Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued a revised executive order on February 20, 2019, that restructures the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The Republican-majority Michigan State Legislature voted to reject Whitmer’s original version of the executive order on February 14—the first time state legislators had rejected a governor’s executive order in 42 years.
Whitmer’s executive order aims to create “a principal department focused on improving the quality of Michigan’s air, land, and water, protecting public health, and encouraging the use of clean energy.” The order renames and restructures the DEQ into the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. The order also establishes an Interagency Environmental Justice Response Team, an Office of Climate and Energy and Office, and a Clean Water Public Advocate, among other organization modifications.
Michigan legislators rejected the original version of the executive order because it eliminated three environmental oversight commissions that legislators had established in 2018. Legislators claimed that the commissions serve to guard citizens against potentially harmful environmental regulations. Whitmer argued that the commissions are dominated by industry leaders and slow down the regulatory process. The new version of the executive order only eliminates one of the three commissions.
The executive order will take effect on April 22 if no action is taken by the state legislature.