Over a decade has passed since Michigan's environmental cleanup laws were modified by the passage of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA, 1994 PA 451) to encourage investment in contaminated properties. At the time, we were at the cutting edge of environmental policy. Unfortunately, the lagging economic climate has exposed certain flaws in our state's Brownfields program, and this discussion is no secret to those in the field or active in government.
Recognizing the Detroit Regional Chamber's advocacy on urban land use issues, including our recent support of legislation to improve financing options for redevelopment projects, MDEQ staff traveled to our headquarters in November of 2008 to present to our membership, along with many others from across the state, their recommendations for a redesigned program. The regulated community's concern over the efficiency, transparency and the lack of finality of the program were not fully addressed by MDEQ's proposal; however, solutions can be found in Senate Bill 437, introduced by Senator Jason Allen, (R- Traverse City).
At the August 26 hearing of the Senate Committee on Economic Development and Regulatory Reform, Chaired by Senator Alan Sanborn (R- Richmond Twp.), former acting Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency Marianne Horinko testified that, in studying the current status of Michigan's environmental cleanup program, it is clear that legislation is necessary to breathe new life into a program that has been a national model for encouraging investment in environmental projects.
As other states around the country have been rethinking the way they address the cleanup of hazardous waste, both the pace and efficiency of our process has faltered. This is most evident in a reduction in brownfield redevelopment activity. Horinko also found that an unhealthy level of conservatism in the decision making process actually reduces the amount of contaminants that are removed from properties across the state. It is the inability to weigh the...