Whitmer to make second attempt at restructuring DEQ in wake of Flint water crisis

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is set to sign a new executive order restructuring the Department of Environmental Quality in the near future after Republicans in the Michigan Legislature voted to overturn an executive order she signed earlier in the month.

Legislative leaders took issue with a portion of Whitmer’s last executive order that eliminated several industry-dominated panels created by the Legislature in 2018 that are tasked with overseeing environmental rules and permits.

But Whitmer quickly asked Attorney General Dana Nessel for a legal opinion on the commissions, arguing that they may violate federal requirements under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and plans to sign a new executive order, possibly as soon as this week.

“I will be signing a couple of executive orders in the very near future and they ensure that we have clean drinking water,” Whitmer said.

Members of the Michigan House of Representatives introduced a resolution Tuesday urging the governor to sign a new executive order that is “consistent with the intent of the Legislature.”

Whitmer said the resolution is nothing more than political games.

“I think that they’re playing political games,” Whitmer told reporters. “I’m too serious about cleaning up drinking water and focused on fixing issues to play games and weigh in on every little issue that they’re going to try to push to try to tell people that they care about clean drinking water.”

Asked about Flint Mayor Karen Weaver’s concern that simply reorganizing the department isn’t enough to earn back the trust of Flint residents, Whitmer touted the creation of a clean water public advocate and environmental justice public advocate under her executive order as a step in the right direction.

“Those are two critical pieces that were unavailable prior to now and that I think will help make sure that any community that feels like their drinking water is at risk or that they as a community have been treated unjustly now has an obvious first point of contact with state government,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer’s comments came after she toured Mott Community College’s Regional Technology Center as part of her Home for Opportunity tour.

The tour includes 50 events across the state and is “designed to maximize outreach and engagement by reaching every corner of Michigan,” according to a press release.

Whitmer said a major focus of the tour is on closing the skills gap in Michigan, an issue she addressed in her State of the State by announcing the creation of the MI Opportunity scholarship to fund two years of college education to high school graduates in Michigan.

“What’s happening in our community colleges across the state of Michigan is truly phenomenal but a lot of people, I think, have felt that it was out of reach for them and that’s exactly what, you know, a critical part of this tour,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer also held a roundtable with the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce as part of the tour Tuesday.

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