Mackinac Center Environmental Analyst Russ Harding Urges Reform of State Dioxin Policy Following Governor’s Veto of Dioxin Testing Bill
State’s dioxin approach “disregards sound science and property rights”
For Immediate Release
Dec. 28, 2005
Contact: Russ Harding, Senior Environmental Policy Analyst
MIDLAND — Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s veto yesterday of a dioxin cleanup bill "highlights the failures of Michigan’s toxic waste regulations," said Mackinac Center Senior Environmental Policy Analyst Russ Harding today. House Bill 4617 would have required the state Department of Environmental Quality to perform an onsite test for dioxin or several other airborne emissions before declaring a particular residence, business or other property a toxic "facility." The bill was passed by the Legislature in response to the DEQ’s handling of the discovery of dioxin in some soils in the city of Midland and along the banks of the Saginaw and Tittabawassee Rivers.
Harding, a former director of the DEQ, observed, "This veto puts the responsibility directly on the governor’s office to help revise current state policy, which disregards sound science and property rights in its dealings with Michigan’s citizens and businesses. The DEQ has gone so far as to forgo actual property-by-property testing and simply lump a wide number of properties, including homes, as well as commercial and manufacturing sites, under the label of ‘a facility’ — a regulatory term normally used for an abandoned gasoline station or a chemical plant, not for somebody’s home or for part of a city. This highhanded approach not only ignores sound science, but scares people and depresses property values based on inadequate evidence of a real threat."
Harding recommended that the state base its dioxin cleanup requirements on direct tests of risks to human health. "The vetoed bill," Harding said, "required that the state measure actual dioxin levels in people and animals, rather than assume that even the smallest amounts of dioxin in the soil automatically represent a human health risk. This approach helps ensure that cleanup policies will actually protect people’s health, and it also minimizes economic damage to homeowners and businesses whose property contains traces of dioxin through no fault of their own."
Harding added: "Those who complain about ‘the expense’ of property-by-property testing should consider the waste of the state’s environmental resources when taxpayers’ money and private funds are spent on costly cleanups that may do little to protect human health. Environmental cleanup should be based on meaningful scientific data, not the whim of unelected state employees."