Republican Candice Miller stuck her neck out today when she praised Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her high-profile move to revamp the state Department of Environmental Quality.
While some Republican critics say reorganizing the DEQ into a new department will result in more state regulations, Miller, the Macomb County public works commissioner, saw nothing but good news in Whitmer’s announcement.
In a statement released this afternoon, Miller said:
I am very pleased to see that among Gov. Whitmer’s first actions in
re-organizing state government is the series of actions (she) has taken to
protect our magnificent Great Lakes. I applaud her decision to return
the Office of the Great Lakes into the new Dept. of Environment, Great
Lakes & Energy (DEGLE). This sends a clear message on the importance that the
governor’s office places on our most treasured asset.
The Great Lakes are more than just a defining attribute of Michigan, they are the
world’s largest source of fresh water, a critical ecosphere, a foundation foreconomic activity and great place for family recreation. The Macomb County Public Works Office looks forward to working alongside the new DEGLE on water quality issues.
Those remarks put Miller, a former GOP congresswoman, in the same camp as numerous environmental groups who applauded Whitmer’s actions, which were achieved through a series of executive directives on Monday.
While Miller stuck to water quality issues and did not mention Whitmer’s new emphasis on state efforts to combat climate change, some liberal environmentalists focused intently on the governor’s emphasis on climate issues such as renewable energy. In fact, some from the environmental community nearly overlooked Whitmer’s primary mission — to prevent another Flint water crisis.
Kate Madigain, director of the Michigan Climate Action Network, said: “Yesterday’s announcement shows that Michigan takes climate change seriously and aims to be a leader in promoting clean energy and fighting climate change.”
Pam Kiely, director of state climate policy for the Environmental Defense Fund, said the flurry of activity at the state level, such as Whitmer’s initiative, is tied to widespread frustration with the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda on environmental issues.
In addition to creating the DEGLE, Whitmer signed an executive order for Michigan to join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a group of governors committed to upholding the principles of the Paris climate agreement. Whitmer is the 20th governor to join the effort.
The DEGLE will include several newly created offices: Environmental Justice Response Team, Climate and Energy, Clean Water Public Advocate and Environmental Justice Public Advocate.
Miller highlighted one of the more overlooked changes in Whitmer’s overhaul — moving the state Office of the Great Lakes from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) back to the environmental protection department.
The Macomb commissioner has sometimes demonstrated a maverick streak, particularly when she joined hands with County Executive Mark Hackel, a Democrat, during Miller’s 2016 campaign for the public works job.
But it will be interesting to see what kind of GOP flak she gets over her statement today, when she very publicly gave a high-five to the Democratic governor.