There won’t be a shortage of environmental debates in coming months, as state lawmakers and regulators turn their attention to the following issues:

Mercury. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has formed a working group to propose more stringent mercury regulations for coalfired power plants. The assignment stems from Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s directive of April 17, 2006, mandating a 90 percent reduction in mercury emissions from these plants instead the 70 percent reduction already required by the federal Clean Air Mercury Rule. Look for the working group’s recommendations in early 2007.

Water Conservation Practices. Legislation approved last year to limit groundwater withdrawals mandates new conservation measures. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce is forming a committee to suggest appropriate water management practices. Observers expect the recommendations to be unveiled after the new legislative session opens in January.

Particulate Matter Air Standard. A stricter federal standard for the amount of particulate matter in the air will require the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to amend the state’s emissions control plan. The revised plan and subsequent rule-making must secure federal approval.

Permits for Nickel, Copper and Zinc Mining. A ruling is forthcoming in a lawsuit challenging an application by Kennecott Mining Company to mine nickel, copper and zinc in an area northwest of Marquette, Mich. Mining opponents sued to force the MDEQ to convene a "contested case hearing" on whether the company’s application was complete.