How Green Is Your Governor?

“The health of our communities and the strength of our economy depend on the fundamentals of clean air, safe water, and nutritious food. Every Michigander deserves the opportunity to be successful, starting with their health. That means protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil in which we grow.” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, 2019
Throughout her campaign, Governor Gretchen Whitmer ran on a pro-conservation platform. It is now Governor Whitmer’s time to turn her promises into actions, because bold action is what will make Michigan stronger.
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As Governor Whitmer works to address Michigan’s significant water problems and threats to our Great Lakes and public lands, we will continue to hold her and her administration accountable through this tool — “How Green is Your Governor?”

Michigan LCV’s “How Green is Your Governor” tool tracks and grades all of the actions of Governor Whitmer, her administration and the statewide departments she directs as decisions are made on issues that are vital to protecting our environment, re-energizing our economy, and moving Michigan forward. Monitoring the Governor is vital to assuring the administration is held accountable for protecting clean air and water, our public health, and our natural resources.

To view report cards prior to 2019, please reference our Gubernatorial Report Cards, which compile all actions we’ve tracked and scored and provide overall grades for the Governor every two years.

The Big Picture

Review the most recent actions we've tracked and scored below.

27 Positive
  • Issuing Executive Directive Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis - Weight 1
    Wednesday August 5th, 2020
    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has exacerbated racial injustices, Governor Whitmer signed Executive Directive 2020-9 declaring racism as a public health crisis. We now know that economic, environmental, and health inequities contribute to the fact that black Michiganders have a four times greater risk of dying from the coronavirus than do white residents. The mortality rate for black residents is 1,624 per 1 million, compared to 399 per 1 million as is the mortality rate with white residents. According to a recent Harvard School of Public Health study, increased exposure to poor air quality, specifically exposure to high levels of particulate matter, drastically increases your risk of mortality after contracting COVID-19. In addition to higher mortality rates, the exposure rates in black communities is much higher than those in white communities, with reported COVID-19 cases at 14,703 per 1 million in black residents compared to just 4,160 per 1 million in white residents. As alarming as these statistics are, it is important to remember that Michigan’s public health inequities and environmental justice problems did not begin during this pandemic. People of color in our state have been facing disproportionate environmental effects for years. For example, they are more likely to live in neighborhoods with little to no access to healthy food choices and are frequently forced to live in older homes that come with a variety of health risks, including increased lead, mold, and asbestos exposure. Too often communities with a large percentage of persons of color are located adjacent to power plants and heavy industrial areas with high levels of pollution that reduce life expectancy, increase rates of infant and maternal mortality, and lead to higher rates of asthma than white communities in Michigan. The governor’s executive directive does not just stop at declaring racism a public health crisis, it also directs state agencies to examine data, develop policies, and begin advocating for communities of color to solve these problems. We thank Governor Whitmer for continuing to elevate this important conversation surrounding environmental justice and racial inequities and for taking meaningful action within state departments to start correcting these systematic flaws.
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  • Bold New PFAS Actions to Protect Drinking Water Get Passed Finish Line - Weight 2
    Wednesday July 22nd, 2020
    After over a year of development, public comment, and approval, the new PFAS Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) rule, developed by EGLE at the request of Governor Whitmer, is finally going into effect following no action being taken by the legislature to reject the standard. The PFAS MCLs are designed to provide drinking water quality protections against harmful PFAS chemicals that have recently been identified at a number of sites across Michigan. These resilient chemicals are particularly concerning because of their mobility, longevity, and links to serious health effects such as liver damage, cancers, auto-immune diseases, and more. Unfortunately, these contaminants have made their way into Michigan’s environment and drinking water over the years as a result of standards that were not designed or equipped to safeguard the public from PFAS exposure. Once released into the environment and surface water, PFAS is extremely difficult to remediate. It has shown to be costly and time consuming to fully clean up. For this reason, the best course of action was to prevent this type of contamination in the first place by implementing practical but effective regulatory standards. This new standard will do just that, and we applaud EGLE and the Whitmer Administration for recognizing this need and moving to protect our drinking water and the health of our communities. We are confident these rules will position Michigan as one of several leaders in the growing nationwide effort to tackle PFAS contamination. In addition to the finalized PFAS MCL standard, Governor Whitmer also signed legislation that would better protect the public from PFAS contamination from the use of firefighting foam. These new laws create a system of accountability to track the use of this foam, bans the use of PFAS foam during firefighting training, and requires proper training for the use, disposal, and personal clean up of PFAS foam. While these are only first steps toward eliminating PFAS contamination, we applaud Governor Whitmer and her administration for these strong, decisive actions that will save lives.
