Skip Pruss speaks to the impact of HB 4205 on Michigan and its natural resources
The Michigan legislature has introduced what is a sure contender for the worst Michigan environmental bill of the 21st century. The bill, HB 4205, would prohibit all state agencies from promulgating any administrative rule that is more stringent than an applicable federal standard. With the federal government actively seeking to dismantle historic environmental protections by lowering or eliminating a whole host of environmental standards, HB 4205 could result in irreparable and irrevocable harm to Michigan’s priceless natural resource heritage.
We cannot assign the responsibility to protect Michigan’s natural resources to the federal government. We cannot surrender the safeguarding of Michigan’s natural resources to an administration that is contemptuous of efforts to protect land and water resources and boasts of its eagerness to eviscerate existing environmental rules.
The Trump Administration’s pledge to repeal two administrative rules for every rule promulgated and its promise to use the Congressional Review Act to void environmental regulations are indicators of the potential harm HB 4205 could create. The Trump Administration’s roll back of 23 environmental rules in its first 100 days is harm already incurred.
Michigan’s natural resources are globally unique, requiring vigilant protection and stewardship. Our Great Lakes hold 20 percent of the world’s supply of fresh surface waters and harbor distinctive, specialized watersheds. Our shoreline of 3,288 miles is by far the longest freshwater coastline in the United States, shaping coastal dunes that are singularly unique natural features. Science affirms that our inland lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands are an integrated, interconnected, mutually dependent hydrologic system providing immeasurable services and benefits to all citizens.
In all, Michigan’s natural resources are magnificent, unparalleled and sublime – a natural endowment demanding extraordinary legislative safeguarding. HB 4205 is antithetical to Michigan’s values, laws and environmental legacy.
HB 4205 has eleven legislative co-sponsors. Their support of this bill is irreconcilable with their constitutional responsibilities. Michigan’s Constitution explicitly defines the primary duty legislators have to protect Michigan’s natural resources. Article 4, Section 52 of Michigan’s Constitution states:
The conservation and development of the natural resources of the state are hereby declared to be of paramount public concern in the interest of the health, safety and general welfare of the people. The legislature shall provide for the protection of the air, water and other natural resources of the state from pollution, impairment and destruction.
Complementing this constitutional mandate is the Public Trust Doctrine, embodying a set of foundational principles, long recognized by law, that require proper stewardship of Great Lakes resources. The doctrine creates a fiduciary responsibility of stewardship on the part of government for the preservation of these resources for the benefit of the public. Described in Michigan jurisprudence as a “high, solemn and perpetual duty,” the Public Trust Doctrine creates a foundational, unifying, coherent legal framework for defining and prescribing rights, obligations, duties and responsibilities for protecting public resources that government – and the legislators behind HB 4205 – cannot ignore.
Please encourage your friends and family to contact the eleven co-sponsors of HB 4205: