Election Results Have Profound Impact for Environmental Policy in U.S. and Michigan

The result of the Presidential election, which has not yet been decided, will have enormous implications for U.S. environmental policy. Democrat Joe Biden, who won Michigan and currently leads the Electoral College count, has pledged to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement “on day one of his presidency.” The former Vice President has put forward a “Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice.” Republican Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the international agreement, and has pushed policies that favor deregulation over environmental protection during his four years in the White House. According to The New York Times, the 45th President dismantled major climate policies and rolled back many rules governing clean air, water, wildlife and toxic chemicals.

Here in Michigan, advancing an environmental agenda will continue to require bipartisan cooperation as Republicans in the State House of Representatives retained control in Tuesday’s elections. The results leave both chambers of the Legislature with a Republican majority, and making progress on environmental issues rests on cooperation between the Legislature and Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

A shift in membership on the Michigan Supreme Court may have environmental implications. Elizabeth Welch, nominated by Democrats, edged out Mary Kelly, nominated by Republicans, to fill an open seat on the Court while Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack, nominated by Democrats, won a second eight-year term. The current Court membership recently struck down a law that Gov. Whitmer had used to deal with COVID-19 protections. The new Court membership may be involved in litigation involving the Line 5 pipeline.

Michigan U.S. Senator Gary Peters, who has been a consistent advocate of Great Lakes protection and has a strong environmental voting record, won re-election to a second six-year term.

A state ballot proposal lifting the cap on oil and gas revenues that can be deposited in the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund easily passed with 84% of the vote, a margin of over 3.3 million votes. The constitutionally protected Fund uses the revenues to purchase recreational and scenic land for public use. The ballot proposal also increases the share of the Fund that can be used for maintaining recreational facilities.

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