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Citizens Challenge Engler Administration to Tell the Environmental Truth

New (December, 2000) report shows state fails to protect water, air, public health

Contacts:
Detroit: Mary Beth Doyle, Ecology Center, 734-761-3186;
Donele Wilkins, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, 313-821-1064
Grand Rapids: Tom Leonard, West Michigan Environmental Action Council, 616-451-3051
Traverse City: Keith Schneider, Michigan Land Use Institute, 231-882-4723 ext. 11
Saginaw: Terry Miller, Lone Tree Council, 517-686-6386
Muskegon: Tanya Cabala, Lake Michigan Federation, 231-722-5116
Lansing: Alison Horton, Sierra Club, 517-484-2372;
James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council, 517-487-9539.

LANSING -- State environmental regulators fail to protect Michigan's water and air, endangering the public health, a statewide coalition of public interest groups announced with the release of a joint report, Dereliction of Duty: How the Department of Environmental Quality Endangers Michigan's Environment and Public Health.

It is time for state lawmakers to demand that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality do its job and work for, not against, the public, the groups said.

The disturbing truth behind frequent Engler administration claims of a clean Michigan are clear in the report, which brings together case studies and statistics from across the state to show:

  • Top DEQ management regularly intervenes on behalf of businesses that are in violation of current environmental laws.
  • Beach closings, dirty air, and toxic wastes are increasing under this administration.
  • The agency fights federal efforts to improve the environment and ensure environmental justice.
  • Taxpayers pay the cleanup price for the DEQ's failure to do its job.

"This report demonstrates that Governor Engler's decision to forego a citizen oversight board for DEQ when he created the agency in 1995 has been a mistake," said James Clift of the Michigan Environmental Council. "The time has come to end this bad experiment and put the concerns of Michigan's citizens back at the top DEQ's list of priorities."

Read "Dereliction of Duty" at: http://www.mecprotects.org/

CALL FOR INVESTIGATION

The coalition also called today on the Legislature to follow up on the report's findings by holding public hearings on DEQ's performance. "The responsibility rests with lawmakers to exercise proper oversight and demand that the DEQ enforce environmental laws and work with the public," said Alison Horton of the Michigan Sierra Club.

If the Legislature fails to act, however, the broadbased coalition plans to hold its own hearings in the next year.

"We cannot afford to let DEQ continue on its present path," said Tanya Cabala of the Lake Michigan Federation. "It's time to break through the rhetoric and show how citizens from all corners of the state share a deep concern and frustration with DEQ's failure to protect their health and natural resources."

Donele Wilkins, executive director of Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, welcomes a statewide coalition effort to clean up Michigan and the administration's practices. "Compromises made on behalf of factories have resulted in turning Detroit into a public health sacrifice zone."

The DEQ has successfully avoided much media attention while breaking down environmental enforcement across the state because it does so one permit, one river at a time. "But the agency's anti-environmental actions have reached the point that communities are now coming together to challenge their common DEQ problem," said Keith Schneider of the Michigan Land Use Institute, which recently published an in-depth article on grassroots responses to the DEQ. http://www.mlui.org/pubs/glb/glb12-00/glb12-toc.html

Michigan was once a national leader in environmental protection because of its landmark laws and solid enforcement. "The Engler administration dismantled those protections and now endangers Michigan's public health, recreation economy, and precious natural resources," said Tom Leonard of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.


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