Looking Ahead

The following environmental issues likely will be the subject of legislative debate in the coming months:

Environmental Fees

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is seeking to increase regulatory fees by a total of nearly $19.6 million, including the costs of permits for air emissions, wetlands, dam safety, floodplains, inland lakes and streams; and groundwater discharge. The agency also wants to impose higher fees for pollution prevention, hazardous waste users, solid waste, on-site sewage and mineral wells. The existing fees generate $22.6 million annually. If approved, the new fees would amount to nearly $42.2 million — an increase of 187 percent. The agency claims higher fees are necessary to make up for less federal and state funding of its regulatory programs. However, the regulated community will likely resist the higher fees given the economic challenges facing Michigan businesses. For more information search Senate Bill 406 at Michigan Votes, www.michiganvotes.org.

Cleanup Regulations

For the past few years, business groups and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have been negotiating revisions to regulations governing the cleanup of contaminated property. The lack of progress prompted the agency to hire the firm Public Sector Consultants to mediate the process. PSC is expected to finish its work this spring, even though a number of unresolved issues remain. The business community is advocating for rules that provide certainty and finality, while the DEQ generally favors more regulatory latitude.

Great Lakes Quality Agreement

State Sen. Patricia Birkholz (R-24th District) has introduced legislation that would implement the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in Michigan. In order for the agreement to be binding, all Great Lakes states must pass implementing legislation. To date, only Minnesota has passed such a statue. The agreement requires, in part, state regulation of new or increased water withdrawals within five years of ratification. The agreement prohibits out-of-basin withdrawals, but exempts communities that are partly in and partly out of the basin, providing a process for those to use Great Lakes water. For more information search House Bill 4336, House Bill 4343 and Senate Bill 212 at Michigan Votes, www.michiganvotes.org.

Ballast water treatment

The standoff between the shipping industry and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality over ballast water treatments has intensified, with the FedNave shipping company suing DEQ over its requirements that shippers must obtain a permit before they can use ports in Michigan. FedNave has threatened to boycott Michigan ports. Michigan is the only Great Lakes state to require ballest water treatment insisting that the treatment is necessary to prevent the introduction of non-native species.