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  • Water Service Reconnections and Plumbing Infrastructure Improvements - Weight 3
    Saturday March 28th, 2020
    As our state continued battling an outbreak of novel coronavirus that devastated a number of our communities, particularly the city of Detroit, frontline organizations including We the People of Detroit, People’s Water Board, Flint Rising, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, and the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition worked to elevate water shut offs as a top issue for the Governor’s office. Access to clean, potable water is a human right, fundamental to good health and hygiene, and is necessary to combat the spread of the virus and curtail its effects on our state. We applaud Governor Whitmer and her team for recognizing this as an urgent problem needing to be addressed by issuing Executive Order 2020-28. This Executive Order, effective for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, requires the immediate reconnection of household water service disconnected by water utilities due to non-payment or damaged infrastructure. The order requires public water suppliers to identify homes in their service area that do not currently have access to clean water and restore service to these homes if at all possible. In many cases, residents do not have access to water due to the poor, obsolete, or damaged water infrastructure where they live. To help communities comply with the reconnect requirement, the order also creates a much needed “Water Restart Grant Program” with $2 million in the form of grant reimbursements from the Michigan Department of Environment, Grant Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to fund the improvements. EGLE will prioritize high-risk municipalities that have a plan in place, agree to a 25 percent local match, and ensure their plumbing contractors effectively communicate proper pipe flushing and filter cleaning procedures. Flushing stagnant water from pipes and cleaning water filter screens are critical to removing lead and bacteria that may have accumulated while water was shut off. It is important to recognize that these orders do not require service providers to offer affordable, income-based payment plans for water, nor do they absolve consumer obligations to pay water bills. In the interim, as the water is turned back on, community access to water remains critical. There is clearly more work to be done. We thank Governor Whitmer for recognizing that water is life by ensuring every Michigander has access to the basic human right of clean water during this health crisis.
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  • Pushing Back on Broken Bottle Bills that Cut Funds to Contaminated Site Cleanup - Weight 1
    Monday February 10th, 2020
    In early 2020, a handful of interest groups approached legislators on both sides of the aisle to promote a plan that would change the way unclaimed bottle deposit funds are allocated. Instead of being used for contaminated site cleanup under the current structure, the new proposal would redirect a portion of these funds to go directly to private sector beverage distributors. This plan would significantly reduce EGLE’s funding and would be disastrous for statewide efforts to clean up contaminated sites to protect our economy, public health, and the environment. The funds also currently facilitate brownfield redevelopment and provide grant opportunities to local units of government for waste reduction efforts. Fortunately, the Governor and her team worked diligently behind the scenes to push back on these measures and helped ensure these bills were never brought to the floor for a vote. We hope for her continued support to oppose these short-sighted bills if they are brought up again during the lame duck period in late 2020 or during the next legislative session.
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  • Supported Legal Action Against PFAS Polluters - Weight 1
    Tuesday January 14th, 2020
    Over the last few years, PFAS has become a central focus of environmental policy in Michigan both because of the length of time it can stay in the environment and its harmful and serious health impacts such as liver damage and increased likelihood of cancers. It is commonly found in  firefighting foam used by airports, military bases and firefighters as well as household items that create non-stick surfaces, like Scotchgard, Teflon and food wrappers. Due to several manufacturers displaying a lack of responsibility in the manufacturing and safety disclosures for these chemicals, this contaminant has been making its way into Michigan’s drinking water. As a response to this behavior, Governor Whitmer signed on to AG Nessel’s lawsuit against 17 individual companies, including 3M and DuPont, who have been some of the worst offenders of PFAS discharge into the environment. This is the first legal action on behalf of Michigan residents against PFAS contamination. In the lawsuit, AG Nessel claims the 17 defendants harmed the health of Michigan residents by concealing the dangers of PFAS and knowingly using PFAS and PFAS-containing materials that would eventually contaminate natural resources and expose the public to harm. The complaint states the 17 companies knew, or should have known, these chemicals would persist in the environment for a long period of time and become concentrated inside plants and animals. The suit also states the companies should have been aware of the potential or confirmed carcinogenic effects of these “forever chemicals,” and that the continued production of PFAS would increase levels in the environment and people's bodies. We thank Governor Whitmer for supporting AG Nessel as she defends the public health of millions of Michigan residents by holding bad actors accountable who contaminate Michigan’s environment.
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  • Grand River Dredging Project Halted - Weight 2
    Monday November 25th, 2019
    On November 25th, 2019 a highly controversial proposal to dredge a 23-mile-long stretch of the Grand River was scrapped by the Michigan DNR. The dredging project would have churned up toxins, caused habitat damage in Michigan’s largest river and sent dredged material and eroded sediment flowing downstream.  The project was cast as an economic boon to the area by it's sponsors - which included local developers, but communities along the river banks overwhelmingly opposed the project - with many registering their opposition through formal resolution.  The DNR’s decision to shut down the project is a definitive win for our environment.  Michigan LCV was impressed by the sustained dissent from West Michigan residents and advocates who quickly mobilized to defeat the project.  The legislature had previously appropriated initial funding for the project during the Snyder Administration with little transparency and no public debate.      
