Tag Archive | Michigan League of Conservation Voters

Nearly 1 million Michiganders lost power from August storms as DTE, Consumers Energy were unprepared

Detroit News exposes DTE, Consumers for propping up status quo, funding 96% of Michigan Legislature





Nearly 1 million Michiganders lost power from August storms as DTE, Consumers Energy were unprepared and ill-equipped


A news release from the Michigan League of Conservation Voters reports that the cozy relationship Michigan’s utilities enjoy with lawmakers enshrining their monopolies – resulting in the highest electricity rates and lowest reliability in the Midwest – is fueled by millions in political and civic donations, as exposed by the Detroit News in an article today.

The article found 140 out of 146 Michigan lawmakers received some kind of campaign donation from DTE or Consumers Energy, while the monopoly utilities funneled $55 million to political and civic spending.

“When storms hit and Michigan utilities leave nearly 1 million people in the dark, it’s clear the status quo is unacceptable,” said Bob Allison, deputy director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “Behind closed doors, the utilities continue to lobby against common-sense clean energy policies that would help lower the cost of electricity and improve reliability for customers. Michiganders deserve better, which is why DTE and Consumers Energy must be held fully accountable for their failures over the summer.”

Michigan LCV has called for a moratorium on residential electric rate hikes until independent investigations can look into why Michiganders suffer through more and longer outages than any other state in the Great Lakes region. The Michigan Public Service Commission has scheduled a hearing for Oct. 22, while a legislative hearing has been proposed but not scheduled, according to media reports.

According to the independent Citizens Utility Board of Michigan (CUB), an independent organization representing the interests of Michigan’s residential energy customers, Michigan utilities lag far behind other states in terms of reliability: 

  • Michigan utilities had the second-worst restoration time per outage in the nation – even on days without major storm events. 
  • In the Great Lakes region, Michiganders experienced the most amount of minutes out-of-power on average annually. 

In the last five years, DTE Energy has increased rates to the tune of $775 million with little improvements to service, while Consumers Energy is currently proposing a $225 million rate increase – just months after they hiked our rates this past January. 

While DTE had profits of $1.4 billion and Consumers Energy’s parent company, CMS, raking in $680 million, Michigan ratepayers are experiencing unreliable service. More than 800,000 Michiganders lost power during recent storms and the utilities are now saying customers will have to file paperwork to receive a small credit for their troubles. 

Media reports show that DTE and Consumers Energy paid no federal taxes in 2020, with utility spokespersons saying it would ultimately trickle down into savings to customers.  Last year, both Consumers Energy and DTE spent more than $10 million paying their CEOs. 

Michiganders deserve independent investigations into failures by DTE, Consumers Energy

Increase power outage credits to customers
and make repairs come from utility profits

The Michigan League of Conservation Voters today is calling for the Michigan Public Service Commission and the Legislature to conduct oversight hearings on the failures by DTE and Consumers Energy to prevent outages and reconnect customers following summer storms.  

Michigan’s leaders also should demand DTE and Consumers increase the $25 power outage credit for customers that lost power in recent storms, make those payments automatic without a complicated paperwork process, and ensure that widespread improvements to Michigan’s energy grid come from utility profits — not more rate increases.

“For years now, our residential rates have been skyrocketing, eating up more of family budgets, and yet all we get is more blackouts, longer outage times, and less reliability.  DTE and Consumers seem content to rake in massive, windfall profits while families and businesses across Michigan suffer without power,” said Bob Allison, deputy director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “We need a full-on, independent state investigation, and our Legislature and the Public Service Commission should get to the bottom of why Michigan’s utility companies continue to fail their customers and businesses.  No family should ever be left in the dark for a week again.”   

FACTS

According to the independent Citizens Utility Board of Michigan (CUB), an independent organization representing interests of residential energy customers in Michigan, Michigan utilities lag far behind other states in terms of reliability:

  • Michigan utilities had the second-worst restoration time per outage in the nation — even on days without major storm events.
  • In the Great Lakes region, Michiganders experienced the most amount of minutes out-of-power on average annually.

