Three Things Thursday: December 23, 2021

Three Things Thursday: December 23, 2021

Dear Michigan LCV Family,

Welcome to the December 23, 2021 edition of Three Things Thursday! The Michigan LCV offices are officially closed this week and next for a well-deserved, long winter’s nap, but that doesn’t mean the world around us comes to a halt.  There have been a number of important developments regarding our top-tier issues, so I bring to you this evening a “holiday” edition of Three Things, which includes:  (1)  Senator Joe Manchin’s steadfast opposition to the Build Back Better Act–where do we go from here? (2) Governor Whitmer’s stellar decision re: the State Board of Canvassers; and (3) our two energy utilities in the news, but not for reasons that they would choose.

Let’s jump in!

1. Build Back Better Update: Senator Manchin and the United Mine Workers of America

On Sunday, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin released a statement announcing his steadfast opposition to President Biden’s Build Back Better Act (BBBA), the critical clean energy, climate, and jobs legislation that the Conservation Voters Movement (all across this nation) has been working on for almost a year. After passing the U.S. House in late November, the BBBA has been sitting in the Senate, where we have been pushing for a vote over the last many weeks.

In his statement last weekend, Manchin said he could not vote for the Build Back Better Act, citing the pandemic, inflation and geopolitical uncertainty, while saying that he can’t vote for something he “can’t go back home and explain.”  Manchin –  who drives a Maserati, has direct ties to the fossil fuel industry, and is seemingly wildly out of touch with everyday Americans – either doesn’t understand the gravity of the climate crisis or has consciously decided to be on the wrong side of history.

Following his statement of opposition to the BBBA, however, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), which represents coal miners, health care workers, truck drivers, and public employees, released a statement calling for Manchin to reconsider his opposition and find a way to pass the legislation. Representing West Virginia, one of the biggest coal producing states in the country, Manchin has always had a friendly relationship with the UMWA, so the union’s appeal is a promising development.

The UMWA statement cited several items in the Build Back Better Act – including health-related fees paid by coal companies, tax incentives that would create jobs, and union rights – as critical aspects of the legislation, and urged Manchin to get to work to ensure it’s passage.

In addition to putting pressure on Manchin re: Build Back Better, the UMWA’s statement also pushed the West Virginia Senator, and the Senate as a whole, to act on voting rights legislation:

I also want to reiterate our support for the passage of voting rights legislation as soon as possible, and strongly encourage Senator Manchin and every other Senator to be prepared to do whatever it takes to accomplish that. Anti-democracy legislators and their allies are working every day to roll back the right to vote in America. Failure by the Senate to stand up to that is unacceptable and a dereliction of their duty to the Constitution.” ~UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts

Please know that the Michigan LCV team, in partnership with our Conservation Voter allies all across the country, will continue to work hard in the New Year for the passage of the BBBA and voting rights legislation.  They are both fundamental to the future of our nation.

2. Gov. Whitmer appoints Mary Ellen Gurewitz to State Board of Canvassers

On Tuesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced several important appointments to state boards and commissions, including the appointment of Mary Ellen Gurewitz to the Board of State Canvassers. Gurewitz’s appointment balances out the Board with another Democratic representative after Julie Matuzak stepped down earlier this month.

I’ve known Mary Ellen Gurewitz tangentially for a number of years, dating all the way back to 1994 when she and her husband hosted an event for then-US Senate candidate Lana Pollack.  I was a proud member of Lana’s campaign team and remember being very impressed by Mary Ellen all those years ago.  Fast forward 27 years and Mary Ellen – a graduate of Wayne State University Law School – has decades of legal and constitutional knowledge and experience, and played a key role in the defense of the 2020 election. As the body that canvasses, certifies, and recounts Michigan’s statewide elections, the Board of State Canvassers is integral to our democratic process.  Ms. Gurewitz is an excellent appointee.  Well done, Governor!

3. Michigan Energy Utilities are Feeling the Heat

As you have heard me report over the past many months, the Michigan LCV team has been working hard to hold our energy companies accountable given this year’s repeated power outages and continued rates increases, as well as the companies’ steadfast opposition to progressive legislation in Lansing.   We’ve also been putting pressure on Rep. Joe Bellino – Chairman of the House Energy Committee – to move the “distributed generation” cap legislation (HB 4236) out of the committee and onto the floor of the House for a vote.

Distributed generation, which refers to things like rooftop and community solar, is essential to clean air, addressing climate change, and reducing rates for Michigan customers. If we are to seriously and holistically address the climate crisis, it is imperative that we have all clean energy options at our disposal, and not just those blessed by our monopoly utilities.

Late last week, Michigan LCV’s Deputy Director Bob Allison was featured in a Michigan Radio story that focused on power outages and rate increases, and what our two major utilities, legislators, and the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) can/should do to address these problems.  Bob did a GREAT job. It was one of the best stories I’ve heard on the issues.  If you have a moment, I really encourage you to listen to the interview here.

Here are a few of Bob’s stellar quotes:

Michigan utilities have the third worst restoration time, of getting our power back on, in the nation, even on days without major storm events. They’re also the third worst when factoring in major storms, and in the Great Lakes region, we experience the most amount of minutes out of power on average annually.”

One of the things that goes unnoticed a little bit is the lobbying power of DTE and Consumers in Lansing to stand really against bipartisan legislation that will expand more affordable, reliable energy. That’s happening right now in the form of a bill that’s before the House Energy Committee. It would get rid of a 1% cap on rooftop solar in this state.”

Interestingly, just today the Michigan Public Service Commission decided NOT to approve another rate increase requested by Consumers Energy.  Per a Michigan Radio story:

Consumers Energy did not get the rate hike it wanted, but customers still will pay more… The Michigan Public Service Commission slashed Consumers’ requested rate hike by about 88%.

Please know that the Michigan LCV team intends to stand strong moving into 2022, making sure that our two major utilities are held accountable for their service delivery, the rates they are charging Michigan residents, and their action (or inaction, as it often is) in taking bold action to address the climate crisis.

So, there you have it: a short, concise Three Things as we roll from Winter Solstice towards Christmas (for those who celebrate) and on to the New Year.  In the midst of yet another raging round of COVID, I wish you all a safe and healthy holiday.  May you find light in the darkness, warmth around the hearth and in your hearts as we work together for a more just and equitable future.  Thanks for all you do, every day and always…



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