Michigan Environmental Report

News from Michigan Environmental Council on public policies affecting the health of Michigan's people and environment

Whitmer calls for largest climate investment in MI history

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at her Aug. 30 speechIn a rare midyear address to the state on Aug. 30, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer set a new standard for Michigan: making major climate investments a priority.

Days after millions of Michiganders suffered from extreme thunderstorms and tornadoes, Gov. Whitmer called upon lawmakers to pass four landmark pieces of climate change legislation. She called for the state's utilities to run on 100% renewable energy and to reform where that energy's infrastructure could be built. She also called for utility company reforms, asking lawmakers to increase energy efficiency requirements and to give the Michigan Public Service Commission more power to hold investor-owned utilities accountable for climate resiliency and equity in their planning.

For The Stewardship Network, relationships create progress

Michigan is home to some of the most diverse and productive ecosystems in the country, and many of the people that live here feel an almost reverential connection to their natural environment. As a result, our state is home to hundreds of environment and conservation organizations that invigorate and mobilize tens of thousands of volunteers annually to clean up trash, combat invasive species, monitor water quality, and more.

Many of these groups could be collaborating to decrease workload and compound their impact but aren’t because they simply don’t have the relationships or capacity to do so. The Stewardship Network exists to lessen these barriers to effective stewardship and to connect the people who are fighting to protect land and water in their local communities. 

From volatility to consensus: the RTA’s founding story

On May 18, the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) of Southeast Michigan announced the departure of board chair Paul Hillegonds, a longtime environmental ally, as he closed out his term. 

Today, the RTA works across four counties to provide interconnected transit services that bridge urban and suburban communities. The opportunities to enhance those services are abundant and exciting. But not so long ago, this was not the case. 

What's in a name? Detroit Audubon considers

What’s in a name?

One of the more noticeable impacts of the racial justice protests in the summer of 2020 was the wave of statue removals and name changes. The bulk of the name changes were directed at eponyms of slave owners and Confederate leaders. Across the country, communities set about stripping streets, buildings, and sports teams of racially and culturally insensitive titles.

The environmental community was certainly not absolved of this reckoning. The Sierra Club publicly confronted racist views held by its famed founder, John Muir. And another iconic American conservation organization found themselves under pressure from members and local chapters to address the problematic history of its namesake: John James Audubon. 

Longtime environmental ally completes time with RTA

On Thursday, May 18, the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) of Southeast Michigan announced the departure of board chair Paul Hillegonds, a longtime environmental ally, as he closes out his term.

Formation of the RTA had been a longtime environmental priority by the time Hillegonds assumed the role of Speaker of the Michigan House (R-Allegan) in the mid 1990s. The Legislature tried and failed more than 20 times to adopt legislation enabling the regional authority. Hillegonds’ legislative career would end without a victory, but it would stay a priority for him, and when regional and state leaders finally agreed on a structure in 2012, Hillegonds was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to be its chair.

$150M for electric school buses would create safe rides for kids

Over half a million Michigan students who depend on buses as primary school transportation could soon have cleaner, safer rides with electric school buses.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer included $150 million in her fiscal year 2024 budget for the transition to electric school buses, and last week the school aid subcommittees of the Michigan Legislature released promising budgets in support of this important funding. In the House budget, the full $150 million was appropriated, and in the Senate, $75 million.

Michigan could become the 50th state to get a septic code

Septic tanks are as ubiquitous to Michigan homes as backyard fire pits. Thirty percent of residents use them to dispose of their waste—higher than the 20% national average. But a quarter of our 1.4 million tanks are likely leaking billions of gallons of human waste onto our properties, into our lakes and streams, and into our drinking water.

This is because Michigan is the only state in the nation that lacks a statewide septic code, which sets minimum standards for construction, operation, and maintenance. Legislation led by Rep. Phil Skaggs (D-East Grand Rapids) in the Michigan House last week would change that. 

Clean Energy Future Plan largely meets the moment

On Wednesday morning, in the midst of a statewide climate conference, two prominent Michigan Senators introduced a plan that positions Michigan well in its climate change fight. 

Majority Floor Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) and Sen. Sue Shink (D-Northfield Township) introduced the Clean Energy Future Plan, which moves Michigan's electric and housing sectors away from fossil fuels.