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Michigan Senate enables state environmental regulations to exceed federal

Gov. Rick Snyder signed a ‘no more stringent’ law in 2018. Senate Bill 14 would gut it.

The Michigan Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would empower the administrative state to craft regulations that exceed federal guidelines.

Senate Bill 14 was introduced by Sen. Sean McCann, D-Kalamazoo, on Jan. 17. It was referred to the Senate Energy and Environment Committee McCann chairs.

Four months later to the day of its introduction, the bill passed 20-18 in the full Senate, in a party-line vote.

Read it for yourself: Senate Bill 14, as passed by the Michigan Senate

In 2018, Gov. Rick Snyder signed Public Act 602. It prohibits state regulators “from adopting or promulgating a rule more stringent than the applicable federally mandated standards,” per the Senate Fiscal Agency analysis of the McCann bill.

Senate Bill 14 would repeal that ban, allowing Michigan regulators to make rules exceeding federal standards.

The vote for Senate Bill 14 went 20-18 down party lines. 

“Some people believe that this prohibition make it difficult for the state to adequately protect its environment and respond to public health emergencies, and so it has been suggested that the prohibiton be deleted,” reads the Senate Fiscal Agency explainer.

The Mackinac Center is not among those people. For more than a decade before Snyder signed “no more stringent” into law, the Mackinac Center had advocated for the policy. 

As former Mackinac Center staffer Russ Harding wrote in 2005:

...a “no-more-stringent” law would prohibit the DEQ [State environmental department] from exceeding a particular federal regulation unilaterally, although it would still allow the Legislature and the governor to pass a tougher regulation if the DEQ presented a compelling case for it. The principle of federalism would be retained; better yet, it would be exercised by elected officials, who are directly accountable to the people of Michigan.

Jason Hayes, the Mackinac Center’s director of energy and environmental policy, offered written testimony against Senate Bill 14 at the committee’s April 13 meeting. Written testimony on the bill split as evenly as the vote itself, with five writing in support, four opposed, and one neutral.

Hayes noed that Public Act 602 of 2018 still allows state regulators to act where federal regulators have not. They just need to demonstrate a “clear and convincing need” to do so.

Hayes wrote that Senate Bill 14 “would represent a regressive step backward for the state of Michigan,” and would “impose an additional layer of expensive and duplicative regulatory pressures on businesses with no real environmental benefits.”

To be enacted into law, the bill would need to pass the House in identical form, then be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. After passage in the Senate, the bill was referred to the House Natural Resources, Environment, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.