Capital Catch-Up, May 14
ICYMI: Environmental Legislation This Week
Rooftop Solar Hearing Gets Cancelled; Bill Needs Your Support
House Bill 4236, Rep. Markkanen’s bill to remove the 1% cap on rooftop solar in Michigan, saw a flurry of sudden, yet ultimately disappointing activity this week that ended with the abrupt cancellation of Thursday’s House Energy Committee. Here’s a timeline of activities on the legislation over the past week and a half, and some resources for you to continue to stay involved:
Tuesday, May 4: After months of publicly opposing HB 4236, DTE and Consumers Energy state tepid support for raising the cap rather than removing it, with the untenable condition of added grid charges for solar customers. That same afternoon, a House Energy Committee hearing is scheduled for 5/12, presumably to vote the bill out of committee.
Wednesday, May 5: Clean energy advocates call out DTE and Consumers for “smokescreen” tactics to hide their true position on the bill. Michigan LCV issues this press release and continues working with committee members to pass the bill out of committee.
Thursday, May 6: Michigan LCV starts running positive ads in HD 17, home to Joe Bellino, the Chair of House Energy Committee and the man with the power to move the bill out of committee. The ads ran for a total of six days and reached over 20,000 people – with the possibility of more to come, and updated messaging.
Tuesday, May 11: Bill sponsor Rep. Markkanen holds a press conference in support of HB 4236. Other speakers include co-sponsor Rep. Yousef Rabhi, the House minority floor leader, Peninsula Solar, a UP solar energy company, and Jeremy Orr, the chair of the MI NAACP’s climate and environmental justice committee. Jeremy Orr is also the author of a Lansing State Journal article advocating for clean energy policy as a tool for environmental justice.
Wednesday, May 12: A much weaker bill is proposed as a substitute; the bill is so weak that it fails to address the problem at hand, and bill proponents, including Michigan LCV are forced to oppose the weakened version. At 5 p.m. on Wednesday, the following morning’s House Energy Committee hearing is cancelled.
Aggregate Mining Bills Quickly Taken up by Senate Transportation Committee, Environmentalists and Locals Oppose; Suggest Improvements
The Senate Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure heard testimony this Thursday on a set of bills that would reform the way aggregate mining is conducted in the state. SBs 429-431, introduced by Senator Jim Ananich (D Genesee, Flint), would remove local control from aggregate mining operations and would instead establish a regulatory framework within the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy for permitting. Michigan LCV submitted testimony in opposition to the bills because they do not include sufficient protections to ensure that environmental damage during the mining process is minimized or compensated for. We appreciate that Sen. Ananich has directly engaged Michigan LCV and other environmental organizations in the process, and we are taking that outreach very seriously, working to ensure the bills protect the environment.
How will this bill impact the environment?
Aggregate mining releases harmful sediments, including salts and other chemicals into watercourses, groundwater sources, soil and air, often from erosion. It destroys farmland and local natural areas through the clearing of soil, trees, shrubs and other foliage from the land. In addition to water and habitat impacts, aggregate mining creates noise, dust, and has
negative impacts on local road conditions. The negative visual and acoustic aesthetics associated with this industrial activity is a quality of life nuisance for neighboring communities and has been proven to decrease property values. Without scientifically based restoration practices, these impacts of aggregate mining can devastate natural landscapes for generations. At a time where America is losing a football field of natural area every thirty seconds to some form of development, we must prioritize the protection, preservation, and restoration of our great outdoors.
Line 5 is Operating Illegally, All Eyes Are on the Courts
Last November, Gov. Whitmer announced that she was revoking the easement agreement between Enbridge Energy and the State of Michigan that allowed the Canadian oil company to operate its Line 5 pipeline which runs through the Straits of Mackinac. This Wednesday marked the deadline to cease operation of the pipeline. Enbridge refused to follow the order and is now operating the pipeline illegally, bringing about a flurry of activity from both supporters and opponents of Line 5.
