Michigan Has Announced Agency Reorganizations (2/5/2019)

Story by Woodall's Campground Management

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will become the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy under an executive order Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued Monday (Feb. 4).

According to a press release, the move is a major reorganization of the state's environmental and regulatory functions.

Whitmer as a candidate had promised to create a Department of Great Lakes and Freshwater and the executive order accomplishes the overall goal of elevating those issues to cabinet-level, she said, though it does not create a new department.

What the executive order does is beef up the ability for the public to interact with the department through a new Interagency Environmental Justice Response Team to address discriminatory public health or environmental effects of state laws, regulations, policies or activities and a new Office of the Clean Water Public Advocate to investigate complaints and concerns involving drinking water quality.

An Office of the Environmental Justice Public Advocate would be created to investigate complaints related to environmental justice in the state.

The executive order makes other changes in the structure of state government:

The Michigan Agency for Energy is abolished with its functions transferred to a new Office of Climate and Energy housed within the new DEGLE;

The Office of the Great Lakes, previously housed in the Department of Natural Resources, is abolished and a new Office of the Great Lakes is created within DEGLE;

The Administrative Hearing System located in the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is abolished and a new Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules is created;

The duties of the Office of Performance and Transformation move to the Department of Technology, Management and Budget and the Office of Regulatory Reinvention, the main clearinghouse for rules changes, is abolished. The duties of ORR move to the new Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules.

The Environmental Rules Review Committee, the Environmental Permit Review Commission and the Environmental Science Advisory Board – created last year in bills passed by the Legislature and signed by then-Governor Rick Snyder to give business some say and oversight in environmental permitting and rule-making – are abolished.

 Whitmer signed a separate executive order establishing a new Michigan PFAS Action Response Team that she said would be stronger than the one Snyder created.

She also issued an executive directive fulfilling a campaign promise to enter Michigan into the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of governors from 19 other states agreeing to act to reduce greenhouse gases in line with the Paris Agreement on climate from which the United States withdrew.

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