Advance Notice: Briefs

Whitmer names environmental rules panel appointee

By: - April 5, 2019 6:02 pm
Gov. Whitmer signing an environmental order

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs environmental measures alongside Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and DEQ chief Liesl Clark, Feb. 4, 2019 | Nick Manes

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has replaced former Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) director James Clift on an environmental rules panel that was once a major sticking point for Republicans who fought to preserve it.

The governor announced in a press release Friday that Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Jeremy Orr will replace Clift on the panel, pending state Senate approval. The appointment would make Orr the new appointee charged with representing environmentalists’ concerns, if the Senate consents.

The panel — called the Environmental Rules Review Committee — consists of 12 members representing small businesses, manufacturing, agriculture, local governments, the garbage industry, the oil and gas industry, utility companies and one environmental organization.

Whitmer signed an environmental executive order in early February that included eliminating the panel, but later agreed to keep it in a revised order. The revised order kept the Environmental Rules Review Committee and the Environmental Permit Review Commission in place while eliminating the Environmental Science Advisory Board.

Republican lawmakers opposed Whitmer’s original effort to eliminate all three of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) oversight panels that gave pro-business organizations and other interest groups a say in environmental policymaking. Her original order scrapped the rules review committee to which Orr has now been appointed.

Environmentalists have criticized the bodies, calling them “polluter panels.”

Gov.. Whitmer
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announcing new environmental executive orders, Feb. 4, 2019 | Nick Manes

Republicans rejected the Democrat’s initial measure, the first time that both chambers had overturned a governor’s executive order in decades.

Ultimately, Republicans in the Legislature agreed to an updated executive order from Whitmer that kept the rules panel in place.

Whitmer signed the new order in late February that restructured and renamed the DEQ, which will be called the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).

Orr comes to the panel after Clift accepted a job as an advisor to DEQ Director Liesl Eichler Clark.

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Michael Gerstein
Michael Gerstein

Michael Gerstein is a former Advance reporter covering the Governor's office, criminal justice and the environment.