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  • Solar Bill Signed on Solar Panel - Weight 1
    Thursday November 14th, 2019
    On November 14th, 2019 Governor Whitmer signed a bipartisan, bicameral three bill package into law that would would would reinstate the property tax exemption for alternative energy systems that was in effect from 2002 until 2012. They would also exclude residential solar panels from being considered as true cash value under real property tax during an assessment. Taken together, these proposals would simplify our current patchwork system around taxation of distributed energy systems. The package, HB 4465 (Rabhi, D), 4069 (Kahle, R) and SB 47 (Barrett, R), would make it easier for Michigan residents to invest in renewable energy systems. Governor Whitmer signed the bill package while in attendance at the 7th Annual EIBC Michigan Energy Innovators Gala, going so far as to physically sign the bill on a solar panel.  Michigan LCV is enthusiastic about the potential outcomes of this bill package, and we appreciate Governor Whitmer for her clear pro-renewables position. 
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  • Line 5 Tunnel Authorization Law (PA 359) Summary Judgement Appealed - Weight 1
    Thursday October 31st, 2019
    Back in March of this year, Attorney General Nessel issued an opinion stating that the Mackinac Straits Authority (hastily signed into law during the 2019 lame duck period) was unconstitutional on the grounds that the title of the bill did not match the scope of authority granted to the authority in the legislative text.  A bill’s legislative text is supposed to match its title so that lawmakers have a clear indication of what they are voting on. Public Act 359 was passed by the Legislature in order to provide Enbridge Enbridge certain legal assurances for the construction of their Line 5 tunnel project. The Attorney General’s legal opinion prompted Governor Whitmer to order that Enbridge cease all construction on the tunnel, which in turn prompted Enbridge to file a lawsuit against Governor Whitmer.  Unfortunately, on October 31st, 2019 the Michigan Court of Claims granted a summary judgment, effectively reinstating the Mackinac Straits Authority by overturning the AG’s prior legal opinion. Both Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel were swift in their decisions that the state of Michigan would appeal this ruling. Michigan LCV applauds this action to protect our Great Lakes from a catastrophic spill and mitigate air, water and climate pollution. 
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  • Michigan Public Service Commission Launches MI Power Grid - Weight 1
    Thursday October 17th, 2019
    On Oct. 17, 2019 Governor Whitmer joined with the Michigan Public Service Commission to announce a new MI Power Grid Initiative, designed to help Michiganders navigate the rapidly changing world of energy generation, especially as we transition from old, dirty fuel sources to new clean and renewable energy. MI Power Grid will serve as a source of credible information to educate energy consumers on the renewable energy sources available to them, as well as encourage utility companies to focus on smaller, more decentralized forms of energy production like wind and solar. The initiative has three main emphases: 
    1. Customer engagement 
    2. Integrating emerging technologies 
    3. Optimizing grid performance and investment 
    MI Power Grid will build off of Michigan's 2016 energy laws, and MLCV applauds Gov. Whitmer and the Michigan Public Service Commission working together to increase access to affordable, clean energy and educate ratepayers about the clean energy opportunities available to them. 
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  • Governor Expands Regional Environmental Cooperation and Grows Partnerships - Weight 2
    Tuesday October 15th, 2019
    Governor Whitmer has made collaboration with other Midwest and Great Lakes Governors a priority in her approach on environmental issues.  Issues impacting Michigan’s air, land, and water don’t stop at political borders, nor should the work to address them. Below we briefly document a set of actions demonstrating this effort: -March 13, 2019 Governor Whitmer issued a joint statement with Ohio Governor DeWine, Wisconsin Governor Evers, Pennsylvania Governor Wolf, and Illinois Governor Pritzker opposing the Trump administration’s proposed 90 percent budget cut to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.   -April 16, 2019 Governor Whitmer joined Great Lakes Governors Tom Wolf, Tim Walz, Tony Evers, and J. B. Pritzker, opposing President Trump’s April 10, 2019 executive order on Harmful Water Quality Certifications.  The governors wrote to the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Andrew Wheeler, that it is their responsibility to protect the Great Lakes and it’s watersheds within their boundaries, and states need the authority to certify, revoke, or revise federal permits of discharges into waters of the United States per Section 401 Clean Water Act.  -June 14, 2019 Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, and Rod Phillips, Ontario’s Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, pledged their commitment to the goals of the Western Basin of Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement and their intention to reduce phosphorus inputs to the Western Lake Erie Basin by 40 percent by 2025, with an interim goal of a 20 percent reduction by 2020. -On Oct. 15 Governor Whitmer led a bipartisan coalition of Great Lakes governors to protect America’s wildlife. Governors DeWine (R-OH), Evers (D-WI), Wolf (D-PA), Pritzker (D-IL), and Walz (D-MN), sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources voicing their support for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, sponsored by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12), will help conserve and recover our nation’s fish and wildlife by dedicating $1.3 billion for state-level conservation and $97.5 million to Tribal nations to recover and sustain healthy fish and wildlife populations. The funds will be used to accelerate the recovery of the more than 12,000 species of greatest conservation need across the country by implementing the strategies identified in each state’s Congressionally-mandated State Wildlife Action Plan. 
