Governor Rick Snyder gave what his office calls a "special message" on the environment yesterday: Ensuring our Future: Energy and the Environment. He touched on all sorts of topics: renewable energy, brownfields, land and water, timber and mining and many others.
But his main point: you can’t separate economics from energy or the environment.
“There’s not two separate worlds. There’s not a world of just environment, nor a world of energy or economics. It’s a symbiotic relationship and they tie together,” he said.
Snyder said when it comes to energy, there are three main issues: reliability, affordability and protecting our environment.
"The smartest thing we can do to begin with, is how do we do better at not needing the energy to begin with because we’re doing better practices?"
There’s a law on the books that requires utilities to be more energy efficient. They have to meet an energy efficiency savings goal of one percent of their total sales per year. Governor Snyder said he wants to see that goal increased.
The governor also said he wants to see the state’s current renewable portfolio standard increased. Right now, utilities have to get 10 percent of their retail sales from renewable sources by the year 2015. The governor campaigned against Proposal 3, which would have bumped the standard up to 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. At the time, he said that was partly because he opposed putting that kind of energy policy in the state constitution. In yesterday’s address, Governor Snyder said he wants to see the legislature increase our renewable standard.
"Let’s celebrate some of our successes, let’s set some new goals for beyond 2015, but let’s do it together and let’s do it in a thoughtful way and do it through the legislative process, the way we should," he said.
Michigan’s biggest utility says the state should stick with its current energy policy for now.
Len Singer is a spokesman for DTE Energy. He would not say whether DTE would support legislation to increase the renewable portfolio standard.
“It’s been proven that renewables can be cost competitive under the right circumstances. I think it’s important that this be looked at in whole and studied closely to make sure there aren’t any unintended consequences of the move in that direction,” said Singer.
Singer says the governor’s push for a higher energy efficiency goal would probably be a move in the right direction. But he says there would need to be careful consideration there too.
In his address yesterday, the governor called himself bullish on natural gas.
“We have strong assets here and we can do more with natural gas. Why am I bullish on natural gas? It’s because compared to coal, it’s a much better alternative,” he said.
He proposed that the state create a strategic reserve of natural gas. The governor also announced a partnership with the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute. Researchers will study the environmental and social impacts of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Michigan.
The governor also said the state needs a strategic plan to manage state land... and he said he wants to see stronger leadership on Great Lakes issues.
Hugh McDiarmid Jr. is the communications director for the Michigan Environmental Council. He generally found the governor’s address encouraging, but he said the devil’s in the details. He said he was not surprised to hear the governor push for more fracking for natural gas.
"Michigan has done a better job than many other states in regulating fracking and we acknowledge that, but we think that we need a wider discussion and a more detailed examination of what this new wave of fracking means to communities throughout the state and what the increase in fracking chemicals and water withdrawals is going to mean to Michigan’s ecosystem in the future," said McDiarmid.