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E-M:/ No Fees, No Programs: October 1 - BILLS IN THE LEGISLATURE MUST MOVE

Yes the state budget as a whole is a mess, BUT there is an additional problem for those trying to protect our groundwater quality, our air quality, oversee waste handling, and in many ways protect the environment we all depend upon:  The fees for several of these programs EXPIRE ten days from now, meaning the DEQ will be unable to process permits, do enforcement, or otherwise protect our water, air, etc.  EVEN IF the Legislature were to pull a miracle out of their hats on the rest of the budget.


According to the DEQ: Critical DEQ fees will sunset within the next 10 days without urgently needed legislative reauthorization.  Bills to reauthorize these fees at current fee levels have been introduced and are eligible for action in each of their respective chambers on Sunday, September 23, which is this weekend.   The attached bill analysis provides the details on the reauthorization bills and spells out the consequences if reauthorization does not occur.   At risk is more than $17 million in DEQ funding for FY08. 


Specifically the following fees EXPIRE on the indicated dates, and the number of affected staff is also provided:


-          Air Emissions Fee: September 30, 2007 - 119 FTE’s

-          Groundwater Discharge Fee: October 1, 2007 - 13 FTE’s

-          Solid Waste Fee: October 1 2007 - 41 FTE’s

-          Hazardous Waste User Charge Fee: March 31, 2008 - 31 FTE’s


Since the rhetoric of the budget has been so dramatically skewed with ideological jousting unrelated to real impacts, here is a bit about the impacts of the loss of these fees (from DEQ’s analysis of the proposed bills, HB 5242 and SB 782) in case you wonder what these critical civil servants do all day:


-          Air Emissions Program: Without funding for this program, businesses that emit contaminants into the air would not be able to expand in Michigan, Michigan would lose its delegated authority to operate the provisions of Title V of the Federal Clean Air Act, and severe sanctions would be imposed on Michigan, including the loss of hundreds of millions of federal highway monies the state receives annually. Also there would be no inspections of existing businesses and public utilities to ensure that they are complying with the provisions of their air emissions permit, thus creating a serious risk to human health.

-          Groundwater Discharge Program: Without funding for this program, there would be no regulation of discharges to groundwater with no consequent assurance of protecting groundwater supplies from contamination.  Approximately half of Michigan’s residents obtain their drinking water from groundwater sources.

-          Hazardous Waste User Charge Program: Without funding for this program, there would be no state regulation of the disposal of hazardous waste in Michigan.  This would result in serious public health threats, including potential contamination of groundwater used for drinking water, direct exposure to toxic materials through releases to the atmosphere, ground, and water bodies; and, creation of fire and explosion hazards.  While federal hazardous waste regulations would remain in effect, the U.S. EPA does not have the capability to adequately enforce those regulations in Michigan or otherwise ensure those requirements are met.

-          Solid Waste Program:  Without funding for this program, there would be no regulation of landfills and other solid waste disposal facilities in Michigan for compliance with appropriate disposal and management requirements.  This would result in potential contamination of groundwater used for drinking water, the creation of explosion hazards from uncontrolled gases generated at landfills, and increased nuisance conditions such as odor and blowing trash.


These fees are specific to the programs, and the DEQ explains there is no alternative funding.  Past decisions increasingly shifted the cost of programs on the users and potential polluters, but just like the rest of the budget the failure to renew these existing fees could pose real danger to communities and families who live near facilities throughout Michigan.




Anne M. Woiwode, State Director, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter  - 109 E. Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48906

517-484-2372    fax 517-484-3108 -- anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org 

Sierra Club Michigan Chapter celebrating our 40th Anniversary on September 9, 2007

Visit us at http://michigan.sierraclub.org/index.shtml


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