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A recent Detroit News column by Richard Studley and Carl Bednarski (“DEQ reform will benefit Michigan,” Feb. 8) advocates for letting big businesses and corporate polluters control the Department of Environmental Quality. Allowing regulated industries to set Michigan’s environmental rules is like the fox guarding the henhouse, and a blatant conflict of interest.

It is fundamentally reckless to ask regulated industries to set their own rules when it comes to protecting our health and natural resources. The losers of this misguided legislation, if it goes forward, are the citizens of Michigan, including businesses that depend on our water.

The notion that our current DEQ is bad for business is laughable. The opposite is true. Protecting our Great Lakes, drinking water and other natural treasurers is good for everyone, including businesses from Michigan’s agriculture industry to tourism and recreation. Water is an essential part of our economy, culture and way of life. We need to protect it.

Furthermore, the DEQ already acts as a rubber stamp for corporations seeking permits to pollute. In fact, in fiscal year 2016, the DEQ approved more than 99 percent of permits. Based on the numbers, the authors’ claim that the DEQ needs a board to appeal permit decisions simply doesn’t make sense. If anything, we need a DEQ that puts its foot down more often and rejects big polluters’ requests to pollute even more.

The stakes for bad environmental decision-making are incredibly high. And with the Trump Administration dead set on weakening the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, further undermining the DEQ would leave Michigan doubly vulnerable, especially to other states that covet our abundance of fresh water. In 2018, lawmakers should push for strong, commonsense protections for our air, land, drinking water and Great Lakes and reject this reckless legislation. We can’t afford to go backward.

Phil Roos

CEO, Great Lakes Growth Network

president, Michigan League of Conservation

Voters’ Board of Directors

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