Robert Striebel, executive vice president of Hart Enterprises in Sparta, was surprised when a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality inspector arrived at the facility unannounced and informed him she was there to do an air quality inspection. Hart Enterprises, which manufactures precision medical devices, is not required to have an air quality permit. Striebel said the DEQ inspector informed him that no complaint had been filed, but “since many larger companies are now out of business they have time to investigate smaller companies.”

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Hart Enterprises, located in an industrial complex in Sparta, has an ongoing legal dispute with the DEQ over an alleged wetland violation that occurred when the company expanded its parking lot in order to hire more employees. Striebel refused entry to the DEQ inspector, fearing the company was being targeted due to its protracted disagreement over the wetland issue. Subsequently, Hart Enterprises has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the DEQ alleging harassment of the company. The suit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to prohibit the DEQ from inspecting Hart’s plant for air quality violations and from further harassing the company, as well as attorney fees, costs and any other relief the court deems just and proper.

Michigan lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder are faced with closing a budget shortfall of approximately $1.8 billion. Apparently, the DEQ has enough employees to make unannounced inspection visits to companies that aren’t even required to have the applicable permits. State appropriators may want to examine the DEQ’s budget to indentify cost savings. Taxpayers should not be expected to foot the bill to keep excess employees on the payroll.