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  • Joined with Other Governors Sending a Letter to Federal Armed Service Committees Urging Action on PFAS - Weight 1
    Wednesday September 18th, 2019
    On Sept.18, 2019 Governor Whitmer joined a bipartisan group of 14 state Governors to urge the United States House & Senate Armed Service Committee to take swift action on PFAS contamination. The letter highlighted several key provisions related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act and asked for those provisions to be included in the final legislation. These provisions include requiring the EPA to set an enforceable, nationwide drinking water standard under the Safe Drinking Water Act, to list PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, and to revise the list of toxic pollutants under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly known as the Clean Water Act) to include PFAS and publish effluent and pretreatment standards.  The letter also called for an accelerated timeline for the phase out of PFAS firefighting foam, and urged the U.S. Department of Defense to work with affected states to remediate PFAS contamination as soon as possible. These requests also include access to funding for the National Guard Bureau, and authorization for the U.S. Geological Survey to develop advanced testing methods for PFAS contamination. MLCV applauds this effort to urge our Federal government to step in on this important issue.   
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  • Michigan Leads by Example on Clean Energy and Climate - Weight 1
    Thursday August 8th, 2019
    On Aug. 8, 2019 Governor Whitmer announced that the State of Michigan would start a program to lead by example on environmental sustainability in its facilities. “I have directed Departments to implement more sustainable practices in state buildings and reduce energy usage where possible,” said Whitmer. “These steps are a win-win for the environment and taxpayers. By improving our government’s environmental footprint while lowering energy costs we’re able to prove that sustainable practices can and will work across our state from rural, forested locations to downtown Detroit.”  Many state departments are involved in this initiative including the Department of Natural Resources, where a pilot program has been introduced that aims to integrate renewable energy into the day to day operations of the department, and the Department of Corrections, where efforts have been made to create our states first “green prison” at the St. Louis correctional facility in Jackson. The Department of Technology, Management and Budget has also been instructed to double down on past sustainability efforts, as well as carry out energy audits in departments with some of the largest carbon footprints in the state, like MDOT and MDHHS.  The lead by example approach continued to move forward on Sept. 17 when the Governor released Executive Directive 16.  The Directive requires all state buildings to implement a recycling program where feasible. This effort would also be overseen by the DTMB, and was put into effect immediately with the release of the executive directive. 
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  • Appointed Tremaine Phillips to the Michigan Public Service Commission - Weight 2
    Wednesday July 17th, 2019
    On July 17, 2019 Governor Whitmer doubled down on her commitment to appointing knowledgeable clean and efficient energy experts to the Michigan Public Service Commission. Phillips was the Director of the Cincinnati 2030 District – helping the city become an emerging leader in sustainability by reducing water and energy usage from buildings. Greater Cincinnati was recently recognized by Site Selection Magazine as the most sustainable metro area in the country for the second year in a row. Before his work in Cincinnati, Phillips started his career in environmental politics in Michigan, working at the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth as well as at the Michigan Environmental Council.  The three-member Michigan Public Service Commission is responsible for regulating public utilities, including electric power, telecommunications and natural gas services. With the appointment of Tremaine Phillips, as well as the recent appointment of Dan Scripps , Governor Whitmer positioned Michigan to prepare itself for the next generation of decision making at the MPSC. 
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  • Anti-Asian Carp Coalition and Great Lakes Agenda Announced - Weight 1
    Wednesday July 10th, 2019
    This summer Governor Whitmer joined international and multi-state coalitions to protect our Great Lakes from PFAS, invasive species, and to address failing infrastructure.  MI approved a resolution to increase PFAs strategy and coordination with other Midwest states; signed a memorandum of understanding on regional cooperation and enforcement around aquatic and invasive species; and on July 10, 2019, Governor Whitmer joined the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers in entering a Basin-wide coalition to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin by taking action at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam on the Des Plaines River in Illinois.  On July 29, 2019, Governor Whitmer joined a coalition of Great Lakes governors from Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to announce a Great Lakes 2020 Presidential Agenda, and encouraged all presidential candidates to adopt this strategic plan which combats the critical factors that are currently threatening our water and public health.  The Great Lakes 2020 Presidential Agenda outlines six items that address the need to protect and preserve the ecology, economy, and the health of the Great Lakes and the region's inland waterways.  Those platforms include:
    • Triple the federal investment into the Clean and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds to address our region’s $179 billion backlog in water infrastructure 
    • Ramp up funding for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to $475 million per year
    • Commit federal funding and resources to helping states in meeting their goals of reducing nutrient pollution in the Western Lake Erie basin by 40 percent by 2025
    • Push for increased federal action of both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Defense to address PFAS contamination.
