Michigan governor signs orders to restructure environment department, strengthen PFAS response team

Governor also enters Michigan into U.S. Climate Alliance

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer holds a news conference on Jan. 31, 2019. (WDIV)
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer holds a news conference on Jan. 31, 2019. (WDIV)

DETROIT – Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed two executive orders and one executive directive Monday in an effort to protect the Great Lakes, clean up the state's drinking water, and combat the impacts of climate change, her office announced.

UPDATE: GOP-led Michigan Legislature rejects Whitmer's environmental order in rare move

Here are the orders:

Executive Order 2019-2 restructures the Department of Environmental Quality as the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). The executive order also creates new offices within the department, including the Office of the Clean Water Public Advocate, the Office of the Environmental Justice Public Advocate, and the Interagency Environmental Justice Response Team. This order also creates a new office of climate and energy that will work with the governor to mitigate the impacts of climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and embrace more sustainable energy solutions, Whitmer's office said. It also "will streamline the regulatory process in state government by creating the Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules and by eliminating unnecessary commissions," according to the governor's office.

Executive Order 2019-3 strengthens the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) as an effort to inform the public about perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), locate contamination, and take action to protect sources of drinking water from these dangerous chemicals.

Executive Directive 2019-12 enters Michigan into the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of governors from 19 other states that have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“This is about finding real solutions to clean up our drinking water so every Michigander can bathe their kids and give them a glass of water at the dinner table safely," said Whitmer. "We have a chance to build a system that really works so we can protect our water and improve public health. We’ve also got to take action to protect our state from the effects of climate change. The science is in, and it’s time we get to work to mitigate the impact of climate change for the sake of our kids and future generations in Michigan."

Michigan Environmental Council Policy Director James Clift called the governor's actions "a concerted effort to protect the health of Michigan’s people and environment."

"We hope this reorganization will return Michigan to a leadership position in protecting our residents," said Clift.

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