Governor-elect Rick Snyder is already shuffling things in Lansing. He’s planning to split up the Department of Natural Resources and Environment… back into two separate agencies.
If you’re already thinking: uh, why do I care?… these are the people in charge of protecting air and water quality, regulating farms, overseeing hunting and fishing. So, who’s in charge matters a lot.
Governor-elect Snyder’s decision is a reversal of an action by Governor Granholm. Granholm combined the Department of Natural Resources with the Department of Environmental Quality. Now, Governor-elect Snyder wants to split them apart again. Here’s what he said when he made the announcement this week:
“Protecting our env is absolutely critical. The issue we have to look at is how do you balance sound science with good economics?”
Snyder said he wants to streamline and speed up permits for businesses in the state. He says splitting up these two agencies is the best way to do that.
He also announced new directors for these environmental agencies. He named Dan Wyant to be the director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Now, Wyant has a history in Lansing. He’s the former director of the department of agriculture under both Governor Engler and Governor Granholm.
This appointment has some mixed reviews around the state. One of the most vocal critics of this pick is David Holtz. He’s the executive director of the group Progress Michigan. So what are you concerned will happen with Dan Wyant as the director of the DEQ?
Holtz: Well, the concern is two things. If his track record with Engler is a clue to how he’s going to enforce things in Michigan, the concern is there won’t be enforcement. And when you take that in context of the move from Governor-elect Snyder toward a lot of softening of regulations, the combination of those two will probably mean that we’re going to have more pollution in our lakes, rivers and streams. We hope not. But we know for a fact that if polluters believe they can get away with polluting, they’re going to do it in some cases, and that means dirtier water.
Some environmental groups are taking more of a “let’s wait and see” approach. How do you know that Dan Wyant won’t protect air and water quality in the state?
Holtz: Well, we don’t know. And that’s why when I criticized the appointment it wasn’t a prediction of what would happen in the future, but it was based on you know, his track record. We can hope that Mr. Snyder believes that strong enforcement of environmental laws are important to Michigan, protecting our Great Lakes ecosystem’s important and that his DEQ director will.
So these two agencies have been split apart by Governor Engler, put back together by Governor Granholm, and now they’re about to be pulled apart by Governor-elect Snyder. Why does this matter?
Holtz: Well, I think your average person really doesn’t care if there’s one or two or three or six. I think what they want is these agencies to do their job and do it well and do it as efficiently as possible so they aren’t wasting tax money. But what they will pay attention to is whether we’re seeing products that are safe, whether the place where they fish or where they swim, whether the water’s clean or not. That’s how it’ll play out in most people’s lives.
All right, well, I really appreciate your time.
Holtz: Thank you, Rebecca.
David Holtz is the executive director of Progress Michigan. That’s the Environment Report. I’m Rebecca Williams.