Solar panels in Grand Ledge | Laina G. Stebbins
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a series of bills on Thursday that could move Michigan towards carbon neutrality while targeting high energy costs.
The bills include measures removing requirements that state environmental regulations be no stricter than federal rules, axing a sunset clause on the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP), expanding eligibility for businesses to receive clean energy subsidies and cutting red tape for solar energy developments and local governments.
Whitmer said that the bills are a “step forward” in fulfilling the goals of her administration’s MI Healthy Climate Plan.
“With these bills, we will help more communities unleash innovative clean energy resources, provide vital energy assistance to help families stay warm in winter, and create good-paying, high-skilled jobs right here in Michigan,” Whitmer said. “I look forward to working with the legislature this fall to cement Michigan as a national leader on climate and clean energy jobs.”
While several of the bills received bipartisan support, SB 14, which removed Michigan’s requirement that state environmental regulations could not be stricter than federal rules, received pushback from Republican leadership. House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Twp.) said in a statement that the new law “advances an agenda” that would be harmful to businesses.
“We should be focused on helping people thrive while protecting the health and safety of Michiganders, but left-wing environmentalists want to cripple businesses with over-the-top regulations that are completely unnecessary and burdensome,” Hall said. “Democrats have caved to one leftist political group after another, and now they’re letting unelected bureaucrats tank our state’s economy on the whim of environmental activists.”
The legislation received statements of support from environmental groups, including the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC), the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council (MEIBC) and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. MEC Chief Policy Officer Charlotte Jameson said that the passage of the bills represented a new beginning in expanding Michigan’s clean energy economy.
“These policies take the first steps towards combating climate change and saving Michiganders money on their utility bills,” Jameson said. “But more must be done. Now is the time to get to work on legislation that fully adopts the Governor’s MI Healthy Climate Plan.”
Lawmakers hoped that by sponsoring legislation aimed at reducing the costs of clean energy production in Michigan, more companies and households would be compelled to use it. Rep. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington), who sponsored HB 4317, which allows solar companies and local governments to opt into payments in lieu of taxes (PILT), said that his bill would help small municipalities avoid costly litigation with clean energy utilities.
“We live in a state with a few big cities and many, many local communities,” VanderWall said. “Too often those smaller towns and suburbs get overlooked. There’s no reason we can’t treat our smaller communities with as much attention and care as our larger cities. Now, we can take a step forward towards a more affordable, brighter future for the entire state of Michigan.”
Senate Bills 302 and 303, sponsored by Sens. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton) and Kristen McDonald Rivet (D-Bay City), are another example of legislation aimed at relieving the financial burden of providing clean energy by expanding the scope of properties that are eligible for Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) funding.
“SB 302 will expand Michigan’s C-PACE market and increase the scope of projects that are able to access this important source of funding,” Camilleri said. “By increasing energy efficiency, we can increase business investment, reduce demand on our energy grid, and lower our carbon emissions all at the same time.”
Laura Sherman, president of the MEIBC, said that C-PACE has already brought over $233 million of clean energy investments to Michigan businesses and local governments, and that the package would help advance the state’s clean energy goals.
“These new laws roll out the welcome mat for more clean, renewable energy development in communities throughout Michigan,” Sherman said.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.