Capital Catch-Up, May 7
ICYMI: Environmental Legislation This Week
Future of the MI Rooftop Solar Industry Hangs in the Balance in House Energy
House Bill 4236, Rep. Markkanen’s bill to remove the arbitrary 1% cap on rooftop solar in Michigan, may be in trouble after facing intense pressure from DTE and Consumers. However, all eyes are on Rep. Joe Bellino (R – Monroe), Chairman of the House Energy Committee, who has the power to move a strong bill that eliminates the cap and paves the way for the small-scale solar industry; the committee meeting hearing is currently scheduled for next Wednesday at 3 PM.
HB 4236 is supported by small scale solar advocates and the environmental justice community. Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice and Michigan LCV teamed up earlier this year to write and circulate a sign on letter, which you can read here, advocating for rooftop solar installations as a means to lower energy costs for all ratepayers (including low-income customers who may not have access to their own rooftop solar installations), mitigate climate change, and fight against toxic air pollution. Jeremy Orr, Chairman of the Environmental and Climate Justice Program at the Michigan NAACP, also wrote an op-ed in the Lansing State Journal advocating for small scale solar as a tool to advance environmental justice and lower costs for all ratepayers.
We have a one-click action for this legislation that you can use to send your lawmaker a message urging them to support House Bill 4236 Click here to take action.
Legislative Activity We’re Monitoring
Anti-voter ballot drop box bills receive hearing in Senate
As a result of Republicans dropping a massive, 39-bill elections package in March, the Senate Elections Committee has been busy holding hearings on a number of bills from the package that will make it more difficult to vote. Michigan LCV and our partner organizations (including ACLU and All Voting Is Local) have been following this closely and will continue to push back against these bills to protect the freedom to vote.
This week, the Committee heard testimony on a series of elections bills, including SB 273 and SB 286, two bills that diminish voter access to ballot drop boxes. SB 273 would require expensive and unfunded surveillance requirements among other restrictive measures. SB 286, on the other hand, would require the closure of ballot drop boxes by 5 p.m. on election day, unnecessarily confusing and limiting voters’ access to a popular and secure voting option.
Michigan LCV was happy to record our opposition to the bills at the hearing, and have set up this action alert so that you can tell your Senator to vote “no” on this anti-voter legislation.
Important Bill Introductions
A bi-partisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill package to reduce fraud in Michigan’s bottle deposit system. HB 4780-4783 would establish a fund within the Treasury to investigate fraud reports. After a series of discussions with Michigan’s soft drink association Michigan LCV agreed to support these bills in order for state officials to gain a better understanding of how much fraud is in the system and to address it where possible. This is a much better approach than previously when it was connected to legislation that would strip funding away from contaminated site cleanup. Made popular in a famous Seinfeld episode, various forms of fraud could be pulling significant amounts of money from Michigan’s bottle bill system – undermining the integrity of the system and pulling money from EGLE and contaminated site cleanup.
The popular characters Kramer and Newman establish a scheme to collect Michigan’s recycling deposit on bottles that were bought out-of-state. Crazily enough, a Michigan man was arrested for attempting to replicate this exact scheme in 2016
A bi-partisan group of lawmakers from the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation committee (Rep. Howell, Rep. Sowerby, Rep. Vansingel, and Rep. Aiyash) re-introduced a set of bills that would ensure Michigan homes are safe from asbestos. HB 4766-4771 would prevent public agencies from employing asbestos abatement contractors who have a record of environmental violations, set higher fines for violations, and establish an inspection program for abatement projects. The package has been introduced in previous sessions, with components failing to run the distance.
Rep. Abraham Aiyash also introduced a landmark environmental justice bill this week. HB 4777 would require EGLE to assess cumulative levels of pollution in a community before issuing a new permit in that community. The bill would also allow EGLE to refuse to issue a permit based on cumulative pollution levels and effects. Michigan LCV supports this legislation as a means to eliminate the disproportional siting of pollutive industries in Michigan’s low income and BIPOC communities.
Federal Climate Action This Week
Biden Launches “America the Beautiful” Initiative to Preserve 30 percent of Land and 30 percent of Water by 2030
This Thursday, President Biden announced his “America the Beautiful” initiative, a ten-year plan to preserve 30 percent of America’s land and 30 percent of America’s water by 2030. The plan comes at a time when America is losing a football field of natural space every 30 seconds to some sort of development, and when climate change and urbanization have put severe stressors on our natural resources and wildlife habitat. The plan will support efforts from Tribal nations, rural communities, private landowners, and many others in their efforts to conserve and restore our natural spaces.
In Michigan, natural land conservation has received bi-partisan support and attention in the House. Earlier this session, a bi-partisan group of lawmakers introduced HR 25, a similar resolution to preserve 30 percent of Michigan’s land and 30 percent of our water by 2030. Michigan LCV was also happy to elevate an op-ed that Rep. Padma Kuppa wrote for the Oakland Press on the importance of habitat conservation, which you can read here. Similarly this week, Governor Whitmer signed a bill appropriating over $35 million to the Natural Resources Trust Fund, which goes toward natural lands development and acquisition projects, on the same day that the DNR tweeted its own support of the “America the Beautiful” initiative.
Both the “America the Beautiful” Initiative and Michigan’s HR 25 are part of an international campaign to preserve our global natural resources. You can read more about the 30×30 campaign here.