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Whitmer administration signals support for faster climate action, as new report touts benefits

wind turbines and solar panels in a field
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Michigan could reap big benefits by moving more aggressively toward a clean energy economy, but needs to act fast to maximize those benefits, according to a new report.

The Michigan Clean Energy Framework reportanalyzed how the state would fare if climate bills pending in the state Legislature are adopted into law. It estimates the state would gain nearly 160,000 jobs, see a reduction in household energy costs, and save billions on health care from gains in public health.

But the report warns that Lansing must act quickly.

“Now, timing and urgency are everything,” said Courtney Bourgoin of Evergreen Action Midwest, a group that contributed to the report. “Delaying these policies by even a year risks Michigan losing out on $1 billion extra in federal investment from the Inflation Reduction Act.”

The proposed climate legislation would speed up Michigan’s transition to clean energy faster than anything previously proposed. Among other things, it calls for 100% clean energy generation by 2035; new measures to reduce energy waste; and giving the Michigan Public Service Commission the power to regulate electric utilities based on affordability, reliability, and climate considerations.

At an event marking the report’s release Thursday, Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist indicated that Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration supports the new, more ambitious climate goals.

“The climate crisis is urgent,” Gilchrist said. “We need to act now. We need to act legislatively. We need to act administratively. We need to act in terms of our individual choices that we make as citizens, residents and consumers.”

The current climate bills align with Whitmer’s existing MI Healthy Climate Plan,but have more aggressive clean energy targets. Gilchrist said their environmental, public health, and economic benefits would amount to a “win-win-win,” and make Michigan a clear national climate policy leader.

“Those [new] jobs will be jobs that exist in communities where we need to have innovation partnered with environmental justice,” Gilchrist said. “This is going to make a tremendous difference for Michigan families.”

Gilchrist’s comments signal that acting on climate legislation has become one of the Whitmer Administration’s top goals for the remainder of the year, while Democrats still hold slim majorities in both houses of the Legislature. He declined to say much about the political headwinds it might face, noting only that bipartisan support is welcome and his belief that they’ll “be able to get it done” by the end of the year.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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