Environmental Legislation Succeeds and Falters in Lame Duck 2010

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The Lame Duck session of late 2010, which ended early Friday for the Michigan House and Senate, was full of important environmental legislation that needed a last-minute push to pass. A few bills received the support they needed. Many, however, were left for next year’s Legislature to pick up and champion.

Pure Michigan, the popular advertising campaign for the state, was one of the prominent stories of the Lame Duck session. Tourism advocates worried that without more funding, Pure Michigan would scarcely exist in 2011. The plan, to take $10 million from the 21st Century Jobs Fund, passed in the House, 88-6. The funding will be in addition to $5.4 million already allocated in the 2011 budget, but still short of the $30 million budget tourism officials wanted.

A phosphorus bill from back in 2009 was also passed and implements a new ban on environmentally damaging fertilizers that contain phosphorus. Starting Jan. 1, 2012, commercial properties and residential lawns will not be allowed to use such fertilizers. Unfortunately, some loopholes exist. Golf courses, for instance, are oddly exempt from the ban, along with agriculture. Still, the bill presents an important win for the environmental community and can be built on to create stronger legislation.

The environmental community also can celebrate the passage of the Property Assessed Clean Energy Act, or PACE. The PACE Act has been traveling around Lansing for about a year now, and was finally passed by the Senate, 31-5. PACE encourages energy efficiency improvements in communities by allowing local units of government to make loans to private property owners. Similar PACE acts already exist in many states. These loans will be offered to private parties who increase their energy efficiency or install renewable energy systems.

Unfortunately, the environmental community experienced some crushing defeats.

The Children’s Safe Products Act, which passed in the House in May, sadly did not see the light of day. The act is a no-nonsense approach to protecting children from toxic chemicals in toys. For more information, read past Michigan LCV articles on this act here.

A groundbreaking bill that could have brought Michigan’s transportation system into the 21st Century also fell short. The bill to support bringing federal rail funding to Michigan passed in November, but the Senate did not act quickly enough to pass this crucial legislation in Lame Duck. Read more about the Michigan LCV take on this bill here.

Rep. Dan Scripps’ noble attempt to create offshore wind legislation was also stopped in the Lame Duck session. 

Another bill introduced in the Lame Duck session, which would have provided for an impact study on renewable energy in Michigan, was not passed in time to become law. SB 6570 would have mandated that the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth study the impact of low-carbon fuel standards, renewable fuels, and vehicle electrification. Studies like these could be extremely useful in proving the importance of renewable energy development in Michigan.

Our list is inexhaustive, but it does provide some highs and lows from this year’s Lame Duck session. It is our hope that next year’s legislators will not wait until the 11th Hour to pass important environmental legislation.