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Environmental Leaders Call on Lawmakers to Hold Utilities Accountable, Pass Strong Clean Energy Bills

Press Release | October 16, 2023

Although backed by widespread public support, strong climate legislation is at risk of stalling, or falling to further weakened standards, due to the corrosive influence of big utility money in Lansing.

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LANSING, MI – In her “What’s Next” address in late August, Governor Whitmer called on the Michigan Legislature to prioritize and pass strong legislation to create a 100% clean energy standard aligned with the policies outlined in the MI Healthy Climate Plan - a goal supported by a majority of Michigan voters. Strong climate legislation is at risk of stalling or being further weakened due to the corrosive influence of big utility money in Lansing, despite months of work from Representative Helena Scott’s  Energy Reliability Task Force, a House Energy Committee hearing, and three Senate Energy Committee hearings. 

Recent reporting revealed that a non-profit tied to DTE Energy gave $2 million in contributions to state lawmakers and leaders in the past year, while impactful changes addressing energy affordability, reliability, and utility accountability have failed to get traction with a majority of legislators. Popular and effective policies like enabling large third party owned community solar programs may be left out of energy legislation entirely. Recent studies have shown that without passing strong clean energy legislation, Michigan stands to lose out on billions of dollars in available federal funding.

“In 2022, Michigan voters spoke loud and clear by electing a governor and legislative majorities who promised to protect clean water, address the climate crisis, and hold polluters accountable. Now we need our lawmakers to overcome the bad faith objections being posed by the big utilities that profit while keeping our families in the dark, put the people of Michigan first, and follow through on their promises,” said Sean McBrearty, Michigan Director of Clean Water Action. “This summer was again the hottest summer on record, we continue to see more frequent and intense storms, and Michigan residents deserve strong climate action - regardless of how much money DTE spends to prevent our state from moving forward.”

"The science is crystal clear, we have to act now to cut emissions as quickly as possible across all sectors. Utilities and other polluters are pushing hard against the changes that climate science and environmental justice demands. These are the same interests that created the climate crisis in the first place--legislators should listen to their constituents and scientists--not the polluters that created the climate crisis," said Dr. Denise Keele, Executive Director of the Michigan Climate Action Network.

“From the consequences of poor air quality related to the wildfires in Canada to exacerbation of lung and heart problems from extreme weather events and their frequent subsequent power outages, practitioners in Michigan are seeing the health impacts of our changing climate in their offices, clinics, and hospitals today,” said Dr. Lisa Del Buono, Executive Director of Michigan Clinicians for Climate Action. “The good news is that strong clean energy legislation means fewer hospital admissions and tremendous health care savings due to avoided asthmatic attacks, heart disease, stillbirths and preterm deliveries, as well as fewer cases of lung cancer and dementia. Now is the time for Michigan legislators to stand strong against the pressure of special interests that wish to further weaken the proposed legislation, and squarely on the side of the health of their constituents to deliver the strongest possible clean energy package in line with targets recommended by scientific evidence.”

“We have renewable energy champions in Lansing who are doing everything they can to make sure that we get a strong climate package to the Governor's desk quickly,” said Christy McGillivray, Political and Legislative Director for Sierra Club Michigan. “Unfortunately, our legislative champions are fighting entrenched utility money. We voted in a new majority in 2022 that campaigned on climate action, but we weren’t able to vote out utility lobbyists. These utility lobbyists are still calling too many shots, and we have to work hard to outweigh their influence.” 

"Michigan should not be in the middle of the pack," said Ashley Rudzinski, Climate and Environment Program Director for Groundwork Center. "Our citizens have shown up in force to demand bold climate leadership that follows the science from our leaders in Lansing. But, DTE and Consumers Energy have worked steadily behind the scenes to erode the MI Clean Energy Future package, aiming to preserve the status quo and protect their profit margins. If new gas plants with carbon capture, hydrogen, and nuclear are defined as ‘clean energy’  frontline and low-income communities will continue to suffer. We can and must do better!"



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