Capital Catch-Up, May 21
ICYMI: Environmental Legislation This Week
Biden, Ford, and SunRun Drive Michigan Towards Green Prosperity – Lifting the Rooftop Cap is Key
President Biden became one of the first people to drive Ford’s new F-150 Lightning this Tuesday in a visit to the company’s Dearborn plant. The visit highlighted the company’s first all-electric truck in advance of its 2022 launch and Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which centers investments in our nation’s clean energy industry and advanced mobility sector.
President Biden test-drives Ford’s all new F-150 Lightning at the company’s Dearborn plant
Following Biden’s visit to Michigan, Ford continued the buzz around the clean energy future Wednesday night, when the company announced a charging infrastructure partnership with SunRun, one of the nation’s leading solar installers. In the release, Ford and SunRun announced a program that would allow customers to install a home rooftop solar system at the same time as home electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
MLCV’s Government Affairs team poses in front of the Rivian truck
The partnership between electric vehicle manufacturers and rooftop solar companies is an important step towards a national clean economy that envisions vehicle electrification, renewable energy development, and smart grid upgrades, all with an underlying promise of high paying jobs in vehicle and energy engineering, manufacturing, and distribution.
Ford and SunRun’s announcement highlights the critical nature of quickly passing HB 4236, Rep. Markkanen’s bill to remove Michigan’s arbitrary 1% cap on rooftop solar. Eliminating the cap is essential to lay the groundwork for the scale of solar energy deployment that will be needed to realize Ford’s vision for the integrated and electrified mobility future.
Michigan’s 2021-2022 Revenue Forecasts Sunnier than Expected; Focus Shifts to a Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity to Invest
Michigan’s 2021-2022 budget forecast got even sunnier this week, with both the Senate and House Fiscal Agencies announcing that the state would have a surplus of over $4.5 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.
With a rosy outlook for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, and with the recent release of US Treasury guidelines on how funding from the American Rescue Plan can be spent, the focus of the budgetary conversation in Lansing has shifted towards how the state should spend its massive influx in funds.
Already, both the House and the Senate have listed dam safety as a major priority for the upcoming fiscal year. This Wednesday, on the anniversary of the Sanford and Edenville dam collapses that devastated the Midland area last May, Republican leaders in both chambers announced a $500 million plan to provide for dam repairs and emergency response. This legislation is one of the many water infrastructure priorities that Michigan LCV is watching this budget cycle.
Other water infrastructure priorities MLCV is advocating for include:
- Lead Pipe Replacement in low income and rural communities. Replacing all of the state’s aging lead pipes will protect public health and create good paying jobs.
- Sewer, Stormwater, and Septic System Upgrades. Upgrading Michigan’s wastewater systems will prevent sewer system leaks and mitigate bacterial contamination in our water resources.
- Filter First. Installing water filters in Michigan’s schools and childcare centers is the most cost-efficient and effective way to protect children’s drinking water from lead contamination at a critical time in their development.
COVID-19 Highlighted Water Injustice. Water Affordability Activists Are Asking: Now What?
While many of us do not have to choose between buying our monthly groceries and paying water utility bills, that is not the case for all Michiganders. In fact, 800,000 Michiganders were at risk of having their water shut off due to an inability to pay their bills in 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic especially highlighted Michigan’s water affordability and access problems. How do you protect yourself from a contagious virus if you can’t wash your hands because your water has been shut off?
Michigan’s short term answer to the water affordability problem was to put a moratorium on water shutoffs during the height of the pandemic, first with an executive order from the governor and then with the passage of Senator Chang’s SB 241. However, the moratorium expired March 31, 2021, and now, thousands of Michigan residents are back at risk of having their water shut off.
Several groups have been working toward improving water access and affordability and are continuing to push for an extension of the moratorium. We the People Detroit offers help to residents who are struggling to pay and hosts water drop stations where residents can come get bottled water, but groups are pushing for legal or legislative action to reduce the need for these services. Clean Water Action has set up this action alert so you can tell your lawmaker to stop water shut offs for good and ensure all Michiganders have access to running water in their homes.
Important Bill Introductions
- Rep. Farrington (R – Utica) introduced HB 4845, which would require the Secretary of State to host trainings on signature verification for local clerks before even year primary elections.
- Rep. Alexander (R – Hanover) introduced HB 4876, which would prohibit non-partisan poll challengers from participating in the elections process. The bill is similar to SB 290, which Michigan LCV formally opposed last week. By only opening poll challenger roles to political affiliates, these bills increase the likelihood that poll challengers will use their positions for partisan action.
- A group of bi-partisan Senators introduced SB 468-471, which would establish a dam safety program to maintain and remove dams. The bills would also require more regular and more intensive reporting from dam operators. Michigan LCV supports these bills as a means to keep communities safe and to improve local river and stream quality with the removal of unnecessary and harmful dams.
Michigan Hosts First Ever Environmental Justice Conference
The Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy hosted Michigan’s very first Environmental Justice Conference this week. The multi-day conference featured community environmental justice activists, business leaders, and state and federal officials. Some of the topics covered included air quality permitting, community economic development through environmental action, and plain language communication techniques.
At the conference, Governor Whitmer emphasized the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion in all levels of our society:
“Environmental justice isn’t an add on for administration. It is an integral, foundational priority, and is essential to our work as public servants. We have an imperative to bring intersectionality into everything we do. By taking steps to center racial and gender equity in every decision we make, we can make better policy and confront systemic racism head on.”