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Whitmer nixes business-backed panels with regulatory role

February 4, 2019

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday abolished panels that Republicans created to give industries more say in environmental regulators’ rule-making and permitting decisions, prompting the business lobby to urge the GOP-led Legislature to reject the move.

In her broader order to restructure and rename the state Department of Environmental Quality, the Democratic governor eliminated a committee, a commission and a board that former Gov. Rick Snyder established last year under new Republican-passed laws.

One panel, where six of the 12 voting members represent businesses, is empowered to approve, reject or change proposed regulations — though the governor can direct that the rules process proceed if issues are not resolved. Another commission — comprised of 15 engineers or scientists appointed by the governor — can adopt, modify or reverse DEQ decisions on environmental permits.

“They created more bureaucracy,” Whitmer said of committees. “Their goal I think is not a bad goal ... to ensure that everyone has the ability to have input. But we think that this makes a lot more sense, to have people who truly are accountable to the public making the decision.”

Both the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Farm Bureau expressed disappointment with Whitmer’s executive order , while it drew praise from environmentalists.

Chamber president and CEO Rich Studley issued a statement encouraging lawmakers to “seriously consider” exercising their constitutional authority to turn down the executive order within 60 days. He accused Whitmer of deciding “so early to reduce openness, accountability and transparency in the state government regulatory process.”

Farm Bureau president Carl Bednarski said in a statement that it is “unfortunate” that the panels were eliminated “prior to even having the opportunity to function.”

But Whitmer said the business community, like others, will still “have a seat at the table and have some input.” The Natural Resources Defense Council applauded the dissolution of the “polluter panels.”

“Governor Whitmer is reinforcing what Michiganders have always known_the public deserves better than polluters making decisions about their own impacts on the state’s air, water, lands and health,” Michigan senior policy advocate Cyndi Roper said in a statement.

The GOP-led Senate may hold hearings on Whitmer’s order to better understand how it will impact the state, said a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey of Clarklake.

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Online:

Executive order: http://bit.ly/2MM4Leu

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