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Michigan's "Clean Power Plan" could go forward despite knee-jerk, anti-Obama actions

Sep 2, 2015

Some days I find myself wishing President Obama would make a speech honoring motherhood and propose a program to honor mothers.

If he did that, it’s very clear most Republicans would refuse to support honoring mothers.

I’m not sure if they’d oppose motherhood itself, or just say that Barack Obama was a Kenyan socialist who couldn’t possibly have had a mother.

But I am sure that Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette would immediately join a lawsuit arguing that motherhood was unconstitutional.

That’s a parody, but not much of one.

Last month, the President and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, announced a Clean Power Plan designed to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants.

This was a long-overdue and flexible plan that allows for variation in what individual states do, depending on their energy mix.

States are being encouraged to come up with their own plans to meet the federal mandates.

Yesterday, the Snyder Administration announced it is doing that, and was encouraging utilities and other stakeholders to work with the state in developing one.

Valerie Brader, director of the Michigan Agency for Energy, said, “Michigan remains committed to creating an energy future that’s affordable, adaptable, reliable and protective of the environment.”

Rather than waiting for the federal government to impose its own plan on Michigan, she and state Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant said it made far more sense for the state to develop a plan tailored to Michigan’s needs.

Michigan, by the way, probably needs a clean power and carbon emissions plan more than most states. We still get half our power by burning coal, a fuel that made sense in the time of Charles Dickens.

Four years ago, a Michigan Environmental Council study found our nine oldest coal plants cost state residents about a billion and a half a year in increased health care costs.

They aren’t good for people in neighboring states and Canada, either.

Naturally, Bill Schuette is joining some other Republican attorneys general in suing the Obama Administration, claiming the President’s Clean Power Plan is illegal and unconstitutional.

Significantly, spokespersons for the Snyder Administration yesterday said they had no interest in that. They are more interested in getting something meaningful done.

Now, if all this elicits a sense of what Yogi Berra called "déjà vu all over again," it should. Two years ago, Michigan had the option of creating a state health care exchange, or directory, to comply with the Affordable Care Act.

Governor Snyder tried to do that.

But it was killed by Republicans in the state House, who hated “Obamacare” so much they refused to do anything to go along with it. So they killed the exchange, and a less good federal one was imposed on us instead, an act of spite which cost Michigan $40 million.

Yesterday, there were signs Republican legislators may have learned from the experience.

After the ritual denunciation of the Clean Power Plan as an “abuse of federal power,” State Senator Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, told the Gongwer News Service, “I believe we need to come up with our own plan,” to make the best of what he believes is state power “run amok.”

Well, what do you know? Once in a while, people do learn from their mistakes.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.