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Environmental groups blast House bill restricting state agencies

Power plant
Courtesy of Duke Energy
The W.C. Beckjord Station along the Ohio River near Cincinnati.

The state House has passed a bill (HB 4205) that would restrict the ability of state agencies to write regulations that are tougher than federal rules. Environmental groups are lining up against the bill.

Under the measure, agencies would not be able to create rules that are more stringent than federal ones - unless directed to by state law, or if the director of a state agency proves a "clear and convincing need" to exceed the federal standard.

Representative Triston Cole (R-Mancelona) introduced the bill. He says the legislation adds checks and balances to the regulatory system.

“This is to protect constituents and citizens of Michigan from more stringent regulation than what is necessary,” he says.

Cole says he gets frustrated by state agencies’ ability to enact some kinds of rules and bypass the Legislature.

But critics say the bill would hamstring state agencies. Skip Pruss is a former deputy director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. He now works as a senior fellow with the consulting group Five Lakes Energy.

Pruss says the legislation is a contender for the worst Michigan environmental bill of the 21st century.

“Our Great Lakes are globally unique resources. They exist nowhere else on the planet. We have watersheds that are unique. We have our dune system on Lake Michigan [that] is globally unique,” he says.

He says we have specific regulations to protect those unique systems.

"It’s irresponsible - at best, misguided - to surrender our authority to regulate and protect these extraordinary resources to the federal government particularly at a time when the current administration has declared proudly that they intend to weaken regulations and in many cases void existing regulations,” says Pruss.

The bill now moves to the state Senate.

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