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Advocacy groups weigh in on environmental bills

Kevin Dooley

State environmental groups are weighing in on a number of bills headed to the Governor’s desk.

The bills would make sweeping changes to the state’s environmental policies, from creating advisory panels for DEQ rulemaking to changing the state’s ballast water regulation, and allowing large-scale water withdrawals.

Dave Dempsey is with the environmental group, For the Love of Water. He said the bills are a step backward for the state.

“We’re hopeful the Governor will see a chance to burnish his legacy by vetoing all or some of these bills he would be helping to protect Michigan’s future.”

Not all environmental groups felt the same way, however.

Amy Trotter with the Michigan United Conservation Clubs said her group was initially opposed to a bill that would bring state ballast water standards more in line with federal standards because there were places where the federal law left loopholes. Trotter said the bill initially allowed the Coast Guard, which would handle enforcement of the regulations, to offer extensions to some boats regarding treatment systems.

“We didn’t want the federal kicking the can down the road that could get a boat in that could essentially avoid the ballast or treatments that we require in the state.”

Trotter says the MUCC worked to have that loophole closed and are happier with the final bill.

Dempsey, with For the Love of Water, said those minor changes weren’t enough.

“I think in the case of all these bills I just mentioned there have been small tweaks made before they passed the legislature that makes them less dangerous than they were but they are still a step backward.”

A spokesperson for the Governor said he has not yet reviewed the bills.