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Gov. Whitmer moves forward with second attempt to restructure DEQ, despite Republican pushback

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer is trying again to restructure the state Department of Environmental Quality. Whitmer signed a second executive order on Thursday to restructure the DEQ after the Legislature voted to overturn the initial order last week.

Whitmer issued the original executive order changing the DEQ early this month. This new version is largely the same: it renames the DEQ to the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. It also creates an environmental justice response team, and new offices like the Clean Water Public Advocate.

“Every Michigander deserves safe, clean drinking water, and I’m not going to let partisan politics slow down the important work that needs to get done right now to protect public health,” Whitmer said in a statement.

Mary Brady-Enerson is the Michigan director for Clean Water Action.

“We believe that the reorganization will create a more responsive and transparent process for Michigan citizens. Really work to protect our drinking water, our Great Lakes,” she said.

The major difference between the two versions is that the old order got rid of three controversial oversight panels. The new order now only eliminates the Environmental Science Advisory Board. It keeps oversight panels on environmental rules and permits, both of which are supported by business organizations.

Before Whitmer signed the order, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey weighed in. He said he would need to have a clear definition of “environmental justice” before he would be on board with the new order.

“If we can get that done, I don’t think there’d be too much trouble getting her… executive order completed,” said Shirkey.

A spokesman for Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield says Chatfield is glad Whitmer reached out to work with the Legislature on the issue.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
Emma is a producer for the digital content team at Michigan Radio. Her duties span all things web-related, from news reporting and photography to digital fundraising and graphic design. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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