The Office of Regulatory Reinvention (ORR) provided Gov. Rick Snyder with 77 recommendations for improving Michigan’s environmental regulations while still protecting the state’s citizens and environment.
Representatives from utility companies, environmental groups, local governments, manufacturers, environmental lawyers, and senior officials from the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) all contributed to the recommendations, which included rescinding 330 DEQ rules that were deemed “obsolete” or “overly-burdensome,” according to the advisory committee.
“Regulatory reform speaks to the heart of the governor’s goal of helping Michigan produce more and better jobs,” said DEQ Director Dan Wyant. “We believe the recommendations in this report will help businesses by providing clarity and consistency in our regulations while protecting Michigan’s environment.”
“We wanted to look at a better way to do business and to cut the red tape and the bureaucracy,” said Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner John P. McCulloch, who chaired the Water Subcommittee involved in the process.
He said overall he believes Oakland County residents will be pleased with the efforts of the ORR.
“These recommendations will make Michigan a more inviting and friendly place in which businesses are afforded the opportunity to grow and prosper without being burdened by redundant and costly regulations,” McCulloch said.
One of the recommendations provided by McCulloch’s subcommittee was looking at how sewage overflows are handled. According to McCulloch, in the past, the state’s policy was to always build new underground basins to hold overflows from sewage systems.
His recommendation was to use and retrofit existing basins, which has been done in Oakland County on a demonstration basis.
“Under the current rules, the DEQ would require a new basin to be built, which costs about $180 million,” McCulloch said. “However, on our demonstration project, we were able to retrofit and utilize the current infrastructure for $25 million, which saves $155 million. With the increasing water and sewer rates (passed down from the city of Detroit to many water and sewer customers), we need to look at innovative solutions to keep costs in check.”
Another recommendation his team suggested was to develop a “one-stop-shop approach” with regards to certified stormwater operators. Under federal law, a developer is required to have a certified stormwater operator on-site when developing property adjacent to waterways. Also under state law, a county inspector has to be present to determine the impact the development may have on the adjacent waterway.
“It’s primarily the same training (for those two positions),” McCulloch said. “Why have our inspectors there and force the developer to have another on site? Why can’t the developer hire (the Water Resources Commissioner’s Office) to fulfill both the state and federal law requirements? We wanted to eliminate bureaucracy without comprising the environment, and did so by eliminating duplications where the federal and state law overlap on standards and requirements.”
According to McCulloch, all 77 recommendations developed by the ORR were personally reviewed and signed off by Snyder.
They can be found in their entirety online at www.michigan.gov/lara.
McCulloch said the DEQ is currently working on a timeline by which the recommendations will be implemented.
“We’re serious about addressing these issues. I’m confident that this report won’t just sit on some shelf,” he said.