In the last five years, DTE Energy has jacked up rates to the tune of $775 million with little improvements to service while Consumers Energy is currently proposing a $225 million rate increase — just months after they hiked our rates this past January.

While DTE had profits of $1.4 billion and Consumers Energy’s parent company, CMS, raking in $680 million, Michigan ratepayers are experiencing unreliable service. More than 800,000 Michiganders lost power during recent storms and the utilities are now saying customers will have to file paperwork to receive a small credit for their troubles.

Media reports show that DTE and Consumers Energy paid no federal taxes in 2020, with utility spokespersons saying it would ultimately trickle down into savings to customers.  Last year, both Consumers Energy and DTE spent more than $10 million paying their CEOs.

Green Gavel scoring system rates Michigan’s Supreme Court’s environmental impacts

Note from OKT: If you were at the Southeast Area Farmers Market last week, you may have talked with the Michigan LCV folks who ere sharing information there. Here’s an example of their good work.

Reposted from Rapid Growth Media

In collaboration with students at the University of Michigan Law School, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has updated its online Green Gavels tool. When a Michigan Supreme Court case concerns an environmental issue, the scoring tool rates the justices’ decision on the case either green, yellow or red, based on how it impacts the environment. 

“We want our Supreme Court legal system to be independent from political influence of all kinds and not independent from the best ideas and public desire for cleaner land, air and water,” says Nick Occhipinti, Michigan LCV’s Grand Rapids-based government affairs director.

A green gavel indicates a decision that was good for the environment, a red gavel means not only was the decision bad for the environment, but the justices could have chosen to rule differently. Yellow gavels indicate either that the issue had no impact on the environment, was bad but decided upon precedent or an unrelated issue, or was bad but based correctly on the existing law.

“It’s an opportunity for the public to gain better access to information that is not easily available. [The Green Gavel] is shining a bright light on what the Michigan Supreme Court is doing,” Occhipinti says. “The state Supreme Court is a third, coequal branch of the government.”

One case the Michigan LCV followed was Henry v. Dow Chemical. A unanimous 2018 Michigan Supreme Court decision reversed the lower courts and prevented residents from bringing lawsuits when negative health issues caused by pollution do not develop until after the existing statute of limitations had passed.

“Now it is harder for property owners to bring suits,” Occhipinti says. “Because we’re active in the legislative arena and connected to the legal realm, with this tool, we can put the pieces together. [We can] say, ‘Hey, folks, this legislation is critically important because it closes this legal gap.’ In this case, the statute of limitations, but pick your issue.”

Nick Occhipinti

Originally launched in 2012, Michigan LCV’s Green Gavels scored environmental cases from 1980-2012. The update adds cases from 2012-2020 and tracks scores for current justices. Cases and justices’ scores are updated regularly. Currently, the website reports that Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack has the most green gavels, seven, while Justice Brian K. Zara has the most red gavels, seven.

“Connection of the legal outcomes at the State Supreme Court, at that highest level, connection to statute and legislative change within the Michigan legislature, that is how we connect to issues,” Occhipinti says. “Finding that there are holes and a legal recourse for protecting [people from] contaminated sites, protecting Michigan’s land, air and water. My job is to improve our legislative policy that will then protect communities.”


Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy Michigan League of Conservation Voters

Town hall discussion on Michigan’s clean energy transition

Clean energy town hall discussion
 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 18
GVSU Loosemore Auditorium
401 Fulton St. W, 49504

 

On Monday, March 18, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, Citizens Climate Lobby and Sunrise Movement will join elected officials, clean energy experts and community members for a town hall event to discuss Michigan’s transition to clean energy. Michigan is at a pivotal moment for its energy future as utility companies develop long-term energy plans. The town hall discussion will focus on how Michigan can transition to clean energy and how the community can get involved.

Speakers include:

  • Senator Winnie Brinks, Michigan State Senate
  • Representative Rachel Hood, Michigan State House of Representatives
  • Commissioner Dan Scripps, Michigan Public Service Commission
  • Jessica Woycehoski, Consumers Energy

    Co-Moderators Cameron Kritikos, CRC Office of Social Justice and Gillian Giem, U.S. Green Building Council – West Michigan Chapter

Participating organizations include Climate Witness Project, LINC Up, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business Koeze Business Ethics Initiative, and U.S. Green Building Council – West Michigan Chapter.

