Political Week in Review: The Out-of-State Edition

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

We live in a peninsular state, and sometimes it seems like the Great Lakes can insulate us from what happens in the rest of the country. It is those very lakes, though, which sometimes connect us, more than anything else, to what happens in other states.

For instance, the Ohio legislature voted on their interpretation of some key provisions in the Great Lakes Compact, which could affect water quality throughout the Great Lakes basin. Speaking of Ohio, they’re one of several states in the country with higher renewable energy goals than Michigan. Let’s beat them on that front, too, just as MSU did in the Big Ten tournement (and let’s not repeat UM’s sad showing).

In this week’s PWIR:

Gov. Chris Christie Approves 22.5% by 2021 for New Jersey

Last week, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a hero for conservatives across the country, approved his state’s master energy plan. So what’s so important about this that we’re writing about it in Michigan? The plan includes the goal of achieving 22.5% renewable energy by 2021, which exceeds Michigan’s current standard of 10% by 2015.

“This plan represents my Administration’s commitment to changing the way we produce, distribute and use energy as part of a broader emphasis on renewable sources of energy and economic growth,” Christie said of the plan. Michigan can learn something from New Jersey. (I can’t believe I just wrote that).

New Jersey isn’t the only state outpacing us in renewable energy growth, though. On the Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs renewable energy map, there is a ring around the Great Lakes composed of states which have higher goals than Michigan. While Wisconsin shares our current goal of 10% by 2015, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio all have 25% by 2025 standards, and Iowa is already getting 23% of its energy from renewable sources, including 20% from wind power!

Michigan cannot afford to be left behind while wind turbine manufacturers build plants and create jobs all around us. Our ballot proposal to achieve 25% renewable energy by 2025 isn’t some pie-in-the-sky pipe dream; it’s a necessary economic action that we must take just to keep up with the renewable energy demand that will be created by the states which surround us.

We have an advantage over other states, though, in our manufacturing history, infastructure, and talent. We have to actually vote the ballot proposal into law in November, though, to take advantage of our competitive advantages.

Click here to find out how you can help get 25% by 25 on November’s ballot!

Ohio Mulls Water Diversion Bill

The Ohio legislature is mulling a bill which would regulate water withdrawals in the state and bring it into compliance with the water diversion provisions of the Great Lakes Compact. The Ohio legislature passed a bill last year which was so weak that even notoriously anti-conservation Republican Governor John Kasich vetoed it. His veto was prompted not only by the fact that other states like Michigan are already on board, but from peer pressure from Governor Snyder, as well.

The current bill, which was authored by the same legislator who drafted last year’s bill, still has serious flaws with its lack of protection for water quality in tributaries and streams in the Great Lakes watershed, which all end up in our Great Lakes. “If you trash the tribs, you trash the lakes,” Kristy Meyer of the Ohio Environmental Council told the Great Lakes Echo.

Wisconsin Keeps Mining Pollution Prevention Protections

Three cheddar cheers for Wisconsin! Our friends over at the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters are cautiously celebrating after they led the charge to marshall a bipartisan group of senators to defeat an open-pit mining bill. The noxious bill would have weakend water quality protections and allowed a new open-pit iron mine to be built in northern Wisconsin.

Gogebic Taconite, the company that sought the mine, subsequently announced that it was scrapping its plans to build the mine. Why do we care here in Michigan? That mine in Wisconsin would have pulled 1.2 million gallons of water a day from Ironwood, Michigan, to process the iron ore into taconite. Read more about it at the Keweenaw Now blog.

Meanwhile, Back in Michigan…

Governor Rick Snyder recently toured a 118-year-old Traverse City home that has saved its owners over $1000 annually in electricity costs due to energy efficiency improvements. Also on the tour were representatives from Michigan Saves, TC Saves, Better Buildings for Michigan (BBFM), and the Michigan Land Use Institute. The tour highlighted the BBFM and Michigan Saves programs which provide low-interest loans to home and building owners in Michigan to make energy-efficient improvements, which save money and employ Michigan construction workers.

Until Next Week,

Ryan Werder
Political Director, Michigan League of Conservation Voters

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