New roles finally give people voice, acknowledge climate change
Governor Gretchen Whitmer is being praised for creating new positions within the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to make it more responsive to residents’ concerns. Besides an office of Climate and Energy, the state will also have advocates for clean water and environmental justice. Each of these changes offers a dramatic change to the way the state deals with environmental issues.
Michigan enjoys access to more freshwater than any province in the Northern Hemisphere but is dogged by problems such as lead and copper in Flint and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination throughout the rest of the state. A Clean Water Advocate represents a stark about face following the Snyder administration that ignored complaints about tainted water following the changeover of Flint’s water supply.
Threats to the Great Lakes from the Line 5 pipeline running under Lake Michigan may also be taken into account with the addition of an office of Climate and Energy. The new bureau would also offer a new perspective to the burgeoning wind energy industry that Michigan is particularly poised to take advantage of.
Recent noxious discharges from the Marathon refinery in Southwest Detroit also highlight the need for an Environmental Justice Public Advocate. Complaints from neighborhoods downwind of the facility have long been ignored. The people of Michigan will now have a means to respond to such offenses in the places where they live and work, which is important since such offenses are becoming more common.
“The creation of this ombudsman is a breath of fresh air to Michigan residents,” said Emma Lockridge, Climate & Environmental Justice Organizer with Michigan United. “I’m glad to see the Whitmer Administration put the needs of people over polluters, unlike our last governor. We’ve needed a powerful, pro-environment voice in Lansing for a very long time.”
Michigan United applauds Gov. Whitmer for this bold move. It not only recognizes the impact of climate change in the state but gives residents a voice.