Gov. Snyder Appoints BP Lobbyist To Head Michigan Department Of Environmental Quality

The Detroit Free Press editorial board likens Governor Snyder’s appointment of a British Petroleum lobbyist as the head of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to a “sick joke.”

Heidi Grether has been chosen by Governor Rick Snyder as the Director of MDEQ, the agency responsible for the protection of Michigan’s environment and the health of the people living within the state.

Though Gov. Snyder told Michiganders last winter that he was losing sleep over the state’s mistakes in Flint that left some of the city’s children irreversibly poisoned by lead, and others dead from Legionella, Snyder hired a woman who was a manager for BP during the 2010 oil spill to head MDEQ. In the wake of the crisis in Flint’s water, Snyder himself said that “the key catalysts” in the poisoning of Flint’s lead poisonings were people who work for him. The editorial board for the Detroit Free Press wrote that it feels as though Snyder is rubbing the noses of the people he serves in his own mess. They said that Snyder’s decision was tone-deaf to Michiganders after promising to rebuild a trusting relationship between himself and the people of Michigan.

Snyder said on Twitter that he sincerely believes that Grether is the right person to head the MDEQ. In the governor’s defense, Grether has been a member of multiple environmental organizations, including the American Bird Conservancy, Michigan Nature Association, and the Nature Conservancy, according to WZZM.

Still, even Michigan Radio is taking jabs at Snyder’s decision to hire someone so previously tied to BP as director of MDEQ.

“I mean, can you imagine a better Onion headline than ‘Governor whose aides poisoned children appoints oil industry lobbyist to head environmental agency?’,” Jack Lessenberry of Michigan Radio says. “The subhead would add ‘New MDEQ chief defended guilty company during world’s worst oil spill.’ The only trouble with what I just wrote is that it is all true.”

According to Michigan Radio, Heidi spent most of her career with BP, lobbying for the company during the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill six years ago. Snyder says that she helped lead the company’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and that she was even promoted because of it. A federal judge ruled two years ago that BP was reckless and guilty of gross negligence and willful misconduct under the Clean Water Act. Michigan Radio reported that Heidi Grether spent years defending the company during that time.

“And now our governor wants her to head of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the same agency which tried to cover up the governor’s appointees’ poisoning of the children of Flint,” Lessenberry says.

After 21 years working with BP, Grether became Deputy Director at the Michigan Energy Agency. Last year, Grether was designated by the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board Co-Chair Valerie Brader to be her day-to-day point.

On Grether’s LinkedIn page, her resume describes her work preventing legislation that would have been negative for the oil company.

“Developed and implemented successful external relations strategies for the Gulf Coast in response to the DWH accident, thereby achieving no legislation adverse to BP being introduced in the Gulf states. Developed and implemented the successful exit strategy for Gulf Coast external affairs activities, which obtained zero negative reactions against BP.”

Gov. Snyder has faced much controversy during his time in office, aside from the Flint Water Crisis. Earlier this year, he faced opposition from Detroit public school teachers after they began calling in sick with “Snyder flu” during a strike aimed at drawing attention to some deplorable conditions in the schools. Two years ago, Snyder caused issues among the small farming community when he abolished a council established to support local food systems and agricultural diversity through executive order. Last summer, when the Michigan Medical Marijuana Review Panel voted to recommend that autism be added to the list of conditions approved to be legally treated with medical marijuana, Gov. Rick Snyder’s top state regulator rejected the panel’s advice, causing Snyder to face criticism from yet another community of activists. Just as the fury over the Flint water crisis was settling down to a more moderate rage from Michiganders, Gov. Snyder’s administration was called out by the Michigan Small Farm Council (MSFC) after FOIA requests showed that the administration took what MSFC found inadequate action pertaining to toxic levels of lasalocid found in feed given to animals being raised for meat in 2014.

Ballotpedia indicates that Michiganders attempted to recall Snyder from his executive position in the state multiple times dating as far back as 2011, before Snyder was re-elected by voters after running against former U.S. Representative Mark Schauer. Barring any objection from the Republican-controlled Michigan Senate, Heidi Grether of Williamston, Michigan, will become the state’s Department of Environmental Quality Director beginning the first week of August.

[Photo by Michigan Municipal League/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0]