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Michigan Democrats Propose Stricker Environmental Cleanup Laws

In Late 2023, Michigan Democrats introduced a comprehensive legislative package aimed at revitalizing the state's environmental remediation program. Led by Sen. Jeff Irwin and Rep. Jason Morgan, the legislation seeks to prioritize physical cleanup and removal over allowing pollution to persist in the ground. These bills are a response to ongoing challenges, exemplified by contaminated sites. However, the bill as drafted could potentially add tremendous costs to businesses doing work in the state.

Summary Of Bills:

  • SB 605/HB 5247: would add reporting requirements to Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) regarding cleanups and contaminated sites.

  • SB 606/HB 5242: would require cleanup to the highest standard technically feasible.

  • SB 607/HB 5245: would allow EGLE to set cleanup criteria without rulemaking.

  • SB 608/HB 5246: would require companies using hazardous materials to post up-front financial assurance to cover any cleanup.

  • SB 609/HB 5243: would adjust the statute of limitations and allow the state to bring claims on behalf of the public to cover cleanup costs for contaminants of emerging concern.

  • SB 610/HB 5241: would allow people exposed to hazardous substances to bring a claim to cover the costs of medical monitoring.

  • SB 611/HB 5244: would adjust the statute of limitations to begin when a person discovers a claim.

While environmental advocacy groups strongly support the bills, viewing them as a necessary step towards cleanup and reducing liability for potential polluters, business organizations oppose the proposed changes. The contention revolves around concerns that the legislation could dampen investment and hinder the cleanup and repurposing of former industrial sites. Critics argue that the current liability framework has incentivized redevelopment. Despite these claims, the environmentalist organizations emphasize the need for stricter cleanup measures.

Business organizations opposing the legislation argue that the bills may make it too costly for companies to choose to locate or grow in Michigan. They emphasize existing laws in place; asserting that if a company pollutes, it is already obligated to clean up the contamination. There are concerns that the bills would substantially increase potential negative impacts on businesses, including increased expenses or disruptions to their operations.

It's likely this legislation could see some movement in 2024 from Legislative Democrats who control both chambers in Lansing. As the legislation moves through the legislative process, MGA will continue to monitor and advocate for public policy that ensures responsible cleanup without unduly burdening businesses.

Author: Mike Krombeen, Partner, Midwest Strategy Group


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