MDEQ Reinvention? Maybe I was wrong… Maybe

7 Feb 2012

Just last week I publicly restated my doubt that Anne Couture could make any major change in the MDEQ’s ability to grant closures of sites that deserve to be closed.  My reticence was based on many factors and finally, it appears, at least two of them are fading away.

First of all, Anne has announced the end of MDEQ’s Quality Review Team (“QRT”). Some 20 years ago, the QRT was intended to be a resource for MDEQ field staffers to ensure that they had the tools to make good closure decisions and to ensure some degree of consistency between decisions being made across the State.  Over time, it evolved into one of the most attacked entities in State government.  The QRT, staffed by MDEQ, operated in complete secrecy and a person who was seeking closure was not permitted to hear the discussions between MDEQ staff and the QRT members nor respond to them.  What seemed to evolve was a “black hole” where proposed closures would go in but never come out approved.

Secondly, after over a year, the MDEQ has officially sent out letters looking for volunteers to serve on the MDEQ Response Activity Review Panel which was created pursuant to the December 2010 amendments to Part 201 of the Michigan Environmental Code.  The Panel has been long awaited and some (including me) were beginning to doubt that the staff would ever pursue seating it.  This will be staffed by non-MDEQ experts.  The Panel, which was originally my idea, was created to provide a privately staffed check and balance  for review of technical and scientific decisions by the MDEQ denying approvals of response activity plans or requests for determinations that no further action is needed under Part 201.

Assuming that the Review Panel is actually seated (the MDEQ took away the nominal per diem originally proposed, so anyone serving is volunteering their time) and that the staff is empowered to make, and begins to make, good risk-based decisions, I may just have to send Anne Couture flowers and a note of apology!

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