Gov. Rick Snyder has appointed Heidi Grether as the new head of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, his office announced today.
Grether is the current deputy director for the Michigan Agency for Energy and is a former executive at BP America, where she helped manage Gulf Coast restoration efforts after the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010.
Snyder said in the press release:
"Heidi has decades of experience in environmental quality issues, and has effectively served during times of crises and recovery," Snyder said. "Her expertise in delivering good customer service from a large organization will be of great value as we continue working to reinvent the department and act more proactively to address issues that arise."
Interim director Keith Creagh, who has held the post since he was appointed by Gov. Snyder on Dec. 30, 2015, will return to his former role as director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
The MDEQ has come under siege in recent months for the way some officials allegedly responded to the water crisis in Flint.
Initial response to the appointment from environmental groups was negative. The Michigan League of Conservation Voters issuing the following statement:
Our organization, along with nearly a dozen other leading environmental and conservation groups, sent a letter to Gov. Snyder detailing what expertise and priorities are needed from the next director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Our coalition articulated that this critically important agency is in need of someone who has the background and experience to be a strong advocate for the health of our communities and our environment. Today’s announcement seems to fly in the face of that vision. While we are committed to working with Ms. Grether in this new role, we do question the Governor’s priorities in appointing someone with deep ties to the oil industry to the task of rebuilding Michiganders’ trust in our state environmental protection agency. After the Flint water crisis clearly demonstrated there were cultural problems within the DEQ, this appointment is a concerning development.
Grether's appointment is effective Aug. 1, but first must be approved by the state Senate, in which Republicans hold a 27-11 majority.