Capital Catch-Up: December 5, 2022
2022 Lame Duck Preview
All signs point to a less eventful lame duck legislative session this year, with Democrats winning the majorities in both houses of the legislature for the first time in decades and Republicans still managing the legislature with a Democratic Governor.
That said, there are a number of important environmental bills we are watching: [Note: the content of these bills can change quickly during Lame Duck!]
‘Show and tell’ Aggregate Mining Legislation – Senate Bills 429-431
These bills, aimed at accelerating aggregate mining operations in Michigan, would remove local governments’ oversight over sand and gravel mining operations and would instead give the power to regulate to the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. The bills create a new regulatory structure for aggregate mining, but in their current form amount to a lot of bureaucratic review and little prescriptive environmental protection.
In their current form, the bills do not do enough to protect Michigan’s soil and remaining natural areas. The bills have passed the Senate and await House action.
‘Major’ Recycling Legislation – House Bills 4454-4461
Passed by the House earlier this year in a strongly bi-partisan fashion (87-17), these bills would amend the Michigan Solid Waste Law (Part 115), which determines our state’s materials management and waste regulations. These bills would help provide a policy framework supporting materials investment in Michigan, update county planning processes to encourage sustainability, regulate landfill and compost development, support business commitments to move towards a circular economy and more.
Threatening to destabilize the bi-partisan legislation that has passed through the state House, industry is shopping a last minute amendment that would define incineration processes like gasification and pyrolysis as “advanced recycling” or “chemical recycling.” While the intent of the amendment remains unclear, it would likely greenwash processes that are inferior to traditional recycling. We support the compromise version of the legislation that passed the House.
‘Level the playing field’ Solar PILT Legislation – Senate Bills 1106 and 1107
These two bills have the potential to accelerate the build out of Michigan’s clean energy economy as we address the climate crisis by introducing solar payments in lieu of [real property] taxes (PILT) and create a more predictable, uniform, and level tax field for utility scale solar investment. Over the next ten to 15 years Michigan’s major utilities have promised to build more than 10 gigawatts of new solar in Michigan. However, finding communities happy to site those facilities has proven increasingly challenging.
With federal passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the bi-partisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), billions of dollars will be moving into the clean energy sector. High quality solar PILT legislation is fair, predictable, consistently applied, and established in a manner that encourages producers to build and local units of government to site facilities within their jurisdictions. The bills remain before the Senate Energy committee and to pass would need session to spill over into next week to meet the 5 day rule before they move to the House.
‘Protect Developing Brains’ Filter First Legislation – Senate Bills 185 and 186
In September, these bills were passed by the Senate nearly two years after being initially introduced. The bills aim to ensure clean, safe drinking water for children by requiring the installation of hydration station water fixtures with filters that meet the NSF 53 standard for lead reduction and NSF 42 for particulate reduction in schools and childcare facilities.
With $50 million already appropriated to fund the implementation of Filter First in schools and childcare facilities, these bills should be a top priority for the House to pass before the end of the legislative year.
“A Rush Job” Underground Storage Tank Legislation – Senate Bill 1169
In a post-election November rush job, Senate Bill 1169 passed the Senate. The bill seeks to create exceptions for the installation of underground storage tanks near drinking water wells with the sign off of a professional engineer.
With an 8 minute Senate Environment committee and only the Michigan Petroleum Association and Association of Convenient Stores testifying, the bill has not faced proper vetting. SB 1169 makes it easier to site underground storage tanks closer to drinking water wells as industry looks to grow market share around alternative fuels such as ethanol. The bill passed the senate last week and is headed to House Regulatory Reform.
Michigan Vying to Replace Iowa, Become First State for Presidential Primaries
Last week, the Michigan Senate overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 1207, legislation that would amend Michigan’s election laws to accommodate moving the date of the primary during presidential election years from the second week of March to the second week of February.
The Senate passage of SB 1207 comes as national discourse around Michigan replacing Iowa as one of the first states to hold presidential primaries has gained momentum. The move would see Michigan voters gaining more influence in deciding presidential candidates by voting earlier.
Michigan replacing Iowa as a leading state for presidential primary makes more sense than the current order. Demographically speaking, Michigan is a much more diverse state than Iowa, meaning a Michigan presidential primary could serve as a more accurate litmus test for the rest of the country. Michigan is also a true battleground state – where voters have been instrumental in deciding the last several presidential elections. Michigan jumping to the front of the line could provide better indicators of where a given presidential contest stands, or might be headed.
Time will tell if major changes to Michigan’s primaries will come to fruition. While the Senate passed SB 1207, the bill still needs to pass the Republican-controlled House during the Lame Duck session between now and the end of the year.
Update From Washington
“While we were focused on elections, prepping Thanksgiving Turkeys and gearing up for the World Cup, an important summit on climate change came and went without much media coverage. The 27th Conference of Parties summit in Sharm el-Sheikh Egypt brought together the world’s nations in an attempt to rally solutions for the climate crisis.”
Read the full article here.