Liesl Clark is director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
A Michigan city gets the funding it needs for major upgrades to its water and sewer systems resulting in safer drinking water for residents and cleaner waterways for swimming, boating and fishing.
The owner of an abandoned gas station redevelops it into something fun and enriching for the community, thanks to a grant for an environmental investigation of the site.
Your neighbor’s excavating business gets a big boost from a contract to clean-up contamination left by an old factory on the outskirts of town and needs to hire more workers.
These are just some of the ways that taxpayer dollars invested through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) benefit Michiganders where we live, work and play.
About half of MDEQ’s budget each year flows into Michigan communities in the form of grants that support local projects that protect public health and the environment, while spurring economic growth and creating jobs for Michigan workers in the process.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget strengthens that MDEQ role. It’s a great opportunity for Michigan to invest in Michigan.
To take just two examples, her plan calls for roughly $10 million for MDEQ’s brownfield redevelopment program and a $120 million supplement to improve long-neglected local water infrastructure.
The water infrastructure dollars will help communities respond to contaminants such as PFAS in their water supplies and implement new state rules to protect Michigan families from lead in our drinking water. It will also support research and development of cleaner drinking water technologies.
MDEQ’s brownfield redevelopment program helps communities clean up abandoned and/or contaminated properties and return them to productive use.
Just last month, for example, our brownfield program awarded the City of Gaylord $62,150 to search for possible contamination beneath a parking lot that was previously a car dealership and service center.
That seed money will help the city determine whether past uses contaminated the soil or groundwater. Once the environmental condition is known and any significant challenges are addressed, the property owner can move forward with plans to construct a 65,000-square foot commercial and retail space with apartments on the upper floors. That means new jobs for Gaylord residents and new customers for its downtown businesses.
Partnerships like these between MDEQ and local communities have spurred more than $4.7 billion in private investment and created 24,000 new jobs over the lifespan of the brownfield redevelopment program. In 2018, each grant and loan dollar invested by the MDEQ returned an average of $42 to our economy.
Assuming that the math holds, the governor’s proposed $10 million investment in the program during fiscal year 2020 will deliver a $420 million stimulus to the state’s economy.
In supporting this and many other MDEQ programs like it, the governor’s budget is great for our environment, great for our health, and great for our communities. That’s something we all can - and should - get behind.