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Re: E-M:/ Environmental Permits

Enviro-Mich message from "Anna Dorothy Graham" <grahama9@msu.edu>

I think it's certainly the case that the DEQ couldn't unilaterally decide not to issue permits on its own -- it would take either a lawsuit from citizens' groups, perhaps seeking an injunction against continued permitting on the grounds that the DEQ is already not fulfilling its statutory function of enforcement with regard to existing permits, or it would take a mandate from above. But the courts have supported moratoria on and denials of permits in land use cases: Tahoe-Sierra v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (535 U.S. 302), AVCO, Ramapo, and so on -- among other things, these cases stand for the proposition that you can technically qualify for a building permit and own the land and still not be allowed to proceed if the state's interests (including environmental interests) intervene, and particularly if some sort of master plan for (shall we call it?) sustainable development is in the works.

The main point is that there is no "entitlement" to a permit, if the issuing body has a good reason to deny it. There would have to be a demonstrable public interest for a broad moratorium, I suppose. Naturally the DEQ or whoever is not going to deny permits when the political will leans toward granting them (i.e. with a pro-business, anti-tax, Republican legislature), but if the electorate and civil society made it a priority to straighten out the legislature's priorities, more could be done. I harass my own legislators whenever I feel called to ... pretty often these days!


The simplest way to describe a permit is a license to pollute. The permit is supposed to set the amount that a facility canl pollute. We here in Alpena have watched every permit exceed its limits. We have videos and photographs to prove so. Overwork and understaffing and a permitting process that does not have teeth to it is our main concern. Past penalties for violations have just been a tap on the fingers. We have a document where proposed penalties that could have been near 22 million were knocked down to $700,000,00 when finished. It was around 1.2 million but a storage dome for the Canadian fly ash, our main source of our mercury emissions, qualified as an environmental improvements for Lafarge. Kind of like us paving their roads to keep the dust down as they have asked for in a class action settlement now pending.

Permits to pollute cost the polluter little or nothing. We even told the MDEQ that we would take up a collection out of our own pockets to have them deny a permit once in awhile. It would be healthier for us and they would make a couple of bucks.

Bill Freese, Director
Huron Environmental Activist League

Anna Kirkwood Graham, J.D., Ph.D.
"There is no trifling with nature; it is always true, grave and severe; it is always in the right, and the faults and errors fall to our share."
-- Goethe

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