INSULT: Fewer inspections, reports will hurt lakes
Detroit Free Press
The Michigan quarter may have the imprint "Great
Lakes State," but you'd never know it from what the
Legislature is doing.
Republican lawmakers in the House are on course to make
Michigan a place where more than a third of regular inspections
never occur at industries that discharge into its waterways;
where information about chemicals being sent into sewers
isn't available even to the public wastewater plants expected
to handle them; and where short-staffing means violators
may never get held to account.
Lawmakers worked first and most diligently to cripple
the Department of Environmental Quality's water programs
by starving its budget. The focus is Gov. Jennifer Granholm's
sensible plan to shift the cost burden of regulating discharges
by industry and sewerage plants. Currently all taxpayers
bear that cost; the House finally agreed with Granholm
to assign it directly to the dischargers, by assessing
a fee for the permits they must have. But they set the
fees so low that DEQ director Steve Chester says regular
inspections would be cut by a third to half.
Then a House committee added real injury to budgetary
insult: It voted to kill a crucial report companies must
file on certain chemicals they have on hand, including
how they dispose of them. The data provide a basis for
figuring the load of specific pollutants in a given waterway
-- or headed to a wastewater plant -- and can also boost
public safety by helping fire departments and other responders
plan for emergencies at industrial sites.
Dropping the report goes beyond the rubric that what's
good for industry -- more privacy, less "red tape"
-- is good for everyone. It's a gamble on well-being,
not just of the Great Lakes but all its people.