Washington Weekly: March 30, 2022
This Week’s Headlines
- Serious Drip: Last Thursday, the Michigan Legislature passed Senate Bill 565 which will invest $4.7 billion to clean up and protect our water, fund state and local parks, repair roads and bridges, remove lead pipes and more. This historic, bipartisan bill will be transformative in ensuring Michiganders have access to clean, safe drinking water for generations to come. Much of this funding is from federal sources, made possible through the American Rescue Plan Act (enacted early 2021) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (enacted mid-2021).
- Ballin’ On A Budget: Released this week, President Biden’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 includes billions of dollars in new funding for environmental and science agencies – including the Department of Energy and the EPA – that would help the federal government address climate change. While exciting, the Biden administration’s budget proposals will be subject to Congressional review before being finalized.
- It’s Getting Hot In Here: The 2021 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) science report released recently features the alarming results of a long-term study of Lake Michigan’s deep water temperatures. The results, which point to a warming trend that could negatively impact the Great Lakes ecosystem, is yet another sign of the accelerating climate crisis.
A Deeper Dive
In the March 9th edition of the Washington Weekly, we warned of the oil and gas industry taking advantage of the war in Ukraine for profit and to double down on the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. Flash forward to today and we are starting to see the industry winning battles to lock in more fossil fuel use.
In February, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) made a monumental decision to consider the impacts of climate change when deciding whether or not to approve energy projects, like pipelines or natural gas terminals. This week, the commission unanimously withdrew the decision. Politico reports that FERC Chairman Rich Glick changed his mind on the policy after discussions with pipeline and natural gas companies. In yet another egregious example of the stranglehold the fossil fuel industry has on our politics, the supposedly politically-independent commission fell victim to lobbyists’ interests. Among those who praised FERC’s policy reversal was none other than Senator Joe Manchin.
This week, Senate Majority Leader Schumer acknowledged that getting a budget reconciliation bill passed is a top priority for the caucus for the first time since Sen. Manchin dealt the death blow to the Build Back Better Act. While this is a positive development, Manchin still holds the keys to any reconciliation legislation and has labeled his priorities as “deficit reduction” and an “all of the above” energy approach.
Reading into the tea leaves, an “all of the above” energy approach means more fossil fuel development. The Washington Post reported Manchin is looking for the Biden administration to open up oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, which will be closed June 30 unless the Department of the Interior updates its policy.
While Senator Manchin may be on board with clean energy tax credits – the lynchpin climate policy of the Build Back Better Act – locking in decades of emissions through new fossil fuel leases is incompatible with addressing climate change. It is concerning that Manchin is reportedly looking to secure industry favors in exchange for his vote, although corruption is nothing new for Manchin as the New York Times profiles here.
In another oil and gas industry win, the Biden administration announced a deal with the European Union to send more American natural gas to Europe. With U.S export capacity already running at a maximum, this would likely mean building new terminals which would require long-term contracts to make the investment worthwhile for financiers.
As negotiations on a potential reconciliation package move forward – and as the war in Ukraine continues – it is essential that the advocacy community, and lawmakers, draw a line in the sand when it comes to expanding fossil fuel infrastructure. As the International Energy Agency has concluded, there is no space in the carbon budget for any new fossil fuel development.
The Michigan LCV Difference
The passage of Senate Bill 565 last week was not only a big win for Michigan and our water, but also a big win for the Michigan LCV team.
Over the past several months, since the legislation was introduced, our teams worked diligently to raise awareness for the dire need to invest in our aging water infrastructure as well as build support for the legislation that will give us the chance to do so. From executing a layered communications strategy to advocating for action in Lansing to connecting with our members and volunteers to build a strong coalition of voices calling for action to protect our water, our teams were instrumental in moving the needle forward on this historic legislation.
Particularly integral to our efforts was our Advocacy & Outreach (A&O) team, who worked tirelessly to connect with volunteers and advocate for the passage of Senate Bill 565. The A&O team executed numerous phone banks and direct actions for volunteers to plug into, logging hundreds of patch-through calls to lawmakers’ offices and giving Michiganders a platform to make their voices heard to their representatives in Lansing.
We are ecstatic about the passage of Senate Bill 565 and the investments the legislation will make for the improvement of our drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater infrastructure. The bill’s $4.7 billion of investments – the majority of which will come from the American Rescue Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) – will be transformative for our state, our communities, and our economy, and set Michigan on a path towards ensuring clean, safe drinking water for all in the very near future, and for years to come.
Now that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed the bill, we encourage you to take a minute to thank her. Click here to send a message to Gov. Whitmer thanking her for investing to protect our drinking water and the health of our communities for years to come.
Thanks for reading, and have a great week!