Governor Gretchen Whitmer is restructuring the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.
Whitmer signed several measures Monday that create new offices in what will become the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. The restructuring creates offices of public advocates for environmental justice and clean water, and it creates an interagency environmental justice response team.
Environmental groups called this a great first step.
“We know these things need to happen and now we have kind of the groundwork to move forward,” said Sean Hammond of the Michigan Environmental Council.
Hammond said they’re also pleased the new restructuring will eliminate several boards and commissions created by the Legislature and signed by Governor Rick Snyder last year to oversee rule-making in the DEQ.
“We opposed those panels throughout as really removing the authority from the governor to make decisions and putting it in the hands of these unelected panels,” said Hammond. “So this brings it right back to where it should be.”
Whitmer also entered Michigan into the US Climate Alliance. That’s a bipartisan group of governors from more than a dozen other states focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The goals of the alliance are similar to those of the Paris Agreement – which President Donald Trump pulled the US out of.
Whitmer pointed to the recent major fluctuation in temperature in Michigan – from Polar Vortex to mild, spring-like temperatures – as a reason to enter into the alliance.
“No one who’s lived here for the last five days can deny that we are in unique times and it calls for more aggressive action,” she said. “Thoughtful, informed, but swift action.”