AT THE CAPITOL

Our biggest environment and health policy priorities for proposed laws and regulations, grounded in analysis, advocacy and coalition-building.

The COVID-19 pandemic may keep us indoors for the good of public health, but it does not keep away bills and regulatory changes that can impact our health, environmental resilience and economic growth. As a trusted mover and shaker of environmental policy, Michigan Environmental Council is using its policy expertise, strengthening its Capitol connections and working with its dozens of member groups to make our state better with lawmakers, departments, coalitions and member organizations. 

Below are the policies MEC is shaping. Some we support; others we oppose. Regardless, we educating, advocating and protecting.

Included are basic information on the policies, MEC's stances on them and additional resources.

Strengthening human and environmental health

CLEANING OUR AIR PROTECTING OUR RESOURCES CLEANING OUR WATER
 Keeping mining at bay  Encouraging recycling & composting

 Restoring utility shutoffs

 Improving benefits of small-scale solar  Expanding the bottle return system

 Ending lead poisoning in schools

 Holding electric utilities accountable  Defending the cleanup fund

 Stopping manure runoff

 Electrifying vehicles  Helping companies with sustainability

 Halting a Great Lakes oil spill

 


Keeping our air particle-free

Aggregate Mining Bill

OPPOSING

This bill would eliminate zoning authority and oversight capability from local governments when it comes to mining permits. Unrestricted gravel and sand mining operations could occur across the state, so long as the company doing the mining can prove they can make a return of investment.

This bill package keeps people safe from the particle pollution and places trust in our public leaders' decision making. If passed, this bill would strip local governments of their ability to protect their constituents. Then, mining could occur near residential neighborhoods, schools, businesses and hospitals, potentially placing people next to harmful air and noise pollution.

Bill info:
Senate Bill 431 was introduced by Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit)

Status:
Sent to the Senate floor Sept. 23, 2020 after passing the Committee on Transportation 6-1-2.

More resources:


Improving benefits of small-scale solar

Powering Michigan Forward Bill Package

SUPPORTING

This bill package requires electric utilities to purchase excess electricity without a cap from customers who generate their own through systems such as solar panels and wind turbines. Utilities would also need to increase pay to people they’re purchasing from. 

This bill package is a win-win-win. It allows utilities to better reach statewide renewable energy goals; it gives Michigan clean energy to mitigate climate change; and it gives more money to people who have made an investment in the environment. Coupled with other bills that make renewable energy more accessible, residents could live healthier and wealthier.

Bill info:
House Bill 5143 and 5144 was introduced by Yousef Rabhi (D, Ann Arbor)
House Bill 5145 was introduced by Gregory Markkanen (R, Hancock) 
Senate Bill 596 was introduced by Tom Barrett (R, Charlotte)
Senate Bill 597 was introduced by Ed McBroom (R, Vulcan)
Senate Bill 598 was introduced by Jeff Irwin (D, Ann Arbor)

Status:
Referred to Committee on Energy Oct. 23, 2019; awaiting study results from Michigan Public Service Commission

More resources:


Holding electric utilities accountable

Consumers Energy Rate Case

INTERVENING

MEC has intervened through the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on behalf of the public for more than 20 years. In that time, we and our allies have advocated for reduced residential utility rates, transitions to cleaner energy and more reliable utility infrastructure. 

In Consumers' latest rate case, MEC is not only working to keep residential rates as low as possible, we are holding the utility accountable for its clean energy transition. Consumers is proposing an unnecessary 14% residential rate hike while significantly decreasing the rate customers with solar panels receive for sending clean energy into the greater grid. 

Both actions put undue, unjustified financial burdens on everyday people as we recover from a recession, and they disincentive the unavoidable transition to clean energy.  

Rate case info:
Consumers Energy Rate Case U-20697 and all corresponding public documents have been uploaded on the MPSC's website

Status: 
An administrative law judge has issued an opinion that MPSC must take into account for its upcoming rate case decision. As of Nov. 6, testimony and exhibits were being accepted.

More resources: 

  • For a brief summary of the rate case, go to the Citizens Utility Board of Michigan's website here.
  • For the Citizen Utility Board's breakdown of the administrative law judge's recommendation to MPSC, click here.
  • For our take on Consumers' proposed solar energy rates, click here

Empowering our electric vehicle industry 

Dealerships-Only Bill

OPPOSING

This bill would prohibit vehicle manufacturers from selling their vehicles directly to consumers. These manufacturers would also be unable to service their vehicles in Michigan and conduct test rides.

