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Michigan Senate limits governor’s power on environmental issues

A new law that prohibits the governor from adopting environmental rules that are stronger than federal standards will harm Michigan’s ability to protect the Great Lakes, environmental groups say.

This week the state Senate joined the House in approving such legislation.

Many environmental groups spoke out against the move:

“Federal water quality standards are designed to be the floor below which states are not allowed to drop,” said James Clift, of the Michigan Environmental Council. “This law assumes that rules written in Washington for waters in other states are good enough to protect our Great Lakes. They are not.”

“This legislation was not written by people who feel a stewardship responsibility to the Great Lakes, which contain almost 20 percent of the planet’s fresh surface water,” said Alexis Blizman of the Ecology Center. “We believe Michigan’s waters are best managed by Michigan. Not by Washington, D.C. bureaucrats.”

“Today’s action would eliminate Michigan’s ability to move quickly and proactively to deal with threats like the 1970s Lake Erie crisis,” said Dr. Grenetta Thomassey of the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council. “Water protection is a responsibility shared by the state’s governor, the legislature and the people of Michigan. We must not voluntarily give away control over our signature resource.”

If the Senate version is approved by the House and the governor signs it, the new law will go into effect in February.

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