MI bills aim to follow Indiana’s lead, where businesses have power to shape environmental rulemaking

Jan 12, 2018

Pollution from a factory.

The Michigan legislature is considering three bills that would change how the state of Michigan determines environmental regulations. They would create an environmental rules committee that could reject or change any rule the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality issues.

The legislation would also create an appeals board to review permits and an environmental science advisory board, which the state once had, but was ended a decade ago. 

This is similar to a system set up in Indiana, a state not known for a high level of environmental protection.

Kim Ferraro, the senior staff attorney with the Hoosier Environmental Council, joined Stateside to discuss how the system has worked in Indiana.

For about a decade now, Indiana has had “a separate environmental rules-making board that is comprised of sixteen different members, largely from regulated industry interests,” Ferraro said. “Predictably, we have seen rules coming out of this board that are very favorable to industry.”

As an example, Indiana’s board has consistently issued rules in favor of factory farms, mostly as a result of lobbying by the Farm Bureau, Ferraro said. “That’s a red flag for me,” she added.

Ferraro is not opposed to the idea of a separate regulatory body. “The idea could be a good one because it provides a second check and potentially input from, you know, impacted citizens and people who care about environmental protection to have a say that is outside of the agency itself,” she explained.

But packing the board with industry veterans, she warned, would lead to rules that favor their industry over environmental protection. She recommended making the board truly independent from political interests, as well as including a number of seats for environmental interests, not just industry veterans.

Indiana has “a very pro-business, pro-agriculture environment where environmental rules and safeguards are seen as job-killers or somehow the antithesis of promoting the economy,” Ferraro said. But “statistics and studies over many, many years show otherwise,” she continued. “That states that have strong environmental protections actually have good quality of life, good jobs, you know, and thriving economies.”

Listen above for the entire conversation.

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