EGLE Director “Looking Back to Move Forward” to Increase Michigan’s Recycling Rate
“We are the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. We refer to it as EGLE,” the department’s director Liesl Clark tells Kirk Heinze. “The connection between our beautiful Great Lakes, our environment, and our energy component is foundational to what we do. It's part of all that happens in the department and is connected to our core mission of protecting public health and the environment. We know that a name change is really just a name change, and the work goes on. We're excited to do it. I'm proud of the folks that I'm working with.”
EGLE, formerly known as the Department of Environmental Quality, is the flagship sponsor for the 37th annual Michigan Recycling Coalition conference. This year it’s in Ann Arbor from May 14th through 16th.
“The sponsorship is a testament to what recycling means for Michigan and the opportunity to increase our recycling rate. So we are very focused on recycling as a core component of what we do to save energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect air and water. We're very excited to be a sponsor.”
It's no secret Michigan needs to catch up to other states in the Midwest on our recycling rate, and the state is making efforts to do that.
“The conference is a good way to bring attention to the movement that we need to have in the recycling space. We're going to have a track of EGLE sessions throughout the day to highlight the latest developments in material management and we think that will be great for the attendees. We also need to do additional and broader communications to residents. We're initiating a statewide education campaign about why recycling is important and how to do it correctly.”
Clark says she’s “laser focused” on three areas as she begins her tenure leading EGLE.
“The first is listening. I have spent a lot of hours visiting the regional offices and really trying to keep my ears open to understand what's going on within the department. I think it's really critical to be informed and to do my best possible work to be informed by my colleagues in the department as a starting point.
“The second thing is that I have been focused on the transition itself to get to the launch of EGLE on April 22. That was no small feat and frankly took a lot of time. The third thing that I've been focused on is our core mission of protecting public health and the environment. In the course of that work, we've also started a strategic visioning process to help the leadership team come together and talk about what are our shared mission, vision, and values are that build the foundation for how we build our priorities and determine what we want to accomplish.”
Clark discusses the PFAS issue.
“One of our challenges continues to be the fact that we don't have a lot of data at this point. So we're trying to pull together the pieces that we do know, compliment it with what has happened in other states that can help be a guide, and then do everything that we can to make sure that we're protecting drinking water and public health to the best of our ability.
“Frankly Michigan is out in front of the pack in terms of dealing with PFAS and we need to get better. There's more to do. But we are in many respects leading the pack in terms of approaches.”
Clark describes stringent lead and copper rules and some enhanced testing regarding our water supplies throughout the state. And she updates the state’s move to incorporating more renewable sources into the state’s energy portfolio.
“The first step is thinking through an inventory of where we are in terms of carbon emissions. And then the second step is what does that inventory look like from a state of Michigan perspective. None of this work is starting at ground zero. There's been great work ongoing for the last few years for sure. I look forward to embarking on collecting all that information and then moving from there.”
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