New Michigan budget includes funding for energy, water and other environmental priorities ⋆
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday signed Michigan’s $57.4 billion general government budget for Fiscal Year 2024, which included funding for clean energy, conservation and environmental justice.
Environmental groups have cheered the budget for inclusions like $125 million for purchasing electric school buses, $212 million to provide rebates for energy efficiency upgrades to homes, and $20 million to improve air quality and clean up contamination in environmental justice communities that have been disproportionately burdened with pollution.
“The budget passed by lawmakers and signed by the governor [Monday] is an investment in our future — a future that cleans up our air and water, reduces environmental impacts in our overburdened communities, accelerates our clean mobility transition and reduces energy costs for Michiganders by improving weatherization and efficiency,” Carlee Knott, energy and climate policy coordinator with the Michigan Environmental Council, said in a statement released after the budget signing.
Legislature passes $82B budget, including record $21B for schools
The budget includes more than $1.05 billion in total funding for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), more than $572.2 million for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and over $168.6 million in the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, with other departments also receiving funding to support environmental efforts.
A breakdown of the budget released by the governor’s office highlighted a number of funding areas, including:
- $21.3 million for investments in clean energy and electric vehicle infrastructure.
- $1 million to begin the transition of the State of Michigan’s fleet to electric vehicles.
- $5 million for a critical mineral recycling research hub, which would research how to reuse minerals used in the production of clean energy.
- Nearly $600 million for Michigan’s water infrastructure, protecting access to drinking water, replacing lead service lines, rebuilding sewers, and more.
- $150 million to reopen the Palisades nuclear power plant.
- $13 million for agricultural climate resiliency and soil health to research new regenerative agriculture practices and help farmers reduce run off and increase crop diversity.
- $7.7 million in state parks operations funding to provide additional park rangers and essential resources to state parks.
- $5.5 million for the Michigan Saves Green Bank to incentivize private investment in clean energy improvements for Michigan residents and businesses.
Environmental and clean energy advocates highlighted additional efforts, including:
- $70 million to expand clean transportation options like transit and high-speed rail.
- $50 million to upgrade school energy, including building on-site renewables and water systems.
- $43 million to enhance the electric grid and reduce power outages
- $30 million to launch “Renewable-Ready Communities,” a program that will incentivize communities to host utility-scale renewable energy projects.
- $25 million to repair and weatherize homes to enable clean energy upgrades.
- $1 million to expand activities that reduce environmental impacts in environmental justice communities.
- $20 million to conduct energy audits to enable clean energy in schools
- $5.5 million to provide community energy upgrades, including a community solar array and undergrounding of powerlines.
- $5 million to build out the Lake Michigan EV circuit, a multistate project intended to allow someone to drive an electric vehicle seamlessly .
- $14 million to implement the MI Healthy Climate Plan, which outlines the state’s pan to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
The budget also includes $10.3 million dollars and authorizes two full-time equivalent positions to provide environmental remediation for abandoned oil and gas wells that have not been sealed.
Funding for Department of the Attorney General legal services for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and EGLE was reduced from $3.66 million to $403,400. However the budget also authorized two full-time equivalent positions for additional legal services and to expedite the caseloads for each department.
The state also provided the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development with $4.1 million to address issues with emerging contaminates like PFAS in agriculture and food industries.
While many environmental groups cheered the investments into renewable energy, water quality and clean transportation, the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club disapproved of the $150 million in funding to reopen the Palisades nuclear plant, which the Sierra Club fought to keep closed.
“While we are disappointed to see funding for reopening the Palisades nuclear plant, overall, this state budget includes transformative investments worth our praise. From major investments in electric school buses, renewable energy deployment, public transit, expanding outdoor access, and protecting our waterways, this budget reflects the demands of Michigan residents,” Tim Minotas, the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter’s legislative and political deputy director, said in a statement.
Palisades Nuclear Power Station operated by Consumers Power Company at South Haven, Michigan, Circa 1970. | U.S. Department of Energy Flickr Public Domain
In a statement, Michigan United Conservation Clubs highlighted an additional $2 million funding for wetland restoration in the DNR budget, as well as $7 million for the state’s invasive species task force. It also noted that an additional $3.5 million in this year’s budget would help give Michigan conservation officers a salary bump, bringing their pay more in line with other state law enforcement agencies and assisting with recruiting and retaining officers.
However, Justin Tomei, the organization’s policy assistant, said the state should have included funding for lethal cormorant control in the budget. Cormorants are large birds that often nest on small islands in the Great Lakes area and eat about one pound of fish every day, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“That money not being included kind of hamstrings the state in their cormorant control program. The tonnage of fish that Cormoran can eat can wipe out some fisheries pretty quickly,” Tomei said.
The state also omitted line item funding deer drop boxes for chronic wasting disease testing, Tomei said. Chronic wasting disease is a fatal, neurological illness that occurs among members of the deer family, including white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose.
“That just kind of helped ensure that there were free and low cost methods for Michigan hunters to get their deer tested,” Tomei said.
“The department is moving to a different style of surveillance. I guess they didn’t feel they needed that money, but we would have liked to have seen some more [chronic wasting disease] testing money in there,” he said.
authored by Kyle Davidson
First published at https%3A%2F%2Fmichiganadvance.com%2F2023%2F08%2F03%2Fnew-michigan-budget-includes-funding-for-energy-water-and-other-environmental-priorities%2F