New DTE Energy-affiliated dark money group launches, aims to influence Michigan politics

CO2 2022/2021 : 419.35 ppm / 417.07 ppm

Dear Michigan Climate News readers,

This week: A new "dark money" group is influencing politics in Michigan. affiliated with one of its largest utilities. Their aim? Likely maintaining a cap on solar energy. The MPSC wants more info before deciding on a new gas-and-oil pipeline in eh Straits of Mackinac. And Michigan is a leader in energy jobs, but our high power costs threaten the EV industry, which has driven much of the job growth.

— Nina Ignaczak, Editor of Michigan Climate News

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‘Protect Our Values’: A new DTE-affiliated dark money group has formed in Michigan, raising concerns about the utility using its money, some of which may come from your power bill, to influence state politics. The entity Protect Our Values may be mostly concerned with protecting the cap on rooftop solar. The group is backing House Energy Committee Chairman Joe Bellino, who has blocked a bipartisan effort to expand distributed generation in the state. "If they have all of this money to meddle in politics and try and pick and choose the lawmakers who are supposed to be regulating them, that's a serious problem," said Nick Dodge, communications director with the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. "The status quo has been protected for far too long, and we think something needs to change here, because we're not able to get legislation through to allow more people to take control of their energy costs," Dodge says the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) should require greater transparency from utilities, which operate as near monopolies and limit their use of dark money groups to influence elections. (MI Radio)

Delayed decision: The MPSC asked for more information about safety and engineering risks before allowing Enbridge Energy to move its Line 5 pipeline into a tunnel underneath the Straits of Mackinac. Enbridge bills the tunnel as a safe way to transport petroleum products through the straits and avoid damage like the apparent anchor strike that hit the pipeline in 2020. Pipeline opponents argue that the tunnel project poses dangers and would lock in fossil fuel use as the climate crisis accelerates. “Clearly, the commissioners are concerned about the monumental risks involved with this proposal,” said Sean McBrearty, spokesperson for Clean Water Action. “The risk of explosion, safety concerns about operating an oil and gas pipeline in a confined space under the Great Lakes, and the fact of Enbridge’s abysmal safety record, including the 2010 Kalamazoo oil spill all deserve closer scrutiny.” (Bridge, NY Times, Michigan Advance)

Who’s got the power?: Michigan added 35,463 energy-sector jobs in 2021, more than any other state. The growth was driven primarily by the increased production of electric and hybrid vehicles, although the number also includes energy efficiency and electric power generation jobs. Overall, the state has nearly 400,000 energy jobs, making up 9.5% of total employment. And yet vulnerabilities remain for Michigan, where Dundee recently lost out to Kokomo, Indiana, on a $2.5-billion electric vehicle project. Industry experts say Michigan’s legacy plants may not have the large tracts of land needed for EV manufacturing or have access to enough electricity for the power-hungry operations. Public utilities that offered lower electricity rates also likely helped bring two Ford EV battery plants to Tennessee and Kentucky. (MiBiz, Bridge, Outlier)

Stranded assets: Environmental groups are calling on Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to issue a line-item veto for a $25 million appropriation to the “Low Carbon Facilities Fund” in the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs 2023 budget. The funding goes to the buildout of methane gas, i.e. “natural gas” infrastructure. Groups like the Michigan Environmental Council and Sierra Club Michigan Chapter say this doesn’t align with the state’s climate goals and could leave the state with “stranded assets” as communities move to electrify homes and businesses. “Further dependence on fossil fuels to heat our buildings and fuel our appliances is a dangerous proposition for Michiganders, leaving them vulnerable to volatile utility bills, negatively impacting residents’ health, and contributing to climate change,” they wrote in a statement. (press release)

Drilling under your feet: As a candidate, President Biden promised to stop approving new oil and gas leases on federal land, but environmental advocates say the administration has undermined this pledge with a new assessment for a major oil project in Alaska’s North Slope. The Bureau of Land Management’s environmental impact statement for the multi-billion dollar ConocoPhillips project known as Willow didn’t offer a preference on alternatives, which include not drilling at all. Environmentalists interpreted this as making drilling more likely. “We are disappointed to see BLM moving forward with considering the Willow plan when it is so clearly inconsistent with the goals this administration has yet to transition away from fossil fuels and avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis,” Jeremy Lieb, an attorney with Earthjustice, said in a statement. In a bit of terrifying climate irony, ConocoPhillips is considering installing “chillers” in the permafrost to keep it solid enough to allow for drilling. Climate change is thawing this permafrost, potentially unleashing the 1,400 gigatons of carbon stored in the frozen ground around the globe, or four times more CO2 than humans have emitted since the Industrial Revolution. (WaPo, NY Times, Yale 360)


Lowering carbon emissions in Michigan post- WV v. EPA Supreme Court Decision

Fri, July 29, 202212:00 PM – 12:30 PM EDT

Join Planet Detroit as we talk with experts on the implications of the West Virginia v. EPA Supreme Court decision on Michigan’s path to mitigating climate change and lowering carbon emissions. We’ll delve into the major state-level political opportunities and obstacles for making progress in the wake of this SCOTUS decision.


Margarethe Kearney, Senior Attorney, Environmental Law and Policy Center

Oday Salim, National Wildlife Federation Staff Attorney and Director of the University of Michigan Environmental Law & Sustainability Clinic

Mike Berkowitz, Michigan Senior Campaign Representative, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign

Moderated by Nina Ignaczak, Editor, Planet Detroit and Michigan Climate News


What questions do you have about the environment and climate change in Michigan? Please let us know by reaching out to me at or hit reply!


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