Michigan policy insights: Dem priorities, E-incentives, committee chairs announced

Here’s the latest from Lansing:

Priorities: A few environmental priorities have been identified by the incoming Democratic leadership in Lansing. However, the focus seems to be on economic issues like repealing the state’s “Right-to-Work” law and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit. But Democratic lawmakers have said they want to address water affordability in the state, pass a new “polluter pay law,” and reverse environmental rollbacks from previous administrations. In a recent interview, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she was looking to back up the state climate plan with funding and statutory changes and using federal infrastructure dollars to advance renewable energy. (Bridge, WEMU)

EVs, bikes, and buses: The Ecology Center and other groups are lobbying Gov. Whitmer to provide additional incentives to help make electric vehicles, e-bikes, electric transit, and school buses more accessible. The governor has already proposed some incentives, and the federal government is offering $7,500 in tax breaks for new EVs. However, advocates believe these purchases would still be out of reach for low and moderate-income residents. 

Committees: Michigan Democrats announced the chairs for House committees and appropriation subcommittees, including:

  • Energy, Communications, and Technology:  Rep. Helena Scott (D-Detroit)
  • Department of Agriculture and Rural Development/Department of Natural Resources: Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Okemos)
  • Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy: Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids)

And in the Senate:

  • Energy and Environment: Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo)
  • Natural Resources and Agriculture: Sue Shink (D-Northville Township)
  • Agriculture and Natural Resources (subcommittee): John Cherry (D-Flint)
  • EGLE: Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor)

Detroit brownfields: Detroit received $5.8 million in grants and loans from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to address contamination at sites slated for redevelopment. This includes $1 million for the former American Motors Corp. headquarters on Plymouth Rd. near Hubbell Ave. The money will be used to install a ventilation system beneath a new industrial facility to reduce exposure to any remaining contamination. (Freep)

Orphan wells: Michigan plans to use $25 million in federal infrastructure funding to clean up around 450 orphaned oil and gas wells. These abandoned wells can leak oil, gas, and toxic chemicals into soil and water and emit methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. (MI Radio)

State of the lakes: Michigan released its annual report on the Great Lakes in December, showing $1.9 billion in investments in water infrastructure and water quality improvements from the state’s 20 million acres of forest.

“Gigafactory”: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a rebuild of Haggerty Rd. in Van Buren Township to hasten the arrival of Our Next Energy’s “gigafactory,” or electric vehicle battery plant, which the state says will bring more than 2,000 jobs and $1.6 billion in investments. 

At the Michigan Public Service Commission:
Nuclear study: The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) requested proposals for a feasibility study on nuclear power in Michigan, including looking into small modular reactors (SMRs). The recently passed Public Act 166 requires the MPSC to conduct the study.

From the feds: 

Soot rules: In early January, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new rules to strengthen the national air quality standard (NAAQS) for PM 2.5 or fine particulate matter. These particles, also known as soot, can cause asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature death, problems that disproportionately impact low-income areas and communities of color.  

Environmental justice: The EPA issued new guidance on addressing cumulative impacts from pollution and other factors. The agency also announced $100 million in environmental justice grants, using federal Inflation Reduction Act money to help community organizations, state governments, and tribal nations address environmental problems and public health issues. 

Area of concern: Local governments have made progress on addressing the Rouge River Area of Concern, using EPA funding to remove contaminated sediment and restore habitat in lakes and wetlands along the river. EGLE is sampling on the lower Rouge River to understand the extent of contamination in the highly industrialized waterway. 

Brownfield work: The Biden administration announced $500,000 in grants to Detroit’s Green Door Initiative to help train workers to clean up brownfield sites. “The EPA Grant will allow us to double our annual reach to ~100 participants while also expanding our capacity to meet the needs of our employer partners,” said Donele Wilkins, founder and executive director of the Green Door Initiative. 

Toxic inventory: The EPA added nine types of toxic PFAS to its Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) list, requiring certain industries and federal facilities to report how the chemicals were released or managed as waste. The agency says the data is important for informed decision-making by local governments and the general public.  

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