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  • DNR Directed to Review Enbridge Line 5 Pipeline Easement; Added Protections Against Anchor Strikes - Weight 1
    Thursday June 27th, 2019
    On June 27, 2019 Governor Whitmer directed Michigan’s DNR to complete a thorough examination of Enbridge’s compliance with the 1953 easement that allows them to operate in the Straits. We appreciate the objectives and intent behind this action, but so far have no new information indicating that Governor Whitmer is closer to taking legal action to shut down Line 5.  We support a robust easement review, and are eager to learn its conclusions. Regardless, Line 5 ‘spills every day’ when the fossil fuels passing through it are finally combusted. In addition to the air and water pollution this combustion generates, overwhelming scientific consensus unequivocally demands that we move away from fossil fuels in the very near term to mitigate the most devastating impacts from climate change that Michiganders are already beginning to experience every day.  Moving the line through a tunnel will unnecessarily lock Michigan into another generation of fossil fuels burdening the economy with a massively expensive stranded asset.   On May 15 the governor called on the Coast Guard and ordered the DNR to prepare and file an emergency rule to require large vessels to verify no anchors are dragging prior to passing through the Straits
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  • Lead and Copper Rule Public Awareness Campaign; Increased Funding - Weight 2
    Wednesday June 26th, 2019
    On June 26, 2019 Governor Whitmer announced a public awareness campaign to educate Michanders on lead in their drinking water and the new approach to be implemented by the state under the state’s recently strengthened Lead and Copper Rule. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) will institute new water sampling rules and simultaneously increase communication to Michigan residents about how and why these testing changes are occurring to their drinking water. On June 24 $3 million in new funding was appropriated to the Department of Health and Human Services to implement the new initiative including $832,000 for public education, $484,000 for drinking water investigations in homes, and $1.7 million for water filters. 
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  • Executive Directive to Reduce Phosphorus in Lake Erie - Weight 1
    Thursday June 20th, 2019
    On June 20, 2019 Governor Whitmer issued an Executive Directive guiding the state in implementation of the additional steps necessary to meet the Michigan Direct Action Plan (DAP) goals of reducing phosphorus in Lake Erie 40% by 2025. Adopted in February of 2018, the MI DAP includes two objectives to improve the health of Lake Erie: 1) fulfilling commitments under the Western Lake Erie Basin Collaborative Agreement and 2) meeting the targeted phosphorus reductions and nutrient-related ecosystem goals for Lake Erie under Annex 4 of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Governor Whitmer’s Executive Directive confirms those objectives and recommends new interim goals. The DAP’s goals include reducing total annual and spring phosphorus loads in the Detroit River, River Raisin and Maumee River, and calls for an annual report to the Governor’s office from MDARD, EGLE and the MDNR on their progress. The directive serves as a public statement that the Whitmer Administration intends to get serious about reducing nutrient runoff.  The proof will be in the implementation and future actions.  
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  • UP Energy Task Force Established; Statewide Energy Assessment Completed - Weight 1
    Friday June 7th, 2019
    On June 7, 2019, Governor Whitmer issued Executive Order 14 creating the new UP Energy Task Force.  The group was assembled to address issues of energy access and affordability for Michiganders living in the Upper Peninsula, and to mitigate risk in the eventuality of an energy supply disruption if Line 5 is shutdown.  The task force was created as an advisory body within the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, and includes 13 voting members appointed by the Governor. It will examine and presents solutions to an assortment of UP energy issues including high rates, energy efficiency, and lack of supply diversity. It also assess and catalogues current UP energy needs, formulates alternative energy provisioning systems, and explores new energy delivery methods tailored to the UP. On September 11, 2019 The Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) released its final Statewide Energy Assessment called for by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.  The report identified near and long term steps the Commission and its staff will lead to ensure that Michigan’s systems for supplying and distributing energy to homes and businesses become more resilient and able to withstand weather extremes, aging infrastructure and other challenges ahead. The final report makes 37 recommendations and 15 observations to improve the state’s energy systems including improvement of Michigan’s demand response capability, energy efficiency programming, and the development of a formal contingency plan for continued supply and delivery of propane in the event of disruptions, including the shutdown of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.
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  • Farmland Preservation Program opened to solar energy - Weight 1
    Monday June 3rd, 2019
    Governor Whitmer and MDARD Director Gary McDowell rolled out a decision on June 3 to allow open land protected under the MDARD’s Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program to be utilized for commercial solar energy arrays. Designed to conserve farmland and open space, the program provides tax incentives to landowners who commit to leaving their land undeveloped for non-agricultural purposes. Solar arrays represent a unique opportunity for this space because their footprint allows for pollinator habitat and cover crops to be grown underneath the panels, while allowing for 100% removal and remediation following the end of the productive life of the installation. This decision amends the Farmland Development Rights program to allow solar while deferring tax credits until the solar array reaches the end of its lifespan, provided the land is returned to agricultural use. Almost 3.4 million acres of Michigan farm land are enrolled in this program. The change will make it easier to deploy new solar projects even as developers are facing increasing local siting challenges. 