In anticipation of Enbridge’s refusal to comply with the law, on Tuesday, Gov. Whitmer threatened to seize Enbridge’s profits on the continued operation of the pipeline if the state succeeds in a pending federal lawsuit to shut it down. In response, Senate Republicans passed an amendment to the DNR’s budget that would put taxpayers on the hook for Enbridge’s legal fees if the state fails in that same litigation.
Important Bill Introductions
- Sen. Stephanie Chang introduced SB 439 this Wednesday, which would require the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to consider potential cumulative environmental impacts in overburdened communities before granting new permits. Michigan LCV supports both Sen. Chang’s bill and its companion in the House, HB 4777 introduced by Rep. Aiyash, as a primary way to address environmental injustices in the state
- Reps. Lightner, Green, Borton, and Paquette introduced a series of bills dealing with Michigan’s elections. HB 4837-4840 would prohibit independent organizations from accessing the Qualified Voter File, prohibit the connection of ballot tabulators to the internet except for transmitting information to local clerks, extend absentee ballot application requesting procedures to special elections, and extend the amount of time local clerks will have to preserve voter information after an election is conducted.
- Sen. Daley introduced SB 442, a bill to preserve local control over the permitting and regulation of aggregate mining operations. While these bills grant more control to local governments, they also do not contain important provisions that enhance environmental protections during the mining process.
Senate Elections Committee Hears Legislation to Empower “Poll-Bullies”
As part of the 39-bill anti-voter package that was introduced last month in the Senate, this week, the Senate Committee on Elections heard testimony on two bills that would empower partisan poll challengers, increase voter intimidation, and threaten our election security.
Senate Bill 290, introduced by Sen. Outman, would prohibit non-partisan poll challengers from participating in elections. Third party challengers play an important role in enhancing election security and transparency. By only opening poll challenger roles to political affiliates, the likelihood that poll challengers will use their positions for partisan action increases.
Senate Bill 309, introduced by Sen. Bumstead, would grant poll challengers new powers to challenge ballots, and make it more difficult to remove unruly, partisan challengers. Additionally, poll workers, who have received training on election operations, and whose job it is to ensure that everything runs smoothly on election day, should not have to jump through hoops to expel bad actors.
Hyper-partisanship in our elections processes and the unwarranted distrust of elections officials were compounding issues in the 2020 election, which ultimately culminated at the TCF Center in Detroit. Michigan LCV’s Democracy for All Director, Clare Allenson, and our Partnerships Manager, Joané Booth, were at TCF Center when Trump supporters stormed the building, threatened elections officials, and disrupted the process by loudly shouting “Stop the Steal” and banging on the glass doors to the room where ballots were being counted. You can read an article they wrote for Bridge Magazine, telling their story and defending the process.
Senate Hears Testimony on Appointments to the Natural Resources Commission
Wednesday morning, the Senate Committee on Advice and Consent heard testimony on appointing Thomas Baird, a long-time Michigan conservation leader (FLOW, Anglers of the Au-Sable, Michigan Hydro Relicensing Coalition) to the Natural Resources Commission. Also considered for appointment to the commission on Wednesday was Dave Cozad, executive director for the Pere Marquette Watershed Council.
The Natural Resources Commission is a seven member commission that oversees the activities of the Department of Natural Resources, and has authority regarding the taking of game species and fish, and over the management of public lands. Baird and Cozad were submitted for appointment at the beginning of 2021, but the appointments were tied up in a political struggle between the Senate and the Executive.
Michigan LCV Presents President Biden’s Build Back Better Initiative to Detroit Caucus
Michigan LCV would like to thank Rep. Tenisha Yancey and the members of the Michigan Legislature’s Detroit Caucus for giving us the opportunity to speak with them on the future of clean energy in Michigan, and on the connection between climate action, racial justice, and job creation. We’d also like to thank Diane Van Buren of D2 Solar Detroit and the City of Detroit’s Renewable Energy Council for joining us, and to Catherine Diggs of Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice for connecting us! Thanks all!