Nick Krieger (@nckrieger):
Since last spring, Governor Rick Snyder has insisted that Michigan needs a tough, new lead and copper rule. But there are several reasons to doubt whether such a rule will ever come to fruition.
Realistically, Snyder can push for the implementation of a new statewide lead and copper rule in two ways: through the legislative process or the administrative rulemaking process. To date, he has not actively pursued either of these avenues. Why? He almost certainly knows that neither route is likely to yield results.
Snyder recently admitted that the legislative route would be “very challenging” in an election year with few remaining legislative days. With the election only a month away, you might think that incumbent state representatives would be eager to show their commitment to ending the Flint Water Crisis and improving statewide water-quality standards. But you’d be wrong.
Michigan’s Republican legislative majority is notoriously hostile toward environmental and public health regulation. Just consider some of the GOP-sponsored bills that are pending in Lansing. In June, the Michigan House of Representatives majority approved a bill that would prohibit the very lead and copper standards that Snyder has recommended (HB 5613). And several state senators have introduced legislation that would give a committee of business and industry representatives the power to veto all proposed environmental and public health rules (SB 827). How likely is it that Snyder will be able to convince these same legislators to enact a new lead and copper statute?
What about the rulemaking route? Well, pursuant to Michigan law, the Legislature has significant authority to stop administrative rules from taking effect and rescind regulations through the passage of legislation. Given the aforementioned bills that are already pending, as well as the Michigan Senate’s recent vote that would allow lawmakers to indefinitely delay the implementation of agency regulations (SB 962), I doubt very much that the legislative majority will simply sit back and allow the Department of Environmental Quality to promulgate a new lead and copper rule with stricter statewide requirements.
Governor Snyder can talk about a tough, new lead and copper rule until he’s blue in the face. But he’s not in charge of the Michigan Legislature. So don’t expect to see it anytime soon.