Capital Catch-Up: June 11, 2021
Environmental Updates From the Governor’s Desk
Gov. Whitmer Announces Historic $250M Investment in State Parks
In the summer, people from around the world flock to Michigan’s beautiful state parks, shorelines, and natural forests for our world-class fishing, swimming, hiking, and camping opportunities. In advance of the 2021 eco-tourism season, Governor Whitmer announced a historic $250 million initiative to invest in our state park infrastructure, supporting Michigan’s recreation economy and hospitality industries. Prior to this investment, which primarily uses American Rescue Plan dollars, Michigan had roughly a $250 million backlog of necessary infrastructure projects at state park facilities.
“Tourism is vital to Michigan’s economy and to our overall economic health, and COVID disproportionately harmed our tourism and hospitality sectors,” said Governor Whitmer. “Investments in our public spaces make Michigan a more competitive and attractive destination for tourism, position us as a recreation leader, and are critical components of our seasonal and rural economies. This is a valuable use of our federal funds to help the communities who rely on tourism rebound from the public health crisis. Parks bring us together. They are equally beloved by all Michiganders, regardless of geography or income, race or class or politics.”
Governor Whitmer, Sen. Brinks Help Position Michigan as a Leader on Clean Energy Transmission
When most people think about renewable energy development and deployment, they usually think about massive wind and solar installation projects. However, very few might consider the importance of the transmission infrastructure that moves clean energy to and over the grid.
Energy transmission projects are a critical part of ensuring that renewable energy can actually be used by electricity customers. Unfortunately, this often overlooked aspect of clean energy development has become a clean energy bottleneck, even as states across the nation announce aggressive emissions reduction targets and deploy more renewable energy resources.
Enter Governor Whitmer and Senator Brinks… This week the Governor penned a letter with the Governors of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, urging the Midwest regional transmission grid operator (MISO) to approve more high-voltage transmission projects. Sen. Winnie Brinks took (D – Grand Rapids) on this technical, but critical issue by writing an op-ed for Bridge Magazine calling for planning and investment into our state’s transmission and electrical grid.
“Deficiencies in our regional grid prevent Michigan from being able to import and export power easily enough to keep costs down and improve reliability,” wrote Sen. Brinks. “By investing in the grid, we can move cheaper, cleaner electricity to businesses and residents while creating good-paying jobs for union laborers, line workers and electricians.”
ICYMI: Environmental Legislation This Week
Bipartisan Lawmakers Tout EV’s as Key to MI’s Future in Committee
A group of bipartisan lawmakers testified this week before Michigan’s House Energy Committee that electric vehicles are the future [Rep.’s Padma Kuppa (D – Troy), Andrea Schroeder (R – Independence Twp.), Joe Bellino (R – Monroe), David LaGrand (D – Grand Rapids), and John Damoose (R – Harbor Springs)]. Three of the House bills, 4803-4805, would expand electric vehicle charging access on state highways by allowing MDOT to bid out the install of EV charging stations at state-owned rest stops and welcome centers. The bills would also allow state transportation funds to be used for constructing, maintaining, and operating EV charging stations along state highways.
With both Ford and GM making major investments in electrifying their fleets over the next five years, Michigan is poised to become a global leader in vehicle electrification in the very near future. However, the rapid manufacturing and adoption of electric vehicles must be accompanied by an equally rapid rollout of charging infrastructure. Increasing charging infrastructure visibility by installing them at state rest areas, especially along busy corridors like US-131, will help combat range anxiety, promote electric vehicle adoption, and spur private investments in charging infrastructure.
Reps. Rabhi and Brabec Introduce Bills to Increase Clean and Efficient Energy, and Climate Resiliency at Businesses and Apartment Buildings
House Bills 5011 and 5012, introduced by Reps. Yousef Rabhi (D – Ann Arbor) and Felicia Brabec (D – Pittsfield Township), would expand Michigan’s commercial PACE (Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy) statute, which currently funds clean energy and energy efficiency projects at businesses, to include climate resiliency projects and critical water upgrades to mitigate PFAS and lead contamination. The bills would also expand the current commercial PACE statute to include multi-family apartment buildings, making energy efficiency and environmental hazard projects available to more Michiganders than ever before.
“We urgently need to update infrastructure to address the serious threats posed by climate change,” Rep. Rabhi said. “Property-assessed financing is a great tool enabling businesses to save on long-term costs and limit their impact on the climate. By expanding PACE, we will also empower them to adapt their properties to be resilient to the hazards of climate change like flooding, drought, and extreme weather.”
“We’ve seen what happens when Michigan infrastructure is put on the back burner,” Rep. Brabec added. “Expanding PACE will help Michigan businesses obtain low-cost, long-term financing for renewable energy projects and other sustainability upgrades, all while taking steps to mitigate the effects of climate change.”
Michigan LCV would like to thank both Reps. Rabhi and Brabec for introducing this important legislation to protect our water, improve energy efficiency, and mitigate environmental hazards.
Broken Bottle Bills Clear Senate Committee, Heading Towards Floor Vote
This year’s broken bottle bills, House Bills 4443 and 4444, were voted out of the Senate Regulatory Reform committee on Tuesday. Now, the bills are headed to the Senate floor for what could be their final vote in the Legislature. The bills remain broken.
Michigan’s bottle deposit law has been a critically important pollution prevention tool for decades. Not only does the law prevent beverage containers from being littered on our land and in our waters, but it increases the amount of high value plastic and metal that is recycled across the state. More, 75 percent of unclaimed bottle deposits go towards contaminated site cleanup programs.
Together, HB 4443 and HB 4444h-1 enable the shifting of money dedicated to the state’s bottle deposit fund towards beverage distributors through 2022, reducing funds for cleanup of Michigan’s 24,000 registered contaminated sites. The bills would also allow bottle distributors to claim a half cent income tax credit for every returnable container they sell. According to an analysis done by the House Fiscal Agency, this legislation would cost the state’s general fund at least $20 million annually, forever.
We need you to send a message to your State Senator urging them to oppose this legislation and protect contaminated site clean up funding. We have an action alert set up with a pre-written message to get you started, but we encourage you to customize your message and share this action alert with others.
Michigan Construction Codes Bill Heard in House Regulatory Reform
Did you know that buildings account for roughly 40% of U.S. carbon emissions? That’s why it’s critical for Michigan’s homes and businesses to be built to high energy efficiency standards and why many environmental organizations are keeping a close eye on HB 4648.
HB 4648 would rewrite the construction codes process to add multiple advisory boards for each individual code, including the energy conservation code and the electrical code. While robust stakeholder engagement during the review process is important for ensuring Michigan homes and businesses are safe, healthy, and energy efficient, adding new advisory boards during the critical 2021 IECC energy code update would not be helpful.
Michigan already has a construction code commission that has representation from different building trades, labor organizations, and environmental experts. This bill would shift the balance of the review board more in favor of industry representation, while adding additional bureaucratic layers and silos. Additionally, the proposed changes to the current review process come at a time when the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) has already started to update the codes. Changing the process now could delay the code review process, or even prevent Michigan from adopting the 2021 codes.
Michiganders rely on our state’s construction codes for health and safety improvements in their homes, as well as for driving down the cost of ownership and occupancy through energy efficiency and conservation. We must ensure that any streamline and improve the process, not unnecessarily hinder or delay the adoption of the most modern, energy efficient building design standards.