SB 653 creates appeals process enabling industry to overturn DEQ decisions

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SB 653, introduced by Senator Darwin Booher (R-Evart), establishes a permit appeals panel with the authority to unilaterally overturn, amend, or approve any permitting decisions made by DEQ.
● Creates a permit appeals panel within the DEQ and smaller committees of the panel
known as appeals boards.
● The appeals panel is made up of 15 members appointed by the Governor. All members
must either: hold a current professional license in engineering, geology, hydrology, or
hydrogeology and have 6 years of professional experience in that field, or have a
master’s degree in engineering or a science related to air and water and 8 years of
professional experience.
● A permit applicant who is aggrieved by a decision by the DEQ regarding the approval ordenial of a permit can appeal that decision to an appeals board by submitting a petition to the director of the DEQ–appeals are only available for permit applicant and do not include other affected groups, community members, etc.
● The Director can try to resolve the dispute without convening an appeals board meeting.
● If the Director is unable to resolve the dispute, then he/she must convene a meeting of
an appeals board.
● An appeals board is made up of 5 members of the appeals panel selected by the
Director for their relevant expertise in the permit subject area.
● The panel holds a hearing on the permit petition and makes a decision regarding the
petition.
● Whether the DEQ Director approves of the decision or not, the appeals board has final
decision making authority on all permits brought before it.
● The Director then must issue a final decision that incorporates the appeal board decision into the terms of the permit; if the director fails to do so, it becomes final in 60 days anyway.

SB 654 – Introduced by Senator David Robertson (R-Grand Blanc) delegates authority to the Governor to create an environmental science advisory board (no binding decisionmaking), although the Governor already has the authority to create such a board if he/she desires. While this is not objectionable in and of itself,
because this piece of legislation is tie-barred to SB 652 & 653, the Michigan League of COnservation Voters opposes it. The bill would:.

● Creates an environmental science advisory board within the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget
● The advisory board is made up of 9 members appointed by the Governor who have
expertise in one or more of the following areas: engineering, environmental science,
economics, chemistry, geology, physics, biology, human medicine, statistics, and risk
assessment.
● The board can advise the Governor on issues affecting the protection of the environment
or the management of the natural resources of the state. The advice the board can
provide is limited to the specific advice requested by the Governor.
● The board cannot review or advise on any application, recommendation, or decision
regarding a permit, license, or environmental impact statement.

Bill 652 creates Environmental Rules Committee stacked to support polluting industries

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Senate Bill 652, introduced by Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) creates an environmental rules review committee–stacked with representatives from polluting industries. This committee will oversee DEQ rulemaking, amend DEQ draft rules, and offer final approval or denial of all environmental rules proposed by the DEQ. This committee will include :

  1. A representative of the solid waste management industry,
  2. A representative of a statewide manufacturing organization,
  3. A representative of a statewide organization that represents small businesses,
  4. A representative of a public utility,
  5. A representative of a statewide environmental organization,
  6. A representative of the oil and gas industry,
  7. A representative of a statewide agriculture organization,
  8. A representative of local government,
  9. A representative of a statewide land conservancy,
  10. One member of the general public, and
  11. One member who is a medical professional.
  • Individuals who are employed by the state or who worked for the DEQ within the proceeding 3 years are not allowed to serve on the environmental rules review committee.
  • Multi-client registered lobbyists are not able to serve on the rules review committee, but registered lobbyists who only represent 1 client can.
  • The Governor makes appointments to the environmental rules review committee and the Michigan Senate has advise and consent authority over those appointments.
  • The director of the DEQ can appoint a science advisor to help advise the rules review committee
  • The environmental rule review committee will oversee all rule-making of the DEQ.
  • A majority of members of the environmental rules review committee can vote to prevent a rule-making from going forward
  • The environmental rules review committee can also vote to make changes to a rules package.
  • The environmental rules review committee has final approval over draft rules