House GOP Moves Forward on its Agenda to Hamstring the Department of Environmental Quality’s Ability to Protect Public Health
Effort will Halt Dioxin Cleanup Efforts in Saginaw Area
Lansing – Yesterday, the House Appropriation Committee approved a budget for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) that eliminates the Hazardous Waste Management Program, reduces staffing levels by 8%, and general fund support for the department by 15%.
Proponents of the proposals, Subcommittee Chair Rep. Pastor and committee member Rep. Moolenaar, admitted the cuts were an effort to derail MDEQ’s attempts to get Dow Chemical to cleanup extensive dioxin contamination along Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers. The subcommittee also recommended that all testing for dioxin in Michigan be halted (a recommendation that was rejected by the full Appropriation Committee).
“This proposal to curtail cleanup efforts is placing the public health of the entire watershed at risk,” said Michelle Hurd Riddick of the Lone Tree Council. “The public health of our residents is not for sale – and cannot be used as a bargaining chip in attempts to lower the cleanup cost of businesses that contaminate our communities.”
According to testing performed by the MDEQ, Midland and the downriver communities along the Tittibawassee River have the highest dioxin concentrations in the state, in some areas exceeding the state standard by 80 times. Dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals ever tested, causes a wide range of adverse health effects including cancer, birth defects, diabetes, learning and developmental delays, and endometriosis.
“Rep. Pastor, a wetland developer before becoming a legislator, came to Lansing with an agenda to eliminate the Department of Environmental Quality,” said James Clift, Policy Director at the Michigan Environmental Council. “It’s disturbing that the House Republican Caucus also appears to be embracing that goal.”
Eliminating the Hazardous Waste Management Division would result in the layoff of 60 workers located around the state and would place a new burden on Michigan businesses by requiring them to travel to EPA in Chicago to obtain permits or meet with program officials.
Pastor introduced HB 5813 to eliminate the Department of Environmental
by allowing county governments the right to take over all programs. Rep. Moolenaar has introduced legislation
(HB 5963) that weakens the cleanup standards for dioxin to a level that
result in more than a ten-fold increase in expected cancer deaths. Governor John Engler placed the current
standard in rules before leaving office in 2000.