Traverse City Record-Eagle

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November 30, 2013

State should resist willy-nilly changes to environmental regulations

Better safe than sorry.

For decades, that was Michigan’s standard to regulate the pollutants belched into the air by industry smokestacks.

That’s about to change, as the state continues its headlong rush to make Michigan friendlier to business.

Eliminating unnecessary regulation has been a high priority for Gov. Rick Snyder, who understands the importance of building a more robust tax base and a more stable economy in Michigan.

But the health of Michigan’s business climate shouldn’t be placed above the health of Michiganders.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality regulates about 1,200 air toxins, more than almost any state in the nation, save Texas. But a new set of guidelines ... would drop that number by about 500.

The new guidelines were developed by a working group made up largely of industry representatives. If adopted, the new rules would remove about 25 percent of the least dangerous pollutants from the list of regulated air toxins, along with pollutants for which there is no health data. ...

These are drastic changes.

Michigan’s current system determines how much of a given pollutant can be released, in part, by assigning a value to each air toxic. That number takes into account not just the toxicity of the pollutant, but the quantity in which it is released. ...

When it comes to pollutants for which no health data exist - there are 281 such pollutants on the list - the state assumes the worst, assigning those toxic pollutants the highest value. A more responsible course of action would be to require industries releasing such pollutants to obtain the health data necessary for MDEQ to make an informed decision about the safety of emissions.

These kinds of environmental precautions are especially important in Michigan, where heavy industry is concentrated and where many homes are downwind of multiple factories emitting toxic air pollutants. ...

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