While Michigan’s budget situation is still not resolved, the legislature has cut general fund support to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality by 39%. The Department of Environmental Quality is the state agency responsible for protecting Michigan’s water, air, natural resources and public health – although whether they can live up to that responsibility without adequate resources remains to be seen. This is another blow to an agency that already suffers from a lack of adequate resources and political support.
As detailed in Eartha Melzer’s article from the Michigan Messenger, there are some funding solutions to this problem, if lawmakers have the political will to value environmental protection. If not, the public may turn to the federal government to do the job right. Many of the Department of Environmental Quality’s regulatory programs implement federal environmental laws and operate under delegation from the US EPA. If the state continues to undermine the ability of the Department of Environmental Quality to implement and enforce our environmental laws, the US EPA could revoke its delegations to the state, and force Michigan’s companies and local governments to get federal approval for water and air pollution permits. That’s not an ideal situation, but it may be better than leaving the job to an understaffed agency that lacks the resources to do the job right.