FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: David Holtz
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
LANSING, MI–Progress Michigan today criticized Governor-elect Rick Snyder’s choice to head the state’s environmental agency, saying it raises serious doubts about Snyder’s commitment to protecting Michigan’s lakes, rivers, streams and air.
Synder today named former Agriculture Director Dan Wyant as Director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. During his tenure with the former Engler administration, Wyant tried to block federal enforcement of the Clean Water Act and promoted legislation that left local communities without the ability to manage large, polluting industrial farms.
“During his campaign Rick Snyder pledged to make Michigan a leader in protecting the environment, and that helped him draw support from many progressive-leaning independent voters,” said David Holtz, executive director of Progress Michigan. “Today Rick Snyder began turning his back on those voters by failing to appoint a proven environmental leader to head the state’s lead environmental agency. Dan Wyant is a lackluster choice, a former marketing director for Ralston Purina, and a potentially dangerous one if his track record with the Engler administration is any clue to how he will enforce anti-pollution laws. While we would like to give Snyder the benefit of the doubt, there’s little doubt that there were far better choices for this position in terms of background and experience.”
Wyant, agriculture director from 1996 to 2005, ushered in an era of large unregulated industrial farms in Michigan that resulted in major pollution problems. Wyant favored a “voluntary” approach to regulating farm pollution and in 1998 wrote a letter to the federal Environmental Protection Agency attempting to stop enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act in west Michigan. The EPA was investigating complaints of industrial farms deliberately spreading large amounts of raw animal sewage into watersheds. At the time the state was actively promoting the growth of industrial farms, and Wyant was a prime supporter of a 2000 law that took away the right of local communities to use zoning to regulate them.
In announcing Wyant’s appointment, Snyder said he wants Wyant to implement “customer service oriented government” that balances “sound science with economics.” He selected Wyant to head up a “quality of life” group that includes the directors of the state Departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture.
Holtz criticized Snyder for adopting the language and political playbook of corporate polluters and right-wing advocacy groups.
“‘Sound science’ is corporate PR jargon that is meant to suggest that any science not supporting the polluters’ point of view is not sound science but can be dismissed as junk science,” said Holtz. “Rick Snyder doesn’t seem to understand that protecting our Great Lakes and other natural resources is an economic investment and is not in competition with creating jobs. When it comes to protecting our air and water quality, we hope Dan Wyant understands that the customers are Michigan’s families and not corporate polluters wanting a break on permitting and regulations.”