In a proposed budget with major increases thanks to a booming state economy and massive amounts of federal infrastructure and COVID-19 relief funding, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday announced important investments in environmental programs.
As an aide to the governor said, “budgets are a reflection of values.” The Governor’s office characterized Gov. Whitmer’s environmental recommendations as record amounts for protection of water, including the replacement of lead pipes, control of toxic PFAS, rebuilding water infrastructure, and providing safe drinking water in schools.
The Governor’s recommendation calls for a 42.3 percent increase in state general funding for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and a 45.6 percent increase in total EGLE funding. She is also calling for a 97 percent increase in state general funding for the Department of Natural Resources.
The highlight of the budget is a $500 million expansion of the Governor’s MI Clean Water Plan grant program for community technical support, lead service line removals, support for communities with lead action levels, and funding for communities with impaired water bodies.
The budget recommendation also calls for:
$34.3 million for high water infrastructure grants to local units of government for high water level and climate resiliency planning and infrastructure needs, focused on addressing flooding, coastline erosion, transportation networks, urban heat, and stormwater management;
$69.3 million for cleanup of contaminated sites and to improve the ability to identify, assess, and clean up sites of legacy contamination, plus additional funds for rapid response;
$10 million to begin the conversion of the state government fleet to electrical vehicles, $110 million for the deployment of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and $50 million for electric vehicle rebates, providing a $2,000 point-of-sale rebate for the purchase of a new electric vehicle and a $500 rebate for at-home charging equipment for a new or used electric vehicle;
$50 million for a residential clean energy program to provide affordable financing for clean energy improvements and pre-qualification investments for low-income families; and
$5.4 million to plant five million hardwood and conifer trees on private land and State land in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
Jim Olson, environmental attorney and senior legal advisor to FLOW (For Love of Water), the Great Lakes law and policy center based in Traverse City, reacts to a narrow ruling released today by an administrative law judge on Enbridge’s oil tunnel proposed for the Straits of Mackinac:
“Today’s ruling by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Dennis W. Mack ignores the declining public need for oil as the U.S. and world finally reckon with the climate emergency, and it is blind to the fact that Gov. Whitmer has ordered the permanent shutdown of the Line 5 pipeline that the tunnel would contain this May.
“The State of Michigan will never reach a just and lawful decision on the proposed oil tunnel by agreeing with Enbridge to ignore critical evidence and treat a proposed oil tunnel meant to last 99 years as simply a maintenance-and-replacement project. The tunnel is a Trojan Horse designed to push billions of gallons of oil through the world’s largest system of freshwater lakes in an era of water crises hastened by climate change.
“The Michigan Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) enacted in 1970 was created to compel agencies like the MPSC to evaluate the cumulative environmental impacts and to examine alternatives to proposed projects. In the case at hand, MEPA requires the MPSC to examine the environmental, health, and climatic risks of the proposed tunnel and Line 5 pipeline. The greenhouse gas emissions from Line 5’s oil and natural gas liquids, at more than 57 million metric tons a year, is greater than the annual yield from the combined operation on the nation’s three largest coal plants.
“The law does not keep the MPSC frozen in time such that they can ignore these paramount issues.
“The State of Michigan has a perpetual duty as trustees under the Public Trust Doctrine to prevent unacceptable harm to the Great Lakes and the public’s right to use them, which led to the Governor’s and DNR’s November 13 order and lawsuit to revoke and terminate the easement allowing Line 5 to occupy the Straits of Mackinac. The ALJ rejected the argument that the Governor’s notice and revocation of the 1953 easement is a basis to evaluate the environmental effects of Line 5 or the consumption of the oil transported on the system under MEPA.”
Background: See FLOW’s ongoing coverage of the Michigan Public Service Commission review of the Enbridge oil pipeline tunnel proposed for the Straits of Mackinac here: