collect fees to establish the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).
“There is no other state in the nation that is more defined by its waters than Michigan. From our very borders to our state’s image as a water wonderland, water is key to our economy and way of life.” Granholm said. “These new laws help us better protect our water resources by providing the funding to have in place strong monitoring and enforcement programs.”
The Governor signed Senate Bill 252 sponsored by State Senator Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor), which establishes the fees for the NPDES program. The fees raised in the new law will allow the DEQ to administer and monitor the permit program. In total, the bill will raise $5.4 million in fees. New fees include $3 million from NPDES and $1.2 million from Stormwater Phase II.
"After a hard-fought battle, Michigan has finally placed the financial responsibility on the dischargers, rather than on the backs of the taxpayers," Brater said. "Not only is this sound environmental policy, it is sound economic policy as well."
Established by Congress in 1972, the NPDES monitors and discourages waste discharge into the nation’s waterways. Prior to today’s bill signing, Michigan was the only Great Lakes state that did not charge fees for wastewater discharge permits. With the funding provided in this new law, the DEQ will be able to increase monitoring of companies and municipalities and ensure that they discharge only within legal limits.
The Governor also signed Senate Bill 560 sponsored by Senator Burton Leland (D-Detroit). The new law allows the DEQ to levy and collect an annual groundwater discharge permit fee from dischargers of wastewater to the ground or groundwater of this state. The bill sunsets October 1, 2007. There are approximately 950 permit dischargers in Michigan.
“These bills provide important and necessary enforcement of water quality regulations,” said Leland. “I am glad to be a part of the bi-partisan team that advocated on behalf of the people of the great state of Michigan.”
“Without our groundwater program, Michigan’s waters would be open to unregulated and unchecked discharges, and that is unacceptable,” Granholm said. “Unlike NPDES, the groundwater program is not federally mandated. Michigan chooses to implement and enforce its own program to ensure higher water quality in our groundwater. Without these fees, the program would cease operations, endangering our groundwater and impeding economic development in our state.”
The Governor issued an Earth Day call to the Legislature to take action on the Water Legacy Act which would require permits for withdrawals of water from the Great Lakes. The legislation was introduced earlier this year.
“The very first Earth Day in 1970 was a grassroots response to the notion that environmental issues were not in the nation’s forefront,” Granholm said. “Michigan residents should use Earth Day this year to call for action on legislation that is imperative to protect the Great Lakes from unauthorized diversions and withdrawals. Our state’s relationship with the Great Lakes is deep, strong and personal – we need to protect this magnificent resource for generations to come.”
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