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DEQ's Deep Throat

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If you like your lame duck roasted, then check out the Michigan Environmental Council’s Web site (www. mecprotects.org), where an anonymous Department of Environmental Quality employee lambastes recent actions by Gov. John Engler and DEQ Director Russ Harding.

He or she — your guess is as good as ours — did not want to give their name for fear of losing their job, says James Clift, MEC policy director. Clift says that the MEC, a coalition of nonprofit environmental groups, decided to run the report because, “We have been hearing this from lots of DEQ employees and it was good to hear it from someone willing to put it down on paper. So we said we would publish it.”

The DEQ reorganized in September when the 1,600-member department lost 10 percent of its staff to early retirements. Consequently, supervisors with years of experience in one area of the environment were shuffled to areas in which they have little or no expertise, according to the report.

“We now have a geologist who is Michigan’s top oil and gas official running the state’s wetlands, inland lakes and streams and Great Lakes protection programs,” writes the anonymous DEQ worker.

The DEQ Deep Throat also says that a surface water quality division supervisor with more than 20 years of experience now heads waste management programs and the waste management supervisor, who has more than 10 years experience, was demoted to assistant supervisor of the air quality division.

Patricia Spritzley, DEQ spokeswoman, denies that the administration reorganized the DEQ to weaken it. Some supervisors were bumped to new divisions because they had less seniority than others, she explains. The transferred supervisors have some knowledge of their new division, though they may not have the technical knowledge that their staff possesses, says Spritzley.

Hey, what’s a little “technical knowledge” between friends? It’s only the environment, right?

“The effects will be felt long after John Engler and Russ Harding have left office,” contends Anonymous. “I have no doubt that is exactly what they have intended.”

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