On January 22, in response to an emergency order issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the Flint water crisis, Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director, Keith Creagh, wrote that the state is questioning whether the EPA has “legal authority” to “order a state and its agencies” to act to protect the health of its citizens.
The order, issued by the EPA on Thursday, states:
“The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) provides the US Environmental Protection Agency with the authority to order actions when an imminent and substantial endangerment exists and the actions taken by the state/and or local authorities are inadequate to protect public health. EPA has determined that the city of Flint and the state of Michigan’s responses to the drinking water crisis in Flint have been inadequate to protect public health and that these failures continue. As a result, the EPA is issuing this emergency order to make sure that the necessary actions to protect public health happen immediately.”
Under the order, the state of Michigan is required to “promptly” provide the public with “necessary information,” in a “clear and transparent way to assure that accurate, reliable and trustworthy information is available to inform the public and decisions about next steps.”
That includes an order to create a public website where the state is required to post all reports, sampling results, plans, weekly status reports and “all other documents required under this order.”
As many people already realize, the Snyder administration is not fond of transparency. Michigan is one of only two states in the country in which the governor is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Emergency managers and other members of Snyder’s administration have conducted business behind closed doors throughout Snyder’s two terms as governor, leading to repeated battles over violations of the state’s open meetings act.
Aside from releasing relevant information to the public, the EPA order requires the Snyder administration to provide the Flint EPA Task Force with all of the information it has been trying to get from Michigan officials since November. You can view the long list of items that the state has refused to turn over to the Task Force here. The state now has ten days to produce all of that information.
The Snyder administration must also bring in qualified professionals to deal with the situation, something else the state was instructed to do, but has not done. The state has 15 days to comply.
The EPA’s order provides a detailed overview of the ongoing failures of the state, Snyder appointed emergency managers in Flint, and Snyder appointed officials at the DEQ.
As Addicting Info reported here, the state supplied the EPA with documents that were altered and test results that were purposely skewed to make it appear that the water in Flint was fine.
During the annual State of the State address, Michigan’s governor Snyder told the citizens that he was very sorry for poisoning the residents Flint.
He went on to say:
“You deserve accountability. You deserve to know that the buck stops here with me.”
Creagh’s unbelievable two-fold response to the EPA order can be read as “we haven’t done anything wrong,” followed by “you don’t have the authority to make us do anything right.”
How’s that for accountability?
Creagh states in his response to the EPA that the state will comply with the EPA’s order, but intends to “fully outline the state’s legal and factual concerns” as to whether or not the EPA has the “authority” to issue the order.
On Wednesday the state of Michigan received $80 million from the federal government, in addition to the $5 million that was granted to the state earlier this month, following the declaration of state of emergency in Flint. So every U.S. taxpayer is now paying the bill for Snyder’s corruption and incompetence.
Yet the Snyder administration has the audacity to claim that the EPA doesn’t have the authority to tell the state what to do.
It’s disgusting and infuriating that Snyder’s administration has to be forced to do what it should have done months ago. These are basic things, like getting the necessary information to the public, cooperating with the EPA Task Force and bringing in trained and qualified professionals who can address the situation. These are things the Snyder administration should have done without an order from the federal government, but they did not.
In the midst of all of this, the people of Flint are struggling to cope with a crisis that most of us cannot even fathom.
Featured image credit: Duncan Creamer via Flckr cc 2.0