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  • Office of Outdoor Recreation Created within DNR; MI joins U.S. Confluence of States - Weight 1
    Wednesday May 1st, 2019
    On May 1, 2019, Governor Whitmer and MDNR Director Dan Eichinger announced the creation of the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry. The new office, working closely with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will oversee an expansion of Michigan’s outdoor recreation economy. The department will highlight Michigan’s tourism driven businesses, work with industry partners to stay on top of new trends in outdoor recreation, promote Michigan’s outdoor tourism industry, and grow the constituency necessary to ensure our environment is protected.  Outdoor recreation generates some $26.6 billion a year in consumer spending; 232,000 direct jobs, $7.5 billion in wages and salaries, and $2.1 billion in state and local tax revenue.  On September 11, Gov. Whitmer named former Michigan Environmental Council staffer Brad Garmon to director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry, and in October, Michigan joined joined the Confluence of States on Outdoor Recreation - a growing national effort to build public awareness about the economic, social and public health benefits of outdoor play.  The Confluence provides a unified voice for the businesses and organizations that make up the industry, and joining the group enables Michigan to help drive the national discussion on outdoor recreation.
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  • Pro-Conservation Appointments & Designations to the Great Lakes Commission - Weight 1
    Thursday March 28th, 2019
    On March 28, Governor Whitmer announced her appointees to represent Michigan at the Great Lakes Commission, an interstate agency started in 1955 to encourage environmental  cooperation, economic development and the thoughtful stewardship of our shared Great Lakes. Governor Whitmer’s appointees include two main delegates and two alternates, and all four come to the role with a focus and history of conservation. Governor Whitmer’s two main appointees are Marc Smith and James Clift, while her alternate designees are Kara Cook and Jennifer McKay. Marc Smith is the current director of conservation partnerships for the National Wildlife Foundation of Michigan, and James Clift is the senior Great Lakes advisor at the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. Governor Whitmer’s alternate appointees are equally committed to our environment, with Jennifer McKay serving as the policy director for the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, and Kara Cook serving as Governor Whitmer’s environmental policy advisor, and is a former Michigan LCV staffer. Governor Whitmer’s appointees represent her strong commitment to protecting our Great Lakes and will be excellent representatives of our state to the Great Lakes Commission.
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  • Directed EGLE to Establish Drinking Water Standards for PFAS - Weight 2
    Tuesday March 26th, 2019
    On Tuesday, March 26 Governor Whitmer asked MPART (Michigan PFAS Action Response Team) to create a Science Advisory Workgroup (SAW) tasked with reviewing existing and proposed Maximum Contaminant Level standards for PFAS in drinking water. After a scientific review, SAW proposed the regulation of 7 PFAS chemicals. After an initial round of informal stakeholder engagement, EGLE formally submitted draft rules to the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules (MOAHR) on October 1, 2019.  Currently the EPA Health Safety Advisory for PFAS is 70 parts per trillion, but the federal advisory is not enforceable and science has demonstrated that the threshold necessary to protect human health and safety is lower. The state level action is particularly important as the EPA has shown few signs that they will take action any time soon in updating national PFAS drinking water standards.
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  • Prioritizing Clean Drinking Water in Executive Budget Proposal - Weight 3
    Tuesday March 5th, 2019
    The governor's 2020 budget called for $120 million for safe, clean drinking water. The $120 million included:
    • $37.5 million for Lead and Copper Rule Implementation to make grants for lead service line replacements in vulnerable communities, technical help, and supporting local community education efforts. 
    • $30 million allocated to funding for cleanup activities, technology development, cleanup solutions, and research and health studies to inform water standards. 
    • $40 million for Drinking Water Revolving Fund (DWRF) Loan Forgiveness to resolve issues with communities with drinking water challenges having outstanding DWRF loans that often prevent needed infrastructure improvements.  
    Additionally, in the governor’s School Aid Budget, $61.5 million in one-time school aid funding was proposed for new hydration stations in Michigan schools.  The initiative would direct EGLE to create a program that would dedicate at least 1 hydration station per every 100 pupils per school building for clean, filtered drinking water. In 2016 Governor Snyder’s 21st Century Task Force documented Michigan’s annual water infrastructure needs to be more than $800 million annually.  The Governor’s one-time, $180 million dollar proposal does not fill this funding gap or solve our drinking water issues, but it is a meaningful start. The proposal targets key drinking water priorities and gives lawmakers, stakeholders, and advocates more time to find a comprehensive, sustainable solution.    
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  • Dan Scripps Appointed to the Michigan Public Service Commission - Weight 2
    Friday February 8th, 2019
    On February 8, 2019, Governor Whitmer appointed former State Representative Dan Scripps to the Michigan Public Service Commision, the Michigan agency responsible for regulating public utilities, like Consumers and DTE Energy. Scripps has a history of promoting clean energy. After graduating with a law degree from the University of Michigan, Scripps went to work for Latham & Watkins LLP, a Washington, D.C. based law firm with a focus on clean energy regulation and climate change mitigation. Scripps went on to serve as a representative in Michigan’s 104th state house district (Leelenau, Benzie, Manistee) where he supported clean energy and conservation policies. Scripps also served as President of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council from 2012-2017, a trade association for clean energy businesses, and most recently as the Midwest Policy Program Director for the Energy Foundation. Scripps comes to the appointment with a wealth of knowledge on our energy industry and is well suited to equitably evaluate clean and efficient energy policies on behalf of Michiganders and ratepayers.      