If passed, the bill would put the brakes on our burgeoning electric vehicle market by forcing startups into a dealership model of service. Electric vehicle companies produce less vehicles by volume than traditional vehicle companies, and electric vehicles need far less maintenance. Both of these realities make a direct-to-consumer business model best. Legislators should allow an innovative, green and growing industry to flourish here, not wither.

Bill info:
House Bill 6233 was introduced by Rep. Jason Sheppard (R-Temperance)

Status:
Passed through the House 65-39 on Wednesday, Dec. 2.

More resources:

For more on why and how MEC is fighting the bill, read our release


Empowering recycling and composting industries

Solid Waste Law Rewrite

SUPPORTING

When solid waste laws were written in the 1990s, they made obtaining landfill space easier at a time when it was scarce. Now, with plenty of landfill capacity available because of those laws, this bill package levels the playing field for businesses that give value to what was once thought as waste.

Compost sites, material recovery facilities, recycling centers and new and emerging technologies would be legally legitimized, given guidance for operation and resources. The package would also guide the creation of strong county materials management plans; create a stronger post-closure plan for landfills; and protect taxpayers from paying for contaminated site remediation.

This bipartisan bill package, nearly five years in the making, is grounded in recommendations made by the state’s Solid Waste and Sustainability Advisory Panel, which MEC was part of from its inception. In 2018, we secured the funding for change. Now, we need to implement it.

If passed, this bill package could revolutionize how we dispose of materials. It could triple recycling rates, keep our environment clean and create a more resilient materials management market and workforce. It is a win-win-win.

Bill info: 
House Bill 5812 was introduced by Gary Howell (R, North Branch)
House Bill 5813 was introduced by William Sowerby (D, Clinton Township)
House Bill 5814 was introduced by Yousef Rabhi (D, Ann Arbor)
House Bill 5815 was introduced by Jack O’Malley (R, Lake Anne)
House Bill 5816 was introduced by Scott VanSingel (R, Grant)
House Bill 5817 was introduced by Joseph Tate (D, Detroit)

Status:
Referred to House Committee on Ways and Means June 24, 2020

More resources:


Expanding our bottle return system

Bottle Bill Rewrite

SUPPORTING

This bill expands the types of items that can be recycled for a 10-cent return to all bottles, save for milk and milk alternatives. An extra five cents would be placed on these products to be distributed to state programs.

The rate of bottles recycled at deposit stations is near 90%. This bill would bring other bottle types to that rate of recycling. That, in turn, would decrease plastic pollution, provide more materials to a burgeoning recycling industry and give Michiganders more opportunities to earn money back on their purchases and finds. 

Bill info: 
Senate Bill 701 was introduced by Sen. Sean McCann (D, Kalamazoo)

Status:
Referred to Committee on Regulatory Reform Jan. 8, 2020

More resources:

  • For MEC's and Michigan Recycling Coalition's stance on good bottle return policy, read our Bridge Magazine op-ed.

Defending our cleanup fund

Bad Bottle Bill

OPPOSING

Bottles recycled at home instead of at return centers are cashed in by the state. 75% of funds go toward environmental clean and 25% go to retailers to compensate for over-redemptions of bottles. 

This bill would change the funding formula. 40% would go to environmental cleanups, 25% to retailers, 20% to beverage distributors and 15% to state and local police to enforce bottle return violations.

There is no need to change the funding structure. The bill could mean many brownfields and Superfund sites -- longtime health risks, eyesores and property value-leechers -- will take decades more to be cleaned.

Bill info: 
House Bill 5423 was introduced by Rep. Brandt Iden (R, Oshtemo Township)

Status:
Designated a third reading in the Committee on Ways and Means March 12, 2020

More resources:

  • For MEC and Michigan Recycling Coalition's stance on good bottle return policy, read our Bridge Magazine op-ed.

Helping companies be environmentally ethical

Benefit Corporations Bill Package

SUPPORTING

This bill package would make Michigan the 36th state to legally recognize benefit corporations. These businesses have obligations to set strong accountability, transparency, public benefit and sustainability standards. There are 19 benefit corporations in Michigan, making them liable for engaging in their public good goals.

Local businesses and large corporations alike are realizing that good ethics drive consumer purchases. In turn, good ethics make for better communities. Voting 'yes' for this bill should be swift and simple.

