Michigan Environmental Report

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

2021 Milliken Award Winner: Frank Ettawageshik

While an origin story like this is always debatable, Frank Ettawageshik is certain he’s at least had some role in it.

It was summer 2005. Ettawageshik was in Duluth, Minnesota, with fellow leaders from local, state and federal governments releasing a report on ways to best protect Great Lakes ecosystems. He represented Indigenous tribes as the chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.

Sometime during the summit, Ettawageshik spoke about a simple conservation practice: turning off the tap when brushing teeth.

Doing so, he said, means less water is used and less energy is generated to draw, move, dispose and purify it. Not a big deal if only one person does this, Ettawageshik admitted, but if everyone followed suit, the impact would be phenomenal.

2021 Petoskey Prize Winner: Karen Harrison

This summer, Karen Harrison has watched flowers bloom, frogs plop into water and salamanders waddle across grass from her backyard against the Au Sable River. Then, as summer turns to fall turns to winter, she’ll watch the tree foliage fall away, and in that newfound emptiness, she will take in the full scope of the river, a ribbon of cerulean cutting against the white.

It is this dynamism that Harrison loves best about the Au Sable and the Upper Manistee Rivers some three miles away. The rivers and the worlds in miniature they create perpetually, subtly move and change over the days and seasons.

Michigan Environmental Council on Sen. Carl Levin’s passing

The Michigan Environmental Council is saddened by the passing of Sen. Carl Levin. As a Detroit native, he was a strong advocate of Michigan’s environmental issues, social justice issues and serving his hometown from acting as the co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Taskforce to securing millions in funding to create the Detroit Riverwalk which is now one of the country’s premier city riverfronts.

Sen. Levin possessed the kind of qualities we aspire to have including integrity, transparency and accountability. The legacy of his leadership and his advocacy of the environment will continue with the countless individuals he inspired throughout his career, including MEC staff.

Energy efficiency, electrification rooted in state building code recommendations

The Michigan Environmental Council and 30 organizations and municipalities outlined the ways Michigan buildings codes could save residents and businesses money and fight climate change in a letter of recommendations sent to the state.

In a letter to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, the coalition urged the inclusion of robust energy efficiency and electrification provisions in the update of Michigan's energy conservation code, which governs the process of constructing homes and businesses across the state.

After record parks turnout, Gov. Whitmer proposes more funding

On the heels of a record year for Michigan parks attendance due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced last week a proposal to spend an additional $150 million in American Rescue Plan funds to improve infrastructure at local parks across Michigan. The announcement is an addition to the $250 million Whitmer announced in June for upgrades to the state’s park system, which the Michigan Environmental Council also supported

The budget proposal, which requires approval from the state legislature, would create a grant program administered by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources that seeks to enhance the economies, health and recovery of local communities across the state.

How time-of-use electric rates protect low-income residents

At the start of the summer Consumers Energy rolled out new summer peak rates for all residential customers, one which the Michigan Environmental Council and others have long advocated for as they intervened in utility companies' rate and energy decisions. MEC wrote about those rates and why they are good for the environment and our wallets. 

These rates, called time-of-use rates, price energy usage a little higher when electricity consumption is at a peak and a little lower when it's not. Doing so reduces peak energy use, keeps dirty, old fossil fuel plants offline, and saves customers money.

Since then, MEC has gotten a new analysis from Douglas Jester at 5 Lakes Energy that shows the rates are a critical step towards ensuring energy is more affordable for low-income customers. (See pages 45 to 60 here.)

60+ Groups Unite to Keep the U.P. Wild

The Michigan Environmental Council joined more than 60 environmental, outdoor recreation, academic, political, religious and business organizations to give the Upper Peninsula of Michigan's wilderness the highest level of protection.

The Keep the U.P. Wild coalition is seeking federal Wilderness designation for four tracts of public land in the Upper Peninsula: the Trap Hills, the Ehlco Area, Norwich Plains, and an addition to the existing Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness area.

Consumers Energy commits to close all coal plants by 2025

On Thursday, Consumers Energy made its boldest commitment to date: it will retire its remaining five coal plants by 2025, 15 years ahead of schedule.

Consumers and environmental groups said the move would immediately decrease local air pollution, improve lung and heart health, and be a small but important step toward reducing global climate change.