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EGLE department transparency a clear and laudable goal

Transparency is a good thing, particularly if your recent track record isn’t all that spectacular.

Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, recently talked with The Mining Journal about the agency.

EGLE, which used to be the Department of Environmental Quality, aims to protect Michigan’s environment and public health through managing land, water, air and energy resources.

Clark said she learned her team had heard time and time again the agency needed to perform better in communications.

For example, according to the Mackinac Center, its legal foundation in 2017 reached a settlement with the DEQ over the department’s delayed response to a Freedom of Information request regarding emails sent between two DEQ employees that mentioned the Flint water crisis.

The DEQ and the state of Michigan in general got a huge black eye due to the handling, or mishandling, of the crisis, which continues to this day, with much misinformation given to the public.

So, transparency between the department and the public now is one of Clark’s priorities.

EGLE has established the Michigan Environment blog at mi.gov/mienvironment, whose October spotlight is on energy.

The blog noted that at Constitution Hall in Lansing, where EGLE is headquartered, energy efficiency has been the focus for some time. Since 2015, the building has been ENERGY STAR certified. This designation, which is earned annually, means the building uses 35% less energy on average than similar buildings in the United States.

For instance, new energy efficient light-emitting diode, or LED, lighting recently was installed in the restrooms, atrium, catwalk and first floor.

EGLE still needs to work with the public in other ways.

Regarding FOIA requests, EGLE receives a lot — about 7,000 a year. So, Clark noted that providing information on EGLE initiatives online will give Michigan residents easier access to this information.

Clark also told The Mining Journal that better communication between the agency and the public would allow people to understand the environment better, and that’s a worthy mission considering some topics can be difficult to understand.

We hope another tragedy on the scale of Flint doesn’t happen. Were one to come up, though, we hope better transparency and communication alleviates the problem a lot better than what happened in Flint.

We urge the public to subscribe to the Michigan Environment blog and keep up to date, via regular news outlets, social media and the like, about the state’s environment.

After all, transparency loses a lot of its well-intended meaning when no one listens.