News & Views » Columns

Derelicts and do-gooders


For those who missed last fall’s nifty report on that environmental disaster known as Gov. John Engler, you’re in luck. The Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) released a follow-up last week: “Continuing Dereliction of Duty: How Michigan’s Environmental Agency Defies the Law and the Public.”

The MEC details decisions made by the five-year old Department of Environmental Quality, which is headed by Engler’s trusty sidekick, Russell Harding.

Here’s just one local example of the type of incident that fills the report:

Rather than protect Hamtramck residents from the state’s only commercial medical waste incinerator (which spews mercury into the air — and which citizens have been fighting for nearly a decade), Harding lowered emission standards so the damn thing will be in compliance with county requirements.

MEC policy director James Clift says the organization — which is made up of 53 environmental groups around the state — produced the new report because members kept hearing stories from communities around Michigan “again and again and again about the DEQ not protecting the public’s health and our natural resources.”

Is a third installment of the report likely? Probably so, informs Clift.

“They are blowing us off,” he says about the DEQ. “We have not seen any change of behavior on the part of department and no acknowledgement that they are protecting the public’s health.”

The full report is at

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or