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  • Revamping the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE); Creating the Office of Climate and Energy, and the Offices of the Environmental Justice and Clean Water Public Advocates (Executive Order 2, Executive Order 6) - Weight 2
    Monday February 4th, 2019
    On February 4, 2019 Governor Whitmer issued Executive Order 2 to restructure and re-focus the Department of Environmental Quality. The change signals a much needed culture shift in the tone and approach the new department will take.  The move is intended to improve staff morale, increase Department accountability and transparency, and focus the organization around protecting human health and the environment. In addition to the Department’s amended structure, Governor Whitmer directed the department to create new offices, processes, duties, and responsibilities including the Offices of the Clean Water Public Advocate, Climate & Energy, and Environmental Justice Public Advocate. Governor Whitmer appointed Regina Strong, formerly of the Sierra Club, to the office of Environmental Justice Public Advocate, and recently appointed Ninah Sasy to the office of Clean Water Public Advocate.  The Order also created a staff reporting system built into the bureaucracy to ensure that critical public health issues could not be neglected going forward. Executive Order 2 eliminated the three controversial “Fox in the Henhouse” Oversight committees that ceded rule and permit decision making power of the DEQ to Committees of Snyder Appointees - many from the very industries and entities they were responsible for regulating.  However, the legislature rejected this Executive Order forcing it to be reissued with two of the three panels still intact in Executive Order 6.
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  • Pro-Environment Appointments to MDEQ, MDNR & MDARD Directorships - Weight 1
    Tuesday January 15th, 2019
    Governor Whitmer announced her appointments for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). To head the DEQ Governor Whitmer appointed Liesl Eichler Clark, co-founder and former partner of 5 Lakes Energy, a clean energy policy firm. Clark also previously served as the President of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, and comes to the appointment with a strong clean energy background. To lead the MDNR Governor Whitmer tapped former Michigan United Conservation Clubs Executive Director Daniel Eichinger, who also served as former Lieutenant Governor John Cherry’s policy advisor during the Granholm administration. Eichinger worked previously at MDNR, serving as legislative liaison and assistant to the chief of the wildlife division. Finally, Whitmer named Gary McDowell to head MDARD. McDowell is a farmer and a lifelong resident of Rudyard MI, where he represented District 107 in the Michigan House of Representatives for six years and served as the vice chair of the Agricultural Appropriations subcommittee.   The three appointments represent a notable change in Governor Whitmer’s approach to these departments. In contrast to the business-centered focus of past Snyder appointees, Governor Whitmer is signaling her commitment to environmental protection by choosing leaders with knowledge and a record of conservation. With Ms. Clark’s history as a clean energy advocate, Mr. Eichinger’s long standing professional conservation focus, and Mr. McDowell’s pro-environment record in the State House, these three appointees represent a notable turn towards protecting our air, land and water.
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  • Requested Legal Review for Lame Duck Line 5 Tunnel Legislation - Weight 3
    Wednesday January 2nd, 2019
    As one of her first actions in office, Governor Whitmer asked Attorney General (AG) Dana Nessel  to conduct a legal review of whether the legislative approval of a proposed new Enbridge tunnel around Line 5 is in compliance with state law. The legislation in question (Public Act 359) was rushed through the legislature during an aggressively anti-environmental lame duck period.  It created the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority endowed with the authority to approve and oversee the implementation of a tunnel to eventually house and replace the existing pipeline. The newly created authority immediately gave its approval on Dec. 19, 2018 to the tunnel proposal agreement struck with Enbridge by Governor Snyder in an effort to tie the hands of the incoming Governor and Attorney General.  Governor Whitmer’s request to AG Nessel asked important legal questions including: Does the new law violate Michigan’s Constitution? Has the Corridor Authority acted with more power than specifically enacted in PA 359? And more.   On Friday, March 29, 2019 Governor Whitmer halted state of Michigan departmental activity related to construction of the Enbridge Line 5 tunnel. This move was in response to AG Nessel’s official opinion dubbing the newly created Mackinac Corridor Authority unconstitutional and thereby retroactively unable to approve any new construction under the straits of Mackinac. Enbridge is still able to apply for a regular permit for building through Michigan’s standard permitting process, but they have yet to announce any such plans. While Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order to halt all construction on the proposed tunnel does not apply to the Line 5 pipeline itself, this is a significant step in the right direction. The 66 year old Line 5 is years beyond it’s engineered lifetime and represents an existential threat to the Straits as well as Lake’s Michigan and Huron. It also transports oil and gas that damages the land where it is exploited and pollutes the air and water when combusted, contributing to climate change.
