House Bill 4205, signed during the lame duck session by former Gov. Rick Snyder on Dec. 28, 2018, prohibits state agencies from enacting or adopting policy that is stricter than the federal standards. This will impact environmental regulations across the state of Michigan insofar that it will put an end to intelligent policy that fits Michigan’s unique situation as a state benefitting hugely from industries relying on a clean, well-kept environment.
The economic benefits from stricter than federal environmental regulations that ensure our state remains in pristine condition are plentiful: Tourism in Michigan generated $22 billion in 2014 in revenue for the state and local businesses, forestry products and recreation in forests generated $12 billion in 2012 and hunting and fishing generated more than $2 billion in 2018. All these sectors of the Michigan economy require policy that is mindful of the common denominator all of these money-makers share: A pristine environment. This is not including indirect beneficiaries of beauty like golf courses, of which Michigan has more than most states.
HB 4205 takes control of reasonable environmental management and policy and takes regulation out of the hands of Michigan agencies at a time when outdoor recreation is the fastest growing sector of Midwestern economies. Andy Northrop, a Michigan State University Extension faculty member who works in tourism, leadership and civic engagement, while writing a commentary over this report, notes that “. . .tourism activity in Michigan generates approximately $2.4 billion in state and local taxes. In the absence of these taxes, each household in Michigan would have to pay $640 to fill the gap.” This sum will only increase if Michigan agencies can’t enact the policies necessary to safeguard against environmental degradation, the likes of which will have a negative impact on tourism and thus tourism revenue, and, ultimately, increase that $640.
Now you might be thinking, "It’s not like I have to pay that" or "I don’t see tourism filling my pockets with cash," but I implore you to consider that while you might not benefit directly in the form of some sort of payout, your city, county and ultimately state do benefit, and when they benefit from increased revenue, they are less inclined to raise taxes, which does directly benefit you. But this is all related to Michigan’s ability to control and manage its own land, our own land, and it is for these reasons we need to repeal and replace HB 4205 with something that reflects our heritage and economic characteristics as a state. The federal government is not Michigan; we, as citizens of this beautiful state, know better than those in Washington what environmental policies we need to safeguard and promote both our environment and our economy. Thus, let our direction not be stricter rather than federal, but simply better.
Cody Ladd is a senior studying ecology, evolution, and biodiversity and can be reached at email@example.com.