Granholm says she'll veto dioxin-label bill

Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm intends to veto a controversial environmental bill that would restrict the state's ability to label any property a contaminated facility, the governor told The Saginaw News on Monday.

Granholm criticized the bill, which would affect property owners living along the Tittabawassee River, as not adequately protecting the health of the public and the environment.

"This bill is not acceptable," she said. "They've got to go back to the drawing board. It doesn't achieve the balance we need for protecting the health of citizens and creating cost-efficient cleanup."

Granholm plans to veto the bill this week.

If she does, backers of the legislation say, "all hell will break loose."

"We are not going to say, 'Oh well,' and just go away," said Bill Egerer, founder of the citizens group Midland Matters. "There have been a lot of people mad for a long time.

"Until now, about all of our dissatisfaction and concern has been directed at the (Department of Environment Quality) Director Steve Chester. But the minute the governor vetoes the bill, our frustration will be directed at her. She is the one who is standing in the way."

Egerer would not go into details about his strategies for opposing a veto, but said the governor could see picketers outside her residence.

The Senate and House approved legislation last week that would make it more difficult for the state to include a property in a contaminated "facility," or cleanup zone.

The state no longer could rely on a spattering of data points and extrapolation to determine what properties are contaminated. Instead, regulators would have to test every property.

Property owners could join the "facility" without testing if they submit a written request and get state permission. The accused polluter would have the right to challenge the decision through testing.

Rep. John Moolenaar, a Midland Republican who introduced the bill, said a veto would "doom" mid-Michigan to the whim of state regulators. He urges Granholm to change her mind.

"The governor often has stated that she is the CEO of Michigan and the taxpayers are her board of directors," Moolenaar said. "I would hope she comes to mid-Michigan and listens to her board of directors on this matter rather than having the DEQ be her sole source of information."

Moolenaar created the bill as a matter of homeowner fairness. He said the state should not have the power to brand an entire region as a contaminated "facility" -- as it did along the Tittabawassee River because of dioxin -- without testing to prove it.

He said the practice could have profound negative implications on homeowners and communities that are stuck with the label.

The Department of Environmental Quality has attacked the bill has "bad for the state" and "bad for the environment." Officials there say they are pleased with the governor's decision to veto it.

"We tried to work on a compromise that we felt addressed their concerns but maintained the integrity of the cleanup program," said DEQ spokesman Robert McCann. "This bill, however, is far from being protective of the public health. It is not something that we can endorse." v

Jeremiah Stettler is a staff writer at the Saginaw News. You may reach him at 776-9685.

For additional articles like this one, go to the Tittabawassee River Watch web site for complete coverage of the Tittabawassee River Dow Chemical dioxin contamination saga. . The Newspaper / Media page of our site contains an extensive archive of media articles dating back to January 2002. The source organization's web site link is listed to the right of the article, visit often for other news in our area. The Newspaper / Media page may be accessed by scrolling down to the bottom of the CONTENTS section and clicking on the Newspaper/Media link.