A bill that could dramatically reduce protections on critical sand dunes in Michigan passed out of the Senate Committee for Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes yesterday morning. Designed to streamline development on sand dunes and lakeshore property, Senate Bill 1130 (HB5647) will amend the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act to hinder public participation and place some of the state’s most important natural resources at risk for unrestricted development.
The current law only applies to 70,000 of the 250,000 acres of Michigan. By modifying these already modest protections, the critical dunes will lose a host of safeguards by:
- Significantly altering the laws intent – from a focus on environmental and ecological protection for future generations – to economic and housing development.
- Allowing for driveways and parking lots in dune areas without regard to environmental impact.
- The bill mitigates the ability of local conservation districts to review proposals.
- Minimizing community participation by allowing local units of government to charge an application notification fee, reducing the requirements for public notice, and increasing the number of people required to request a public hearing while shrinking the area where those individuals must be located.
- The elimination of the need for the submission of an “environmental site assessment or environmental impact statement as part of a permit application except for special use” projects.
There is also the addition of vague and undefined language in the bill, which adds an air of obscurity which will create legal and regulatory confusion.
The bill passed with a 5-to-1vote, following testimony from representatives of various stakeholder groups, including Michigan Environmental Council. Cross-examination from committee members of the MEC representative was surprisingly aggressive, noted Nick Occhipinti, Policy and Community Activism Director at WMEAC.
The bill is not yet scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor.