Andy Balaskovitz

Andy Balaskovitz

Contributing reporter, covers energy, policy and economic development.
Twitter: @ABalaskovitz
Email: [email protected]

State officials in Grand Rapids on Wednesday touted the economic benefits of outdoor recreation, a sprawling statewide sector encompassing major industries like manufacturing and tourism.

HOLLAND — A financing program in Holland that helps residents pay for energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades remains one of the only such programs in Michigan, and could be a model for more to come. 

Consumers Energy announced plans Thursday to purchase a majority of the output from a large-scale solar project in Calhoun County, among the first deals under the utility’s shift to renewable energy.

GRAND RAPIDS — City officials are reviving plans for a solar project at a former Grand Rapids landfill as the city sorts through broader questions about potential generation at seven other city-owned properties.

State Sen. Stephanie Chang says granting state driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants is as much of an issue of economics and public health as it is about immigration.

GRAND RAPIDS — Kent County immigration advocates are raising money for a fund that’s meant to keep some residents from being detained as they await immigration hearings.

HOLLAND — A lakeshore company has received $200,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy to advance the development of utility-scale energy storage.

Five weeks before a pair of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio rocked the nation, community leaders in Grand Rapids held a press conference on the city’s southeast side to address the city’s recent spike in gun violence. 

Michigan has had its share of blackouts and brownouts over the years. Could “greenouts” be on the horizon? 

News stories published over the past three months have said the Michigan State Police was preparing to both “crack down” on black market marijuana activity and also let it “slide” because of a lack of resources.

Nearly 600 Michigan communities have reportedly opted out of allowing recreational marijuana businesses, which experts say is the result of uncertainty clouding the 2018 ballot initiative.

A proposed settlement between Consumers Energy and independent power producers could lead to hundreds of megawatts of solar power being built within the next four years.

Leading business groups support Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s latest attempt to boost the number of Michigan contractors on state projects, but hope the plan doesn’t ultimately deter small businesses from engaging in a “cumbersome” procurement process.

The burgeoning market for CBD, a health product derived from cannabis plants that avoid the “high” from marijuana, is considered “low-hanging fruit” for the nearly 600 Michigan farmers now growing hemp.

Michigan is one of seven states with discriminatory clean energy laws because they favor locally produced content, a World Trade Organization panel ruled last month. 

Officials in Muskegon and Holland say they’re responding to voters as they take disparate approaches to medical marijuana businesses.

bipartisan group of state lawmakers wants Michigan to be a national leader in building out a connected network of electric vehicle charging stations, a key barrier to adoption as automakers plan more electric models for customers. 

Michigan’s largest utilities are giving a substantial boost to an economic development program launched by former Gov. Rick Snyder, committing to spend billions of additional dollars with in-state suppliers over the next five years.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this month reversed a policy from the Snyder administration that blocked commercial solar energy projects on property enrolled in the state’s farmland preservation program.

When tobacco companies settled claims with dozens of states in the late 1990s over the use of deceptive marketing tactics, trial lawyers took home billions of dollars in what remains a contentious example of lawyers’ fees for representing the government.

State lawmakers are pushing once again to expand civil rights protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as key legal cases on the issue sit before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Some people might assume homes built by Habitat for Humanity are typical, nuts-and-bolts affordable housing adhering to basic building codes. However, that assumption would be wrong.

Michigan’s medical marijuana market has experienced a flurry of activity in the past two weeks involving court rulings, state guidelines and legislation, and culminating in a showdown within the marijuana business community. The contention hinges on competition between state-licensed and unlicensed businesses and growers.

A large penetration of electric vehicles is not in Michigan’s near-future, so advocates say EV drivers shouldn’t be hit with steep fee increases based on the state’s road funding formula. That is the prospect under a road funding law enacted in 2015, but clean energy groups hope the issue is revisited before electric vehicle drivers potentially see some of the highest registration fees in the country.

Michigan House Republicans have advanced a pair of bills blocking local units of government from adopting “sanctuary” policies for undocumented immigrants, although critics say the bills could interfere with local law enforcement.

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers introduced a bill this month calling for the expanded use of microgrids, which help utilities and private customers rely on localized power generation during outages. House Bill 4477— sponsored by state Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland — aims to build grid resilience by allowing customers who generate their own power to disconnect from the grid during outages.

A recent report found that Michigan leads the Midwest in clean energy jobs, but top state energy officials say the state and industry could foster a more diverse workforce.

A new state law preventing environmental regulations from being stricter than the federal government’s could see a test under the Trump administration’s proposal to scale back national water standards. The proposal to redefine the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule would scale back regulations adopted by the Obama administration that set which waters receive protection under the Clean Water Act.

The closure date of a large coal plant along the Lake Michigan shoreline could be moved up under a proposed settlement agreement between Consumers Energy and multiple environmental and energy groups. In late March, the Jackson-based utility announced it had reached a deal with groups over its long-term energy plan, which includes closing all of its coal units and building out thousands of megawatts of solar energy by 2040.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey had a message for reporters when asked to respond to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposal earlier this year to form a dedicated climate change office. “I just find it fascinating that we can sit here in Michigan in the chamber of the House and think that we can control the climate,” he said.