We're at a critical environmental juncture. Here's how we meet the moment
Remember that string of power outages this winter millions of us endured? We were left in the cold for days. Food and medication withered in the fridge and our anger mounted.
Or perhaps recall the summer before, when heavy rains left basements waterlogged, streets impassible, and repair bills high.
This is the state that Michigan finds itself in. Climate change has arrived, and with it has come extreme weather and temperatures. Our aging infrastructure—from our roads to our sewer systems—cannot handle this new reality. Our government structure is not equipped to effectively protect our water, our nature, and even us.
And yet, some see hope. Michigan has its first Democratic majority in 40 years, and they bring with them visionary goals and billions in surplus dollars they must spend.
We are at a critical juncture in our state’s history. To build up or to continue patching up? To take action or to not?
We—the Michigan Environmental Council—will. We are proud to announce our policy priorities for the 2023-24 legislative session, and we are energized to make it reality.
“These bold environmental goals rise to the moment at hand,” says Charlotte Jameson, chief policy officer. “They fight back against Michigan’s greatest threats and capitalize on great opportunities. They were mapped out and will be acted upon by our expert staff and member organizations. And the deep, infrastructural changes they make will protect our environment and all Michigan residents now and far into the future.”
Below is a snapshot of our plan, but you can read our priorities in full here—they go beyond the highlights.
Comprehensive climate reform
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer set a goal of making Michigan climate neutral by 2050. We want to give this declaration teeth. We have mapped out the policies and processes needed to decarbonize our transportation, utility, industry, and housing sectors quickly, effectively, and justly.
Healthy, affordable homes
A hot housing market and rising inflation makes getting by tough. We've proposed a plan to build, preserve, and renovate low- and middle-income housing. We would make each energy efficient and pollutant-free, and we would build out the workforce to make it all possible.
Statewide septic code
Michigan is the only state in the nation without a means to inspect septic systems and keep them safe from leaking. Over 10 billion gallons of raw sewage spill into our ground and waterways yearly because of this. We will fight for a statewide septic code that keeps homeowners’ personal finances, health, and the water and nature they love safe.
"Water is one of the most prominent features of our beautiful state, and the mission of MLSA is the preservation and protection of our vast treasure of inland waterways. We support the full slate of legislative priorities for water protection, [like] the adoption of a statewide septic code.” - Melissa DeSimone, executive director, Michigan Lakes and Streams Association
Michigan is home to some of a much-beloved and globally rare dunes ecosystem, but we lack robust protections for these iconic landmarks. We will revive the Critical Dunes Act that safeguards these features and take other measures that promote good development and conservation in our coastal communities, landscaping, and industry.
When we find balance between personal vehicles, public transit, and non-motorized travel, communities thrive, road maintenance costs are avoided, and greenhouse gasses are cut. We will right the scales away from heavy car favoritism so funding properly goes to other forms of transportation. Everyone should get to where they need to conveniently.
"We cannot afford the transportation status quo which has created the state's largest sector for carbon emissions, over a thousand roadway deaths annually, and inequitable mobility. We have a milestone opportunity to correct our course. These Environmental Council policies provide an initial roadmap to make that happen." - Todd Scott, executive director, Detroit Greenways Coalition
Michigan’s bottle return system: A Michigan staple since 1976. Its fantastic success has kept our communities, parks, and beaches virtually free of bottles and cans. We will help modernize this system to include even more containers and make it easier for customers to use.
Holding polluters accountable
Michigan taxpayers should not be responsible for cleaning up after polluting corporations. But we are, and there are hundreds of contaminated sites across the state and yearly chemical spills we’re paying for. We will work to make it so polluters pay for their destruction and we will ban dangerous chemicals from being used in the first place.
“All Michiganders will benefit immensely from stronger legislation and regulations on corporate polluters that effectively hold violators accountable as opposed to slap-on-the-wrist fines that criminal polluters write into their costs of doing business.” - Andrew Kaplowitz, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice
Click here for more information on these top policy priorities and others.