regulation

Eusko Jaurlaritza / Flickr

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality proposed a list of new rules for hydraulic fracturing in the state — commonly known as fracking.

Fracking is a process where developers pump high-pressure streams of water and chemicals into a well to clear a path to hard-to-reach deposits of natural gas.

So just what are these proposed new rules? And what could they mean to the future of fracking in Michigan?

James Clift is the policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council. He joins us to discuss the new regulations.

Listen to the full interview above. 

The Natural Resources Defense Council has recruited eight craft breweries in Michigan for a new campaign to promote clean water by supporting strengthening federal regulations like the Clean Water Act.

“When you talk about beer you have to talk about water,” said Jason Spaulding, co-owner of Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids. “It’s not as sexy as talking about malt or hops or things like that.”

Spaulding says about 90-percent of beer is made up of water. He says if you want a great locally brewed lager, IPA or pilsner; you need clean water.

“Doesn’t matter how many hops or how much malt you put in it, if your water is not good your beer is not going to be good,” Spaulding said.

user lehigh valley, PA / Flickr

It could be welcome news for all the ocularists, auctioneers, and acupuncturists out there.

The Michigan's Office of Regulatory Reinvention (yes, the agency was created by Gov. Snyder) has issued a report proposing the state should drop oversight of 18 occupations, and get rid of nine "occupational boards," while increasing inspection fees for ski resorts and carnivals.

More from the ORR's press release:

"According to a 2007 study, Michigan is the sixth most heavily-regulated state with respect to occupational licensing. This study found that for each occupation that a state regulated, that occupation would experience a decrease in the rate of job growth by 20 percent on average," said Steven H. Hilfinger, Chief Regulatory Officer and LARA Director. "Occupational regulations, while in many cases necessary to protect consumers and public health, operate as a barrier to entry into a given profession. This inhibits entrepreneurship and restricts competition, leading to increased costs and decreased levels of service for consumers."

Even though two of the boards they suggest cutting are the Carnival Amusement Safety Board and the Ski Area Safety Board, state officials say inspections for these operations should continue:

While the ORR recommends abolishing the Carnival Amusement Safety Board, the ORR recommends the licensing and inspections should continue and fees should be increased to be sufficient to cover administrative costs of regulation. Similarly, the ORR recommends that Ski Area Safety licensing and inspections should continue and fees should be increased to be sufficient to cover administrative costs.

Here's a list of the occupations officials recommended deregulating and the boards they recommend be cut:

The 18 occupations recommended for deregulation are:

  • Acupuncturist
  • Auctioneers
  • Community Planner
  • Consumer Finance Services
  • Dieticians & Nutritionists
  • Forensic Polygraph Examiner
  • Forester
  • Immigration Clerical Assistant
  • Insurance Solicitor
  • Interior Designer
  • Landscape Architect
  • Ocularist
  • Professional Employer Organizations
  • Proprietary School Solicitors
  • Respiratory Care
  • Security Alarm Contractors
  • Speech Pathologist
  • Vehicle Protection Product Warrantor

The 9 occupational boards recommended for elimination are:

  • Board of Acupuncture
  • Board of Auctioneers
  • Board of Carnivals & Amusement Rides
  • Board of Dietetics & Nutrition
  • Board of Occupational Therapy
  • Board of Respiratory Care
  • Board of Speech Language Pathology
  • Osteopathic Medicine Advisory Board
  • Ski Area Safety Board

The Office of Regulatory Reinvention was created in February 2011 within  the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

It's charged with overseeing current and proposed rules and regulations in the state and with "creating a regulatory environment and regulatory processes that are fair, efficient, and conducive to business growth and job creation."

On its website, the ORR boasts a "net reduction" of 363 rules in the state since April 23, 2011.
 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A state senate committee will consider legislation Thursday to recognize Michigan businesses that are “environmental leaders.”

But environmentalists say the bill actually makes it easier for companies to do the least required to meet environmental standards.

