Saul Levin, Green New Deal Network legislative and policy director, (pictured on the left) addressed those who attended Sunday’s “Green New Deal for Michigan” rally in Dearborn. Mikal Goodman, campaign manager at Michigan Alliance for Justice in Climate, is shown on the right. | Ken Coleman
During a spirited rally Sunday in Dearborn, activists and elected officials called for stronger state and federal policies centered on Green New Deal concepts.
The demonstration was held after a marathon Michigan House on Thursday that spilled into Friday, during which the Democratic-controlled Michigan House moved forward on their clean energy package. That’s one of the top fall priorities for Democrats.
However, some environmentalists say more work needs to be done.
At the event at United Auto Workers Local 600, the Green New Deal Network and supporters urged for the passage of “key environmental justice provisions left on the climate package cutting room floor” at the Legislature level. They also demanded more federal funding “to support further progress.”
“We need new investment and we need President [Joe] Biden to actually run on a platform to actually do something more on climate change. We need the state House in Michigan to invest billions of dollars on climate change and we need to support the leadership of local folks right here in Dearborn and are alright trying to do more on climate change. We need more resources,” said Saul Levin, Green New Deal Network (GNDN) legislative and policy director. GNDN is a coalition of progressive environmental groups.
The tour goes to Pennsylvania next, and will continue on to Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, California, and Massachusetts.
In August 2022, Biden, a Democrat, signed his party’s signature climate, health care and tax package into law. It capped off more than a year of tumultuous negotiations that saw his original proposal to Congress slimmed down considerably.
The measure will funnel $370 billion to clean energy programs, including electric vehicle tax credits and tax incentives for energy companies to produce renewable energy.
Biden said at the time that the “bill is the biggest step forward on climate ever.”
Representatives from Detroit People’s Platform, Clean Water Action, and MI Alliance for Justice in Climate were in attendance. The rally also drew U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Ann Arbor), U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), former state House member and current Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, state Rep. Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor) and state Rep. Dylan Wegela (D-Garden City).
“There is a huge fight and that fight is between those who want to stand on the side of the people and those who want to stand on the side of big corporations, polluters and dirty fossil fuels and money,” Morgan said. “That is what we are fighting against.”
Attendee called for:
- Removing MI Climate Plan carve outs for polluting fuel sources from the state’s clean energy push
- Achieving 80% renewable energy in Michigan by 2030 and 100% by 2035
- Enabling widespread community and rooftop solar
- Passing campaign finance reform they said would “prevent polluters” like DTE and Consumers from buying their way out of accountability for causing climate harms
- President Biden and Congress “fight[ing] for a Green New Deal for communities in Michigan and across the nation, including $1 trillion of spending on climate, care, jobs, and justice each year”
Theresa Landrum, a cancer survivor and environmental justice activist from Detroit, said people of color in urban areas like her Southwest Detroit community suffer disproportionately from asthma and various forms of cancer due to living in industrial areas.
“To address climate impacts loudly, we have to use our voices and make a deafening sound for the world to hear us,” Landrum said.
A recently released study from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranked Detroit as the fifth worst city in the nation for people with asthma. The Motor City is 77% Black and nearly 8% Latino.
“Three people in my family have passed away from cancer in my household…,” Landrum added. That’s too much cancer.”
The state House last week approved a slate of Senate bills addressing clean energy, energy waste and affordability, alongside a package of House bills giving state regulators authority over permitting clean energy projects.
Republicans in both chambers have been critical of the state legislation, just as the party has slammed the more sweeping Green New Deal proposal at the federal level.
House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Twp.) has been one of the stronger voices of opposition.
“As Michigan Democrats try to outlaw reliable natural gas power plants, mandate unreliable wind and solar, and override local decisions, they’re ignoring the voices of the families most harmed by their radical plans,” Hall said through a statement.
“People want affordable electricity, but the left-wing plan to close power plants would drive their electric bills up. People want a say over windmills and solar farms in their communities, but Democrats know they can’t enforce their own expensive wind and solar mandates without steamrolling our communities and letting the Whitmer administration call the shots. We deserve reliable, affordable electricity and a say in our communities, not the extreme agenda of the House Democrats.”
The state Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats, and the state House are expected to consider recent bills before the Legislature adjourns for the year.
“This fight is about corporate influence over our political system. Corporate influence is blocking meaningful legislation,” said Wegela. “We will never have a Green New Deal in Michigan if the Democratic [controlled] Legislature continues to give tax cuts to the rich in this state.”
Tlaib, a daughter of Palestinian immigrants and a former state House member, encouraged activists to continue to advocate state and federal policies to help Black, Brown and Indigenous communities.
“Y’all have been under fire over and over and over again but you keep going,” Tlaib said. “Don’t listen to the haters because you know that you have the truth on your side.”
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