michigan environmental council

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Two northern Michigan representatives want to keep the picturesque shoreline of the Great Lakes free of spinning wind turbines.

New legislation introduced by Republicans Greg MacMaster and Ray Franz would stop any proposed research or production of offshore wind power in the Great Lakes that border Michigan.

It would also ban it for the future.

Critics say the bill lacks foresight.

"We think it is a mistake to limit research in this area," said James Clift, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council. "We have a number of universities who have gotten grants to do research on offshore wind. It may be decades down the road, but to restrict our ability to even learn the possibilities there is extremely shortsighted."

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A battle over how to pay for emergency harbor dredging is brewing in Lansing. State Senator John Moolenaar (R-Midland) is sponsoring a bill that would explicitly identify harbor dredging as a proper use of  funding from the state's National Resources Trust Fund.

He says, “when it comes to recreational access to use our tremendous assets that we have in Michigan, we believe this is consistent, but we wanted to spell it out in state law.”

Environmental groups are criticizing the plan.  They say it would threaten the state’s ability to buy and improve parks and public land.

Hugh McDiarmid of the Michigan Environmental Council admits record-low water levels in the Great Lakes mean emergency dredging is necessary. But he says there are better ways to pay for it than raiding the Natural Resources Trust Fund. 

“Diverting money to dredge harbors,” he says, “would hurt communities around the state who wouldn’t have that money available for their parks and their recreational facilities.”

McDiarmid adds long-term harbor maintenance costs could drain the fund completely.  “Maybe purchasing land to create a new harbor would be a more appropriate use of the trust fund”, he says. “You know, some big investment like that rather than routine maintenance that would bleed the trust fund every year, and really should come from another source.”

Governor Rick Snyder is asking for more than $20 million for emergency harbor dredging in his proposed budget. That money would not come out of the Natural Resources Trust Fund.

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A ballot proposal to increase Michigan’s renewable energy usage wouldn't have a big impact on utility rates, according to a new report commissioned by supporters of Proposal 3.

That "25 x '25" measure would require amend the state constitution to require Michigan to generate 25% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

The Michigan Environmental Council sponsored the report, performed by independent analysts Martin Cohen and George Sansoucy.

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The Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs coalition wants to increase the state’s renewable energy standard to 25 percent by 2025.

That would mean that a quarter of all the energy used in Michigan would come from renewable sources like the wind and sun.

The coalition is trying to collect enough signatures to put the issue before voters in November. They'll need to collect a minimum of 322,609 valid signatures by July 9th, 2012. Organizers say their goal is to turn in 500,000 signatures.

And, interestingly enough, the proposal is getting support from both Democrats and Republicans.

Steve Linder is President of Sterling Corporation, a Republican consulting firm. He says his organization is behind the proposal for business reasons. “While we don’t like government mandates, this allows us to use manufacturing capacity in Michigan rather than bringing in $1.6 billion worth of coal from West Virginia and Pennsylvania. So, this is really a business to business ballot initiative and we are very comfortable in making the business and economic case that this keeps dollars in our state and it keeps us at the cutting age of new types of manufacturing technology,” Linder says.

Mark Fisk, a Democrat, is co-partner of Byrum & Fisk, a political consulting firm. He says he’s working on behalf of the initiative because of the jobs it’ll bring to the state and the environmental benefits of renewable energy. “This initiative will create thousands of new Michigan jobs and help boost Michigan’s economy by building a clean energy industry right here in our state. And, it gives Michigan cleaner and healthier air and water. It’ll protect our Great Lakes, reduce asthma and lung disease, and ultimately save lives,” Fisk says.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A state senate committee will consider legislation Thursday to recognize Michigan businesses that are “environmental leaders.”

But environmentalists say the bill actually makes it easier for companies to do the least required to meet environmental standards.

James Cliff is with the Michigan Environmental Council.    He says the "environmental leaders program" will reward companies by giving them access to state contracts with less regulation and an early warning for inspections, without really requiring them to do very much in return.