Michigan Legislature Tackles Environmental Laws

Troy M. Cumings

The Michigan legislature enacted changes to several environmental laws in 2012.

Many of the changes were recommended as a result of two stakeholder processes that occurred in 2011 and early 2012. The first was the Environmental Advisory Rules Committee of the Office of Regulatory Reinvention (ORR), which met 33 times and issued a report containing 77 recommendations to improve environmental regulatory processes. The ORR approved the report in early 2012.

The second was the Department of Environmental Quality’s Collaborative Stakeholders Initiative (CSI). The CSI consisted of meetings between DEQ staff and stakeholders to develop suggestions for implementing the ORR recommendations and improving the remediation and leaking underground storage tank programs.

While much was accomplished in 2012, there is more to do in 2013. Some of the major environmental issues the legislature could address include:

  • Wetlands – In 2012, the legislature introduced a bill to amend the wetlands law. Ultimately, the stakeholders could not come to an agreement, so the bill stalled. Interested parties continued to work on a compromise, and we anticipate a new bill to move in 2013.
  • Water resources protection (Part 31) – The ORR report includes recommendations specific to the Part 5 rules regulating the spillage of oil and other polluting materials. Unfortunately, the relevant statute, Part 31, prohibits the DEQ from initiating any new rulemaking under Part 31. In 2013, there likely will be an attempt to seek at least limited rulemaking authority under Part 31 so the DEQ can pursue changes to the Part 5 rules to implement the ORR recommendations and address other issues.
  • Beneficial use (Part 115) – In 2012, Rep. Matt Huuki introduced a bill to create a beneficial use program. Essentially, this would allow certain industry by-products to be used for beneficial purposes. This was an ORR recommendation. While stakeholders worked toward a compromise, there was not enough time during the lame-duck session to move the bill. We anticipate a new bill to be introduced before March enacted later this year.
  • Environmental remediation (Part 201) – In 2012, the legislature passed Senate Bill 1328, which addressed myriad issues under Part 201. But there are additional ORR and CSI recommendations and other issues that could be addressed under Part 201, including:
  • Beneficial use
  • Due care
  • Self-implementation
  • Clarifying background concentrations
  • Cleanup criteria
  • Interaction between soil relocation and Part 115
  • Source control
  • Conceptual site models
  • Consolidating notice provisions
  • No Further Interest letters
  • New ASTM standard