Capital Catch-Up, March 18
ICYMI: Environmental Legislation This Week
House Recycling Package Represents Turn Away From Landfills; Has Strong Bi-Partisan Support
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Gary Howell (R – North Branch), and Minority Vice Chair Bill Sowerby (D – Clinton Township) are committed to improving
Michigan’s solid waste management system, and they demonstrated that this week by sponsoring and taking up House Bills 4454-4461 a week after the package was introduced. The bill package is a generationally important rewrite of Michigan’s solid waste management laws, and will move Michigan’s materials management towards one with a greater focus on recycling access and infrastructure. You can read more about the bill’s substance in last week’s Capital Catch Up, or watch Hallie Fox, our Legislative Aide, deliver a policy brief on the package on Michigan LCV’s Tik Tok account.
Chairman Howell told Michigan LCV:
“I am proud to Sponsor HB 4454 and I look forward to shepherding this bi-partisan package of bills modernizing Michigan’s materials management stream through the legislature. These bills represent years of hard work, thousands of hours of stakeholder discussions, and they are a significant step forward in how Michigan treats used materials. These bills change the waste paradigm in Michigan away ‘from landfilling’, and they represent a wind for the supply chains, jobs, the overall economy and environment.”
More Broken Bottle Bills Receive Positive Amendment, Head to the Floor
HB 4443 and HB 4444 would enable the shifting away from contaminated site clean up when the state receives more than $50 million dollars in unclaimed bottle deposits. (You can read more about these bills in last week’s Capital Catch Up). This week, the House Committee on Regulatory Reform heard testimony on the bills, and voted unanimously to report them to the House Floor. Before the bills passed out of committee, however, the committee adopted an amendment to HB 4444 adding a 2022 sunset to the bill, and protecting the first $50 million under the existing formula. Notably, the positive amendments came with the full support of Rep. Kevin Hertel (D – St. Clair Shores), the bill’s sponsor.
Senate Blasts UP Energy Task Force Recommendations; Holds One-Sided Hearings on Line 5
In response to Governor Whitmer’s UP Energy Task Force Recommendations, which produced recommendations on how to ensure the UP has access to safe and reliable energy in a post Line-5 world, the Senate Committees on Natural Resources and Energy held a joint hearing this Tuesday on the benefits of Line 5, inviting an all-Canadian, all-Enbridge supporting panel to speak on the pipeline’s merits. In response to this one-sided hearing, Michigan LCV issued a statement reaffirming our commitment to shutting down Line 5 for good. It is a strawman argument to think we need to choose between addressing climate change, protecting our environment, and the economy. Unleashing Michigan’s clean and energy efficient future is THE ANSWER to replacing line 5. Another 65 years of oil flowing below the straits – even in a tunnel – is not a tenable solution as we are already paying the costs for climate change in our daily lives.
While the amendment was undoubtedly a step in the right direction, Michigan LCV still remains opposed to HB 4444. Michigan has over 24,000 registered contaminated sites, and to start chipping away at that backlock, we need to continue to dedicate more money towards clean up – not less. We encourage you to send a message to your state representative urging them to oppose this legislation. We have an action alert set up with a pre-written message to get you started. As always, we encourage you to customize your message and share this action alert with others.
Important Bill Introductions
Bill Introduced to Ban Use of Fracking Flowback as Dust Suppressant
Rep. Kara Hope (D – Holt) introduced HB 4518, a bill to ban the use of fracking flowback as a dust suppressant on roads, this Tuesday. Flowback is a byproduct of fracking operations that is a mixture of water, brine, and often toxic, cancer-causing materials. MLCV supports this bill to protect public health and road construction workers.
Additional Environmental Action in Lansing
“Sunshine Week” Highlights Push for Government Transparency
This week, Michigan legislators and pro-democracy groups celebrated Sunshine Week, a national effort to highlight government transparency efforts, by focusing the conversation around expanding FOIA/LORA to the governor and the legislature. Michigan currently ranks at the bottom of the pack for government transparency according to the Center for Public Integrity.
In the legislature, the House unanimously passed a FOIA/LORA package on Thursday (109 – 0). The Senate version of the package, introduced by Sen. Ed McBroom (R – Vulcan) and Jeremy Moss (D – Southfield) was heard in the Senate Oversight Committee this Tuesday, and is expected to pass out of committee sometime next week. While the bills are a good step towards increasing transparency in government, they include some questionable exemptions that have pushed Progress Michigan to introduce its own FOIA-expansion ballot drive.
The Progress Michigan ballot drive is a much bolder initiative to increase transparency in Michigan government, and does not include the exemptions in the House and Senate bills. Most notably, the Progress Michigan Initiative would not exempt lawmaker-constituent communications from FOIA and would require the request to be addressed within 60 days. Michigan LCV supports both efforts and are excited to see more action on these good governance issues.
Environmental Community Gears Up for World Water Day, Celebrates Recent Victories
Monday, March 22 is World Water Day, and Michigan’s environmental community is celebrating recent wins at the federal level while looking to continue the conversation regarding water affordability in the state legislature with a week of action.
As part of the American Rescue Plan, the federal government passed major water affordability reforms, including some necessary funding to improve drinking water infrastructure across the country. The $1.9 trillion package included $500 million for a water affordability program geared towards low-income families, $9.9 billion for a homeowner assistance fund which can be used for mortgage payments and utility bills, and $30 million for water delivery assistance for tribal nations. Additionally, the package included a significant $350 billion for state and local governments to upgrade their water and sewer system infrastructure.
The state conversation around water reform continues to focus on water affordability, as an important COVID-related moratorium on water shutoffs is set to expire March 31. While Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D – Hamtramck) has introduced legislation permanently ending affordability-related water shutoffs, the issue has not yet been taken up in the legislature. We encourage you to learn more about the water shutoffs issue and take one of our partners, We the People of Detroit’s, pledge to support the water affordability movement.
Check your Legislator’s Work with the Digital Accountability Suite:
We’re keeping our eye on what goes on in Lansing so we can keep you informed. Track your lawmaker’s progress on environmental legislation by using our accountability suite. Learn who values and acts to protect our land, air and water in our state government; hold elected officials accountable for their actions; and track decisions and legislation that impacts our natural resources and communities.