Bill info:
House Bill 6309 was introduced by Rep. Christine Grieg (D, Farmington Hills)
House Bill 6310 was introduced by Rep. Rachel Hood (D, Grand Rapids)
House Bill 6311 was introduced by Rep. Kyra Bolden (D, Southfield)
House Bill 6312 was introduced by Rep. Matt Koleszar (D, Plymouth)

Status: 
Designated to the Committee on Government Operations Oct. 14, 2020

More Resources:

  • For more information on the bill package and Michigan benefit corporations, read Rapid Growth's article
  • To see an example of a benefit corporation, check out our go-to printer, Swift Printing

Restoring water shutoffs

Water Shutoff Moratorium Bill

SUPPORTING

This bill would codify Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's emergency order placing a moratorium on all residential water shutoffs until the end of the year. Gov. Whitmer's order was ruled unconstitutional by the Michigan Supreme Court in late October.

People need access to clean water to drink and clean with. A shutoff moratorium keeps the devastating effects of dehydration at bay and stabilizes finances. It also keeps immune systems strong, minimizing the contraction and spread of COVID-19. 

Bill info:
Senate Bill 241 will be introduced by Sen. Stephanie Chang (D, Detroit)

Status:
Sen. Chang's bill will be introduced in November.

More resources:

  • For an expert's case as to why a moratorium should be created, read Marianne Udow-Phillips' Bridge Magazine op-ed.
  • For the reasons why 16 environmental and justice organization support a moratorium, read MEC's blog post.
  • To see how many homes are on a water bill assistance program in your Michigan Senate district, read NRDC's blog post and study.

Ending lead poisoning in schools

Filter First Bill Package

SUPPORTING

This bipartisan bill package would install water fountains and taps capable of filtering out lead in all public schools and in some day care centers. All schools would develop a drinking water safety plan with EGLE's guidance, which would outline the location and maintenance of drinking stations and guidelines if contaminants are found.

EGLE would also provide additional funding for additional needs, such as replacement filters, to daycares and schools that serve low-income communities.

Lead poisoning damages a child’s development which can make it difficult to succeed in school and beyond. This bill package mitigates the issue at a cost much lower than testing all pipes first for lead. A few months of planning and financial support could positively impact generations of Michigan’s youth.

Bill info:
Senate Bill 589 was introduced by Sen. Jim Aninich (D, Flint)
An additional Senate bill will be reintroduced by Sen. Curtis VanderWall (R, Ludington)
House Bill 5104 was introduced by former Rep. Sheldon Neeley (D, Flint)
House Bill 5105 was introduced by Rep. Lynn Afendoulis (R, Grand Rapids Township) 

Status:
Referred to Committee on Environmental Quality Oct. 15, 2019

More resources:

  • For a video on the bill package featuring Sens. Ananich and VanderWall, check out MEC's Youtube video.
  • For a rundown on costs for a Filter First approach, check out our coalition's infographic.

Keeping manure out of our water

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation Contested Case

INTERVENING

About 270 factory farms -- called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs -- exist around Michigan. The massive amounts of manure they produce, sell and dispose of can end up polluting our ground and surface water, destroying ecosystems, catalyzing algal blooms and threatening sickness on people and pets who drink and play in impacted water.

When the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) adopted its newest five-year rules to protect manure from entering our waterways, MEC and our allies were ambivalent. The rules created more transparency and reporting requirements, but they left loopholes open that factory farms could take advantage of.

Then, Michigan's Farm Bureau and a number of CAFOs filed a lawsuit against the rules. While MEC and allies would have preferred better rules, eliminating them would be devastating for the health of states around the Great Lakes and their people. We are working to win this case and prove why these rules are so important.

Contested case info:
Information on CAFOs and its general permit can be found on EGLE's website.

Status:
All interveners and contesters were approved in early November to take part in the contested case.

More resources:

  • For MEC's case for intervening with allies, click here.
  • For MEC's stance on the revised CAFO permit, click here.

Halting a Great Lakes oil spill

Line 5 Pipeline Contested Case

INTERVENING

On Nov. 13, 2020, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made a historic, potentially revolutionary move. She set a death date for an oil pipeline on the grounds that it put the Great Lakes environment and its people in harm's way.

Gov. Whitmer's decision was what thousands of people and organizations had spent years advocating for. Enbridge's 67-year-old Line 5 dual pipeline has been a point of contention for years. Part of the it cuts across the Straits of Mackinac on its way from one part of Canada to another; the Straits are among Michigan's most vulnerable ecologies. 

An oil spill would be devastating, and a proposed tunnel around the pipeline would only increase that risk. That is why MEC, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, NWF and Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council are intervening on behalf of our people and water to ensure Line 5 is removed from our most valuable, spiritual resource.

Line 5 has already spilled 33 times as it pumps 23 million gallons of oil along. We cannot have a 34th.

Contested case info:
Information on Line 5's case can be found on MPSC's website

Status:
Staff and intervenor testimony is due Feb. 12, 2021

More resources: