No, Sen. Meekhoff, We Won’t “Just Shut Up!”

A weekly update on environmental policy happenings from Ryan Werder, Political Director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (Twitter: @rjwerder)

In the midst of the most extensive assault on conservation and environmental protection in Michigan’s recent history, the Michigan environmental and conservation communities have learned that we need to be louder at a time when anti-conservation senators like Sen. Arlan Meekhoff (R – West Olive) are telling the environmental community to "shut up," and in the middle of a Senate committee meeting, no less!

Bottle Bill Assault Passed in Record Time

One of the most popular conservation bills in history – the Bottle Bill requiring a 10-cent deposit on beverage containers – was weakened on Tuesday in record time. Only five legislative days after it was introduced – the constitutional minimum – the Michigan house passed House Bill 5660 to exempt the new "Party in a Pouch" foil containers from the 10-cent deposit.

This bill was bipartisan-ly bad, sponsored by leaders from both parties, Rep. Jim Stamas (R – Midland) and Rep. Kate Segal (D – Battle Creek) and passed by an overwhelming 91-19 margin. It received bipartisan opposition, as well.

As I wrote last week, this vote served notice that our political voice for conservation needs to be much louder and stronger, as the Assault on Pure Michigan proceeds through the legislature. It has been getting louder, too. On Thursday, Sen. Arlan Meekhoff (R – West Olive) was so rattled by the opposition to his bill to erode sand dune protections (HB 1130) that he said the environmental community should "just shut up," during a committee hearing on the bill.

We can promise Sen. Meekhoff and other anti-conservation legislators that we won’t "just shut up," though. Last week’s events have proven that we must get louder in order to protect our land, air, and water from legislators who don’t share our conservation ethic.

Electricity Costs Rising Due to Increased Cost to Import Coal

The Michigan Public Service Commission released its semiannual energy report with the startling news that DTE customers could see their rates rise over 13.5% due to "increasing fuel costs," and reduced demand. Fuel for 60% of Michigan’s electricity is imported coal, and the cost to import it has risen 27% over the last year.

Wind, on the other hand, is free, and the cost to convert into electricity has been dropping steadily. Contracts for new wind power are cheaper than those for electicity from new coal plants, and wind contracts are guaranteed for decades.

Increasing the percentage of wind power in Michigan’s energy portfolio through the 25% by 2025 renewable energy ballot initiative protect Michigan consumers from the price volitility from dependence on coal that results in a 13.5% price increase like we’re about to see from DTE.

Learn more about 25% by 2025 at www.mienergymijobs.com!

Detroit’s M-1 Light Rail Project On Track?

Governor Snyder, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and private investors met with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood today to discuss the M-1 light rail project, a proposed 3.3-mile streetcar system along Woodward Avenue.

The M-1 Rail Group, a collection of private investors, has already raised almost $90 million of the $137 million project, and is hoping to receive the rest through tax credits and federal investment. Secretary LaHood had earlier indicated he would consider the grants after reviewing the project,according to MLive.

Mass transit like light rail can reduce emissions from congested traffic areas like Woodward Ave., reducing our contribution to climate change, cleaning our air, streamliming our commutes, and revitalizing business districts in Michigan.

We were still awaiting word from Secretary LaHood at press time.

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