Clean energy, mobility groups praise Michigan budget

LANSING–A group of nonprofit advocacy organizations for clean energy and mass transit highlighted the Michigan Legislature’s 2023-2024 budget that has millions of dollars in spending for clean energy, transportation and weatherization of homes and small businesses.

Representatives of the groups said the budget will help create jobs, save consumers on their energy bills, protect public health, and address climate change.

Michigan’s budget includes:
● Grants for Michigan’s clean school bus program ($125 million)
● Increased funding for local transit and intermodal capital grants ($110 million)
● Building electric grid resilience ($43 million)
● Grants to communities to establish wind, solar and energy storage facilities, with 40% of the funding going to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved and overburdened by pollution ($30 million)
● Air quality and contaminated site remediation in disadvantaged communities ($20 million)
● Improving homes, reducing energy usage and lowering utility bills ($25 million)
● Creating an energy efficiency revolving fund for business and homeowner projects ($8.4 million)
● Enhancing funding for Michigan Saves Green Bank to incentivize lending to residential and commercial borrowers for renewable energy and energy efficiency improvement loans ($5.5 million)
● Expanding public EV charging around Lake Michigan, ($5 million)
● Electrification of Michigan’s state vehicles fleet ($1 million)
● Assisting communities with environmental justice programs ($1 million)

In addition to allocating state funds, some of these items in the state budget access available federal funding.

“Michigan’s budget focuses on areas that can make a huge difference in building a robust clean transportation sector, from expanding access to electric vehicle charging stations to protecting school kids’ health with more clean school buses on the road,” said Jane McCurry, executive director of Clean Fuels Michigan and a member of the Council on Future Mobility and Electrification. “These investments are essential for a thriving clean mobility sector, and they can help increase access to clean transportation options across Michigan.”

Added Charles Griffith, director of climate and energy programs at the Ecology Center, a membership-based environmental nonprofit in Ann Arbor: “By investing in clean energy, Michigan’s budget shows our commitment to reducing dangerous pollution and addressing climate change, protecting public health and creating jobs. While there is certainly more that is needed, we applaud the Legislature and Governor Gretchen Whitmer for their efforts to make Michigan a leader in clean energy, clean transportation and more energy efficient homes and buildings.”

The clean energy spending comes as several reports show Michigan creating jobs and growing the economy with clean energy and clean transportation policies. The budget also passed during a week when widespread Canadian wildfires are polluting Michigan’s air and prompting health advisories for people to stay indoors. Michigan climate scientists warn that expanding clean energy use can help reduce risks of wildfires.

“Michigan is sending the message that we are building a future of abundant and affordable renewable energy, and turning the page on polluting fossil fuels,” said Denise Keele, executive director of the Michigan Climate Action Network. “With Michiganders increasingly demanding cleaner, more reliable and more cost-effective ways of heating and cooling our homes, and powering our vehicles, Michigan’s budget delivers on those demands.”

Added Martin Kushler, senior fellow with the American Center for an Energy Efficient Economy: “We really applaud our Legislature and Governor for their ‘Michigan first’ approach. Michigan is almost entirely dependent upon imports from other states and countries for our coal, natural gas and oil consumption, which drains over $18 billion a year from the state economy. By providing funding for energy efficiency and Michigan-based renewable energy, these budget proposals are a great investment that will reduce that financial drain and help keep those dollars in Michigan.”

“Extreme weather events that left millions of Michiganders without heat in winter and sent schoolkids home because of dangerous heat are a clear warning that we need to ramp up clean, renewable and reliable energy sources,” said James Gignac, Midwest senior policy manager at Union of Concerned Scientists. “Michigan’s new budget builds on a forward-looking clean energy future and moves us away from a broken status quo of dirty, unreliable and expensive coal, oil and gas.”

And Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United, said: “A critical part of an equitable climate solution is ensuring all Michiganders have access to affordable sustainable mobility options, especially the millions of our neighbors who can’t physically or financially drive. This budget takes an exciting step towards that future with a $60 million boost in local bus funding and $50 million more for transit capital, plus $35 million for rail, but these one-time funds fall well short of the transformational long-term investment Michigan will need to make clean mobility an attractive choice for all.”

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