James Cliff is with the Michigan Environmental Council.    He says the "environmental leaders program" will reward companies by giving them access to state contracts with less regulation and an early warning for inspections, without really requiring them to do very much in return.

(We are having problems with the "audio processing" file above. Please use the second link.)

In his second State of the State address, Governor Rick Snyder did not spend a lot of time talking about the environment. But he did say that agriculture, tourism, mining and the timber industry are key to the state’s future.

He also talked about his push to overhaul the state’s regulatory system.

“So far we’ve rescinded nearly 400 obsolete, confusing and burdensome regulations.”

Now... those 400 regulations are not all environmental. But Governor Snyder did call out one set of rules that was on the books.

“The Department of Environmental Quality has 28 separate requirements for outhouses, including a requirement that the seat not be left up.”

The governor got big laughs - it was the best punch line of the evening. But of course, there’s a serious undertone to the Governor’s plans for overhauling the way the state regulates businesses.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder could veto his first bill this week. He faces a Friday morning deadline to sign or a reject measure sent to him by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The bill would make it difficult for state agencies to enact rules that are stricter than federal standards without first getting permission from the Legislature.

Sara Wurfel is the governor’s press secretary.

Photo courtesy of the State of Michigan

Back when Governor Rick Snyder was on the campaign trail... he promised to make dramatic changes to the way the state regulates businesses.

“Our regulatory system is backwards in this state. Not only the amount of regulation, but how people are being treated. Lansing is treating us as if we’re bad and should be controlled.”

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.

mickepe / MorgueFile

Amateur mixed martial arts fights may soon be regulated by the state. A bill introduced to the Michigan House would require both promoters and fighters to be licensed by the state. The bill would also create a commission to enforce the rules and investigate complaints.

rickforMI

Business groups say Michigan’s regulations and the state’s regulators make it more difficult to do business in the state than it needs to be.  During his campaign for governor, businessman Rick Snyder made it clear he agreed with that.

“Our regulatory system is backwards in this state.  Not only the amount of regulation, but how people are being treated.  Lansing is treating us as if we’re bad and should be controlled.  The average person is a good, honest person.  The average organization is trying to succeed.  We should be focused in on the exceptions.”

Don’t misunderstand.  Businesses in Michigan often complain about the red tape.  There are plenty of stories about Michigan government bogging down any attempts by business to expand in the state or to build new plants here.  But, it’s hard to determine whether those complaints are business people just griping about any kind of restrictions placed on them… or a real problem within the state’s bureaucracy.

So, let’s look at some of the ways you measure that.

rickformi flickr photostream

Rick Snyder says the way government works in Michigan doesn’t work.

“Now government.  It’s time for bureaucracy to go away.  It’s been with us a hundred-plus years.  It doesn’t work.  It is time for a new model.  It is time for customer service government.  The role of government is to treat you, the citizen, as the customer and look at life through your eyes and say ‘How can we help you succeed and how can we get out of your way.’”

Rick Snyder
Snyder's campaign website

There wasn’t a lot of talk about environment during the race for governor, but Governor-elect Rick Snyder made it clear during the campaign that he thinks the state’s regulatory system is broken and said he wants fewer regulations on businesses. That has some people wondering whether that means there will also be fewer of the regulations that prevent pollution in the state.  I talked with James Clift, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council, to get his take on this.

Chevy Volt's plug receptacle
Charles Manley / Michigan Radio

Senator Carl Levin wants to scrap the government's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard. Auto manufacturers must meet these fuel economy standards for their fleets, or face penalties from the government.

The Obama Administration recently updated the standards.  By 2020, automakers will have to reach an average 35.5 mpg for their combined car and truck fleet.

Workers fixing Enbridge oil pipeline near Marshall, Michigan
USEPA Region 5

The last few weeks have not been good for pipeline companies.  Coming off a summer that included the mother of all oil spills you had...