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Governor's Special Message on Energy and the...

This morning Governor Rick Snyder presented his final special message of the year, which focused on energy and the environment.  The Governor views these as symbiotic topics that can and should be addressed in a cohesive manner.

To begin his message, the Governor presented his three pillars of energy; reliability, affordability and protecting the environment (see attachment, “Ensuring Michigan’s Future”).  The state needs to improve the reliability of our current energy system since each of us highly depends on power in our homes and businesses.    The Upper Peninsula often faces the most challenges in keeping the power on for their citizens.  To help with the problem, the Governor would like to see better electrical connections between the two peninsulas, similar to what they are currently doing with broadband connections.  In dealing with issues of affordability for vulnerable families, the Governor is working with the legislature to ensure that energy needs are met for the states most vulnerable.  He called for a change in providing assistance, so that an individual or family doesn’t have to wait until the power is turned off, but can get assistance before it reaches that point. 

The third pillar of energy, protecting the environment, focused heavily on natural gas.  Governor Snyder views this as an opportunity since Michigan has strong natural gas resources. The Governor views natural gas as a cleaner alternative to coal.  He is proposing a strategic reserve of natural gas, which he views as a long term, sustainable investment.  Governor Snyder also touched on fracking, stating that “we do fracking right in Michigan.”  The state will be partnering with the University of Michigan to study the future of fracking.  He also called for Michigan to work with environmental and energy groups to put Michigan at the forefront of environmentally responsible fracking.  The energy portion of the special message was disappointing to those that wanted the Governor to call for a more competitive electric market in the state.

The environmental portion of his message focused on land and water use.   He called for an ecosystem approach that will take science, economics and environmental practices and merge them together in a thoughtful way.  He also called for a strategic plan for public land, including how we can leverage use in a positive way.  The Governor is also focusing on land use in urban areas, including urban blight and right to farm. 

As one of Michigan’s greatest assets, protecting our waters, especially the Great Lakes, is also a priority to the Governor.  He is calling for a summit of the Great Lakes Governors and the premieres of the two Canadian provinces along the lakes.  The summit, to be held within the next two years, will tackle issues such as invasive species and ballast water.  Water usage was also a key point in the message.  The Governor stated that Michigan needs to be proactive instead of reactive by creating a strategic plan for water usage.  With a strategic plan in place, Michigan would be better equipped to handle a drought, such as the one the Midwest United States recently experienced.

Governor Snyder also spoke on the recently defeated ballot proposal 3, which would have mandated 25% renewable energy by 2025.  While he agreed that Michigan needs to set goals to move us towards more renewable energy, he stated that goals need to be set as a state.  During 2013, there will be an open dialogue with all participants where goals will be set through the legislative process.

In closing, he emphasized that now is the time to be proactive and show leadership.  The state needs a long term, adaptable strategy, done in a responsible way, for us and for our kids.  It is time to move energy and the environment higher on the agenda.

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