Nov 17, 2023 - Climate

Clean energy legislation fast-tracks zero-emission plan

Whitmer in DC

National outlets are framing Michigan's soon-to-be-signed climate plan as a major win for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty

Democratic lawmakers who passed sweeping climate legislation under a narrow majority this month — one that no longer exists — say the reforms make Michigan a national leader on clean energy.

Driving the news: The climate plan would fast-track a clean energy transition, requiring Michigan to use only carbon-free power sources by 2040.

Why it matters: Climate experts say the proposals to phase out carbon-emitting energy sources in favor of a 100% clean energy standard would create a dramatic change in energy production, use and storage.

  • In a state with an economy dependent on factories with a long history of polluting the most vulnerable communities, advocates say it also represents a major shift in corporate accountability.

Between the lines: Democrats in the Senate and House both made changes to the four-bill package after pushback from utility companies and progressives.

  • Senate Dems changed the categorization of natural gas to "clean" and altered a provision to lift utility companies' cap on rate increases.
  • House Dems added incentives for companies to lower costs for low-income communities.

Zoom out: The plan is capturing national attention. The proposal would transition Michigan to zero-emission electricity sources even faster than California, the New York Times reports.

  • This month, the Washington Post described the legislation as a "big climate win" for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, "who is widely considered a rising star in the Democratic Party and one of its potential future leaders," the paper wrote.

The other side: "These bills represent a destructive force of government from which generations of farms and families will never recover," Republican Senate leader Aric Nesbitt said in a statement.

  • House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Twp.) told reporters in Lansing that part of the legislation, which would strip local zoning authority from municipalities over large wind and solar projects, would backfire politically.
  • "Today is the day that we can say the Republicans are going to take the House back," Hall said.

What's next: Whitmer is expected to sign the package later this month.

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