Capital Catch-Up: March 20, 2023
House Energy Committee Utility Hearing
Last Wednesday, the House Energy, Communications and Technology Committee held a hearing focused on the most recent round of widespread, prolonged power outages caused by last month’s ice and snow storms.
DTE President and COO Trevor Lauer testifying at the hearing.
Michigan LCV was in the room as DTE, Consumers Energy, and Public Service Commission representatives testified about the power outages, reliability issues, bill credits, and possible solutions for Michigan’s accelerating energy grid issues. The Committee – which is chaired by Rep. Helena Scott (D-Detroit) – had a litany of questions for utility representatives and Committee members well prepared.
Rep. Erin Byrnes (D-Dearborn), whose community was hit particularly hard by the recent outages, framed her questions by first saying we must acknowledge the elephant in the room–climate change – connecting the dots between the numerous power outages and increasingly severe and frequent weather events.
The Committee also heard from Michiganders who were impacted by the outages including Elouise, a Detroit resident and DTE customer. In her testimony, Elouise told her story of moving to the United States from Liberia, and how she never expected to experience what she described as a “third-world crisis,” referring to Michigan’s utility reliability problems.
Consumers Energy Chris Laird Vice President of Electric Operations (left) and Vice President of Transformation and Engineering Tonya Berry (right) during Wednesday’s hearing.
DTE and Consumers’ representatives were unable to answer many of the lawmakers’ questions in detail, and they occasionally deflected responsibility which led to several lawmakers calling for follow up, more specific answers, and action.
We keep hearing about the responsibility (to reimburse customers who experience outages) resting with the MPSC, but when does the responsibility rest with the company and its shareholders?” – Rep. Jenn Hill (D-Marquette)
On Thursday at 8:30 a.m. the Senate Energy Committee will be holding an additional hearing. These hearings are a critical first step toward accountability and solutions, but they must translate into legislative and Public Service Commission Action to mean anything.
Michigan LCV’s Budget Priorities
Governor Whitmer’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 Executive Budget represents an historic investment in clean energy and drinking water protection in Michigan with some $2 billion of state and federal funds proposed to be allocated toward Michigan LCV budget priorities pertaining to air, land, water, and democracy. These investments are fundamental kitchen table priorities that will create high-paying jobs, drive down costs, and protect our health. Here is a sampling of those priorities:
- Climate/Clean Energy: ~$1.05 billion towards energy grid resilience, electric vehicles and buses, renewable ready communities, and home weatherization
- Water: ~$749 million towards in-home water quality assistance, local water utility affordability, and stormwater infrastructure, lead service line replacement,
- Democracy: ~$50+ million towards the implementation of Proposal 2, the 2024 Presidential Primary, and staffing for mobile voting offices to increase voting accessibility.
- Land: ~$100 million towards reducing environmental justice health burdens and contaminated sites, and $483 million towards State Parks Endowment Fund, Nature Awaits which will send each fourth-grade class to a state park, and the Michigan Healthy Climate Corps
For more information visit michiganlcv.org/2023budget
EPA Proposes PFAS Drinking Water Standard
Last Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first ever national drinking water standard for PFAS chemicals. The proposal would impose Maximum Contaminant Limits (MCLs) for six PFAS chemicals – PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS, PFNA, PFBS and GenX – that are the source of widespread drinking water contamination and serious health issues, including cancer.
4-H Capitol Experience’s Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources issue group
Michigan LCV welcomed a 4-H Capitol Experience issue group into our Lansing office last week. Michigan LCV’s Legislative Aide, Logan Vorce, guided the conversation on the legislative process, Michigan LCV priorities, and answered the student’s insightful questions on environmental policy and voting access.
Filter First Legislation Moves into the Senate
Last Thursday, the Senate Energy and Environment committee heard testimony on the Filter First bill package (SB 88 and 89) and unanimously recommended the bills move to the full Senate.
Sen. John Cherry (D-Flint) testified on behalf of the package, along with Rebecca Meuninck, Ph.D., Deputy Director at the Ecology Center, Cyndi Roper of Natural Resources Defense Council, Elin Betanzo of Safe Water Engineering, LLC, and Charlotte Jameson of Michigan Environmental Council. Special thanks to Cyndi, Charlotte, and Elin for their continued dedication and hard work on this!
Update From Washington
The news of the Biden administration’s decision to approve ConocoPhillips’ “Willow Project” violates President Biden’s campaign promise to end drilling on public lands. His rhetoric on climate change being the “existential crisis” of our times is not being matched by the administration’s actions. The massive oil development on the Alaskan North Slope is antithetical to what the United States must do to tackle the climate crisis and avoid the worst impacts. The project will tarnish pristine wilderness, impact indigenous communities, and unleash a carbon bomb of greenhouse gas emissions in the process.”
Read the full article here.