CSI pulls into the station; the work continues at a less than glacial pace

15 Mar 2012

Yesterday, the MDEQ, released its CSI report, found here, summarizing the work done by a collaborative group of experts and MDEQ staff over the last 6 weeks (think about that, the MDEQ got something done in six weeks!).  Today, there was a presentation by the 7 work groups.  It does seem that MDEQ may finally be getting the message that the Michigan Legislature sent in 1995 that there should be some tolerance of acceptable risk.   The focus appears to be largely on changing MDEQ policy and statutory language.  I recommend that you read the 100+ page report with 90+ recommendations made, but here are a few points worth noting:

1. GSI – groundwater surface water interface was an issue we struggled with two years ago when I worked on the Part 201 legislation enacted at the end of 2010.  GSI has been one of the two most problematic criteria because MDEQ regularly used it to deny approvals of site closure.  MDEQ has rigidly and conservatively applied these criteria.  As a result of the CSI process,  legislation will be introduced soon that should recognize that not every drop of water in the ground poses a risk to surface water.

2. Brownfields – there were a number of recommendations which are of some urgency as there is a sunset date approaching for the TIF program at the end of this year and legislation is being drafted now.  I am a bit concerned that rather than streamlining this process, there may be a movement toward adding a layer bureaucracy to the approval process. I hope I’m reading the tea leaves wrong on this one.

3. Vapor Intrusion – after GSI, another impediment to closure is the possibility that contaminants might migrate upward into occupied spaces.  How this one plays out remains to be seen.

As this process continues, we will keep you apprised of legislation introduced, rule changes proposed and policies adopted.  Perhaps the MDEQ no longer views industry as the enemy – we’ll see – that’s a paradigm shift that I suspect will take a lot more than 6 weeks.  With a focus largely on policy changes (which can change with the next administration), I remain doubtful that this was a kumbaya moment.

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