LANSING, Mich. July 5, 2023 — State Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-West Bloomfield), along with state Reps. Sharon MacDonell (D-Troy), Jenn Hill (D-Marquette) and Donavan McKinney (D-Detroit), introduced legislation that would abolish the so-called “polluter panels.” These boards and committees, put in place by former Gov. Rick Snyder and statutorily stacked with representatives from polluting industries, routinely delay the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s (EGLE) environmental rulemaking process. These bills would stop polluting industries from having undue influence over EGLE’s performance of its duties.
House Bill 4826, sponsored by MacDonell, would strip one of the polluter panels, the Environmental Rules Review Committee (ERRC), from statute, removing this unnecessary and harmful impediment to EGLE’s rulemaking process.
“Protecting our state’s environment is one of my top priorities,” MacDonell said. “The ERRC, which is mostly made up of corporate polluters, has stood in the way of EGLE fulfilling its mission to protect our air, water, land and people. This is why we must get rid of the board. They tend to put their own profits over the health and lives of Michiganders everyday, and that cannot continue.”
“This legislation eliminates red tape and governmental delays,” McKinney said. “We understand that polluters have a stake in Michigan environmental policies — but for the wrong reasons. For years, those in the majority put polluters’ profits over Michigan’s residents. These panels are hindering the progress of Michigan. We must take steps to protect our state and set good standards to preserve a healthy environment. This legislation does just that, by putting people, the communities we represent, and our future over short-term profit.”
When EGLE’s professional staff propose a new rule, the ERRC has the authority to initiate a lengthy review process, which can indefinitely delay the implementation of new environmental rules. It has been called a polluter panel because, per the act creating the ERRC, six out of its 11 voting members must be representatives of industries that are regulated by EGLE, including the oil and gas industry and the solid waste treatment industry. Unsurprisingly, the panel’s pro-polluter majority has regularly voted to delay the implementation of important environmental rules, including stricter rules on PFAS levels in drinking water. Removing the ERRC would strengthen EGLE’s oversight and allow it to hold polluting industries accountable.
“Michigan’s natural resources are a gift that should be appreciated and preserved for future generations,” Hill said. “When corporate polluters are allowed to regulate themselves, they usually favor industry interests over the interests of the people. This legislation will remove that bureaucratic burden, streamline the regulatory process and help us preserve the fresh air, clean water and beautiful landscapes of our state.”
Bayer introduced Senate Bills 393 and 394 to abolish two other polluter-heavy boards, the Environmental Permit Review Board and Environmental Science Advisory Board, which have also interfered with EGLE’s mission.
“These boards and commissions are currently not serving any value to the state and have been a major roadblock in Michigan’s ability to keep up with the changing environmental regulatory landscape in a timely manner,” Bayer said. “Removing them will allow our state to respond quickly in the rulemaking process to protect our citizens and environment from a variety of issues, including PFAS.”