Dear Michigan LCV Family,
Welcome to the August 11, 2022 edition of Three Things Thursday! This week we take a look at historic action to address the climate crisis in Washington, DC; the importance of ensuring Michigan’s two major utilities continue to move away from fossil fuels; and an event in SE Michigan featuring Sec. of State Jocelyn Benson (+ an update on the hexavalent chromium “spill” in the Huron River). There’s certainly never a dull moment.
Let’s jump in!
1. The Inflation Reduction Act & Michigan LCV’s climate work
After the U.S. Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) by a 51-50 vote over the weekend (thank you, VP Kamala Harris!), we are closer to substantive climate action on the part of the federal government than ever before. With a vote in the House expected tomorrow, the legislation should reach President Biden’s desk by early next week for his signature. This is a huge deal.
As Kate Arnoff wrote in The New Republic:
In just a few years, the conversation about climate policy has shifted from narrow talk of carbon pricing to a focus on federal investment. The fact that anything called climate policy managed to get through a razor-thin 50-50 majority in the U.S. Senate is astonishing. And it’s largely climate and environmental justice groups that moved the needle: from indigenous-led resistance to fossil fuel infrastructure that put issues of extraction on sovereignty on the table, to organizers in Flint helping place a focus on environmental racism, and the Sunrise Movement—influenced by all of the above—that sat in for the Green New Deal and didn’t shut up about it.”
The IRA is a critical jumpstart to our economic, technological, and cultural transition to a clean energy future. It’s also the best tool we have to fight inflation and energy price volatility going forward. There are some massively positive elements in this piece of legislation, including but not limited to:
- The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions 37-41% by 2030
- The creation of 1.4-1.5 million jobs by 2030
- The prevention of up to 3,900 premature deaths and 100,000 asthma attacks annually by 2030 by cleaning up our air, land and water
- The reduction of energy costs and price volatility by getting our electric grid off of fossil fuels and onto stable renewable energy
- The provision of $7 billion in pollution clean up funding
- The provision of $3 billion in block grants for community led projects
- The establishment of a $7 billion green bank fund aimed at deploying renewable energy in low-income communities
- The provision of $3 billion for improving transportation access for communities burdened by current transportation infrastructure problems
And, very importantly, the bill makes sure corporations are paying their fare share by establishing a 15% corporate minimum tax and closing other tax loopholes.
That said, we share the concerns of environmental justice and low-income communities who will be disproportionately impacted by the fossil fuel giveaways in this bill. While we believe the reduction in air, land, and water pollution from the passage of this bill will have incalculable benefits to our state and those who have shouldered– and continue to shoulder – the brunt of toxic pollution, there is no sugar coating the negative elements embedded in the legislation.
- It invests in false climate solutions, like carbon capture technologies that keep pollution sources near historically marginalized communities.
- It invests in a half billion dollar biofuel industry that, due to land-use changes, is not climate friendly (NOTE: Michigan LCV’s former board member, Jerry Jung, spent years fighting this dangerous and damaging industry).
- It mandates four offshore leases that were canceled earlier this year, three in the Gulf of Mexico and one in the Cook Inlet in Alaska.
- It ties renewable energy development to fossil fuel development for ten years by requiring for every wind or solar lease sale 60 million acres of offshore leases and 2 million acres of on shore leases must be made available for sale to oil and gas companies.
It is important to note that after dividing up the Biden administration’s climate agenda – better known as the Build Back Better Act – and passing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the cutting room floor was covered with critical climate provisions. While the climate deal we now have includes a number of those provisions – things the Michigan LCV team has fought for long and hard – Sen. Joe Manchin’s devious maneuverings and blatant bias for the oil, gas and coal industries narrowed the scope and substance, providing incentives to ramp up drilling and continue our dependence on fossil fuels.
In this week’s edition of the Washington Weekly, our Federal Government Affairs team discusses the upsides and downsides of the Inflation Reduction Act. It’s a good read and provides a deep(er) dive into the nitty gritty. I encourage you to take a look.
Please know that the Michigan LCV team’s work on federal climate action would not be possible without the dedication and determination of our two Federal Government Affairs teammates, Bentley Johnson and Hudson Villeneueve. Over the past year-plus, Bentley and Hudson have been our team’s guiding lights, keeping their ears to the ground in Washington and working with a variety of partners, lawmakers, and grassroots organizations to build a robust, powerful and united voice from Michigan to our lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The expert analysis they have provided on legislative developments and the political landscape have helped Michigan LCV execute robust communications efforts around the importance of climate action, including the Washington Weekly newsletter.
As the next chapter of climate work begins for Michigan LCV, Bentley and Hudson’s work will be ever-more important. Thank you, wonderful teammates, for your hard work and dedication.
