New: State enviro panel recommends coal plants close by 2035

Draft climate change plan now up for public review

By: - January 14, 2022 7:42 pm

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After a year of development and “thousands of hours” of work, the panel tasked with helping Michigan become carbon neutral by 2050 and combat the effects of climate change has released its draft plan for public comment.

According to the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC), an environmental group involved in the effort, the plan is a great start but some parts need “substantial improvement.”

Two virtual listening sessions, where oral comments will be recorded, are scheduled for 10 a.m. Jan. 26 and 6 p.m. Feb. 2.

Written comments are due by 5 p.m. Feb. 14 and may be submitted to:

  • [email protected]
  • James Clift, Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, Executive Office, P.O. Box 30473, Lansing, Michigan, 48909

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer created the Council on Climate Solutions in a 2020 executive order to advise the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and Whitmer on developing and overseeing the implementation of the MI Healthy Climate Plan.

The council last met on Tuesday, when EGLE presented a draft that includes all recommendations put forth by the council’s workgroups. The public will now be able to offer comment before the plan is finalized.

Some highlights of the draft plan include:

  • Adopting a renewable energy standard of 50% by 2030
  • Closing all coal plants by 2035
  • State-owned facilities utilizing 100% in-state renewable energy by 2025
  • Building the charging infrastructure to support 2 million electric vehicles by 2030
  • Adopting a 2% energy waste reduction target for electricity and 1% for natural gas
  • Supporting and incentivizing clean energy businesses and jobs
  • Tripling the state’s recycling rate to 45% by 2030
  • Implementing a plan to protect 30% of Michigan’s land and water by 2030

“We are looking forward to a robust public discussion during the comment period and will be considering all suggestions,” said EGLE spokesperson Hugh McDiarmid on Thursday.

There are several advisory workgroups that assisted and provided recommendations to the council:

Charlotte Jameson, MEC chief policy officer, co-chaired the buildings and housing workgroup and helped the panel provide recommendations to the council.

Jameson characterized EGLE’s draft plan Tuesday as a “solid foundation from which to develop a bolder, robust plan to fully decarbonize Michigan’s economy.”

“Michigan is already experiencing the devastating effects of our changing climate, from flooding to power outages, crop failures to failing infrastructure. We know the next decade will be decisive in our effort to avoid even worse impacts,” Jameson continued, adding that the MEC looks forward to working with the council, EGLE and Whitmer’s administration to “strengthen” the plan.

But Abby Wallace, MEC’s energy and climate change policy coordinator, said the EGLE council needs to include more bold targets if the carbon neutrality goals are to be met.

“Michigan’s building stock is old, which leads Michiganders with frigid homes in winter and heating bills they struggle to afford,” Wallace said. “EGLE’s draft plan has policies that will make buildings more efficient and save Michiganders money.

“But fully realizing the health and economic benefits of decarbonizing building stock requires Michigan to get serious about using electric, efficient heat pumps.”

Wallace said that in addition to transitioning to energy efficient, electric heat pumps, the state must remove the low-carbon fuel standard that would ramp up environmentally detrimental ethanol production and move the power sector to 100% clean energy by 2035 instead of 2050.

The MEC says it has already collected more than 100 signatures from residents calling for a stronger climate plan, on top of more than 400 signatures collected by the Michigan Climate Action Network.

“We won’t be responding to specific comments or criticisms until we get that feedback and determine how it shapes forthcoming versions of the plan,” McDiarmid said.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.