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1 Neutral
  • Updates to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Permit Rules - Weight 3
    Wednesday April 1st, 2020
    CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations, produce an enormous amount of waste and are one of the main contributors to nutrient runoff pollution in Michigan, releasing excess nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen that end up in our lakes, streams, and rivers. An overabundance of these nutrients degrades water quality and can cause toxic algae blooms in adjacent bodies of water like the August 2014 bloom in Lake Erie that led to a water crisis in the city of Toledo. During the fall of 2019, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), released a proposed update to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program for CAFOs. CAFO’s have at least 1,000 “animal units' on the premise, need a permit to operate. One animal unit is equal to 1,000 pounds of animal weight, equivalent to about 700 dairy cows or 80,000 egg laying hens. The state estimates about 260 farms fall under this classification. The state has been delegated authority to issue NPDES permits by the U.S. EPA and is required to update the permit program every five years, with the previous update adopted in 2015. EGLE’s new CAFO permit includes a combination of larger changes and smaller technical tweaks, highlighted by new restrictions on applying livestock manure on farm fields during winter months when the ground has the highest likelihood of being frozen and nutrients are unable to be absorbed into the soil. The prohibition will apply to the months of January, February, and March, unless there is less than two inches of frost, four inches of snow, the soil tests low for phosphorus levels and the manure is immediately injected or tilled into the field. Farms will also be prohibited from selling this waste during the three winter months in question. There are, however, no limitations in the rule on transporting waste for composting or sending it out of state during winter months. In addition to the restriction on when it can be applied, the new permit rules require farms to now have at least six months of waste storage capacity at all times. There will be new quarterly electronic reporting requirements for waste application and soil tests must now be done using one of two approved methods to ensure manure application is necessary and meets standards. The allowable level of phosphorus in a farm’s soil has also been significantly reduced. Although Michigan LCV recognizes the incremental progress made by EGLE towards fixing our state’s urgent nutrient runoff problem, the requirement for the Department to update the CAFO permit process at the five year mark was an opportunity to make significant progress on an issue where little progress has been demonstrated for years. This permit is a powerful tool EGLE could have used to quickly diminish agriculture pollution entering Michigan’s surface waters from a significant source. To maximum use of this tool, the permit should have included a complete restriction on winter waste applications without exception, a requirement for soil testing to be done exclusively using the Michigan Phosphorus Risk Assessment (MPRA) -- a more accurate tool that takes into account erosion, runoff, distance to surface water, and other important measures -- and strengthened waste management provisions, among other inclusions. In fact, the draft version of the permit included many of these much stronger environmental protections than the watered down final rule. Incremental improvements are failing to significantly limit the amount of nutrient runoff heading into Michigan’s watersheds and are failing to demonstrate improvement on the ground. Opportunities like this twice-per-decade permit update must be capitalized on if we are to solve pressing environmental problems and protect both our precious natural resources and the health of our residents. This was a missed opportunity.
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2 Negative
  • Signed Bill Adding Unnecessary Surcharge to Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Owners - Weight 1
    Wednesday July 1st, 2020
    After Michigan LCV expressed serious concern and objection to the bill to the legislature, Governor Whitmer signed a HB 5313 (S-1) that changes the definition of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) which will increase the amount PHEV owners pay in registration fees to the Secretary of State each year. Although Michigan LCV recognizes the unique budget challenges that face our state as we try to update and upgrade our failing transportation infrastructure, we believe PHEV owners are already paying more than their fair share towards fixing Michigan’s roads. PHEV drivers currently pay more than standard combustion-engine drivers in both sales tax and value-based vehicle registration fees based on their higher market value. Additionally, PHEV drivers deliver public good benefits to all of us in the form of decreased tailpipe emissions that are inefficient and bad for public health. By adding yet another fee on PHEV drivers, HB 5313 (S-1) disincentivizes the purchase of electric vehicles for middle- and low-income individuals at a time when Michigan’s big auto companies have signaled a transition towards electrifying their fleets. Rather than incrementally increasing financial barriers to purchasing efficient vehicles, our elected leaders should be recognizing the benefits of PHEVs and other advanced automobiles, and work to rapidly move us towards a clean transportation fleet. The Governor missed an opportunity here to talk about the benefits of advanced autos and allowed the legislative majority to continue marching in the opposite direction.
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  • Governor Doesn’t Join AG Lawsuit against Enbridge - Weight 2
    Thursday June 27th, 2019
    After weeks of talks between Enbridge and Governor Whitmer to reach a conclusion on the proposed tunnel project through the straits of Mackinac, Enbridge ended negotiations by walking away from the table and filing suit against the State of Michigan. In response, on June 27, 2019 Attorney General Nessel used her independent authority to file suit against Enbridge. Michigan LCV supported that decision and joined a coalition of environmental groups asking the Governor to join the lawsuit. Despite urging from the environmental community and others who supported Governor Whitmer on her campaign, Whitmer has not yet joined AG Nessel in her lawsuit. The Governor joining the suit would decidedly strengthen the AG’s lawsuit, and we are disappointed in her office for not yet taking this important step to fulfill her campaign promises and protect one of Michigan’s most valuable resources.
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