The Michigan Legislature is considering three bills that would change how the state determines environmental rules.
Senate Bills 652, 653, and 654 would create an environmental rules committee that could reject or change Michigan Department of Environmental Quality rules. The bills 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.
Critics are concerned that these committees would allow industry or corporate figures to ultimately decide what the Department of Environmental Quality can or cannot do to stop pollution. They say it’s like the fox guarding the henhouse.
Senator Tom Casperson disagrees. He is a Republican from Escanaba and is the lead sponsor of the legislation.
Casperson sat down with Stateside to discuss why he thinks the bills are necessary.
You can listen to the entire interview above, or read highlights below.
On the goal of the legislation
“Well, I think [the bills are] necessary based on some activities that have gone on since I’ve been in the Legislature, and we’ve tried different approaches to, what I would call, put some reasonable standards in place, and we keep running into roadblocks and problems within the department, and so we’re trying to come up with something that levels the playing field.”
On criticisms that the bills allow business to control environmental protection
“I would argue that some of the critics that are coming from the environmental groups, have no dog in the fight whatsoever. They have no skin in this game at all, as far as financial or anything else. So, they seem to be included in all these processes, they seem to be included in the end game as far as what the standards will be…. Just because an environmental group says it has to be done in a certain way, that’s not necessarily true either.”
“So, with them having no skin in the game, they don’t care what these things cost when we impose a rule on somebody. They don’t even talk about the cost, because it’s not even a concern of theirs. So we have to find a way to balance this out.”
On how this package of bills prevents the environment from being less protected
“Well, again, out of whose eyes are we looking at? Because I’ve got people who believe we shouldn’t be building anything, they believe it should be pre-settlement, we should go try to turn everything back to the way it was before man got here. To me, that’s excessive, that’s going too far.”
“That’s what’s happening in my district, where people want to build something or develop something, and they’re being put through this buzzrake because the people behind the scenes that control these permits might not like that particular development. They personally don’t like the idea that you’re building there. And it’s nothing to do with what the rules and the laws say. So I’m saying, let’s have high standards. But we’ve got to take the agenda out of it, and that’s what I believe is happening in too many cases…”