The Republican controlled state Senate has approved a measure to rein in the authority of state regulators to enact environmental protection rules.
The bill says Michigan’s environmental protection rules cannot be stricter than federal rules unless a law is passed to allow it.
Republican state Sen. John Proos says environmental policy should reflect the fact that Michigan competes with other states for jobs.
"We can’t operate in a vacuum in Michigan," said Pross. "If it’s more difficult to do business in Michigan than it is in Indiana, businesses and industries who hire Michigan families could just as soon choose the less-expensive option or the more-efficient option. Every day, other states benchmark against us. We should do the same to make sure we put ourselves in the best position to compete."
Republicans and some Democrats have long complained that Michigan’s environmental rules and the people who enforce them are too zealous.
Democrats, like State Senator Rebekah Warren, say the measure would make it harder for experts to address environmental crises that may be unique to the Great Lakes region.
"Federal standards to protect water quality, in particular, are designed to be the floor below which states are not allowed to drop," said Warren. "They are not written by people that feel the special stewardship like we do here in Michigan over one of the world’s most-important freshwater resources."
Opponents of the bill say it would make it more difficult to respond to an environmental crisis and it would make the process of protecting air and water more political.
One Democrat crossed over to join the Republican majority to approve the measure. The bill now goes to the state House.