2. DTE’s Integrated Resource Plan & holding our two utilities accountable
Given that the Inflation Reduction Act contains incentives for increased fossil fuel production and infrastructure, a key area of focus for the Michigan LCV team in the days ahead will be continuing to hold our two major utility companies accountable, notable as it pertains to the implementation of clean and renewable energy solutions that will help combat climate change.
Over the past few years, Michigan LCV has doubled down in our work to hold DTE and Consumers Energy accountable for the necessary transition away from fossil fuels, as well their poor service and their increased energy rates, which fall hard on the shoulders of homeowners and small businesses, particularly those who can least afford them.
This fall, DTE Energy will file their next Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) with the Michigan Public Service Commission, a plan that is a legally-required description of which energy sources the company plans to use over the next five-plus years. DTE’s IRP will come on the heels of Consumers’ Energy Integrated Resource Plan in which Michigan’s other major electric utility promised significant emissions reductions and a clean energy rollout.
Given that the Inflation Reduction Act provides incentives for continued fossil fuel use (as noted above), DTE’s upcoming IRP will be an exceptionally important time for Michiganders to make their voices heard, with the end goal of influencing how the utility will source its power and helping the state of Michigan achieve its overall climate goals.
To reach a 100% clean economy by 2050, as laid out in Governor Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan, experts agree we need our power sector to reach carbon neutrality by 2035. That means Michigan needs both major utilities to implement aggressive plans for decarbonization now. Unfortunately, DTE has historically lagged behind Consumers Energy (and other utilities across the nation) in transitioning to cleaner, more efficient and affordable sources of energy. The company is currently listed in the top 25 most carbon-emitting utilities in the country. DTE has promised to retire all of its coal plants by 2040 (Consumers Energy has agreed to retire theirs by 2025), but now we need them to turn those words into action.
Before filing their Integrated Resource Plan, DTE is soliciting public input on what should be in the IRP. This is where you come in: I strongly encourage you to use our one-step advocacy tool to send a message and urge DTE to retire their coal plants, accelerate the implementation of clean energy solutions, and help build a healthy climate for future generations in Michigan.
3. Michigan LCV event with special guest Sec. of State Benson
Last Thursday evening, Gary and Wendy Bice hosted a lovely event for Michigan LCV, with Secretary of State Joselyn Benson as our special guest.
The fundraiser was hosted by Garyand Wendy Bice at their wonderful home in Bloomfield.
Gary is a member of our fabulous board, as are Laura Berman and Erica Peresman, both of whom helped sponsor the gathering.
Amid continued attacks and threats to our democracy, it is essential that we have strong leadership in key offices to ensure our democracy is protected and Michigan’s elections remain free, secure, and accessible for all. In her first term as Secretary of State, Benson has proven beyond any doubt that she is the woman for the job.
Before executing an unprecedented election in 2020, one that saw a record level of voter participation, Secretary Benson wrote the book on what it means to serve as a secretary of state. She came to the position with a sense of the challenges and a deep commitment to tackle them. That said, nothing could have prepared her for the intense misinformation, intimidation, and attacks on our democracy following the 2020 election, all of which she has faced with determination, increasing transparency, accessibility and trust in our democratic process every step of the way.
I am proud to say that Secretary Benson sung the praises of Michigan LCV’s Democracy for All team and the work we have done (and continue to do!) to engage, educate and mobilize voters (our 313 Votes and 616 Votes programs), support clerks, play a leadership role in the Promote the Vote 2022 initiative and so much more.
From left to right: Michigan LCV’s Samantha Schubert, Victoria Stewart, Brooke Harris, and Evelyn Maidlow with Secretary Benson!
We will be rolling out our formal Michigan LCV endorsement of Benson’s re-election campaign in the days ahead. Stay tuned!
As always, thank you for all you do. Until next week….
P.S. Update on the hexavalent chromium contamination of the Huron River
The Michigan LCV team has been working closely with an array of organizations and the Michigan Department of Environment Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) to ensure residents along and adjacent to the Huron River are well informed about the recent “spill” of hexavalent chromium by Tribar Manufacturing into the Huron River near Wixom.
Here are some recent developments and resources to ensure you are up-to-date:
- EGLE has issued violation notices to Tribar Manufacturing.
- E&E News published a comprehensive article yesterday on the situation.
- The Ann Arbor City Council authorized legal action against Tribar Manufacturing.
The Huron River Watershed Council is also keeping the Huron River community as up-to-date as possible via their website, while also tracking the EGLE testing closely and sending out “river walkers” to warn those fishing, paddling and swimming in the river not eat the fish and prevent bodily contact with the water, notably in the area close to Wixom. Check out the HRWC website for more information.