Andy Balaskovitz

Andy Balaskovitz

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

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.

Key aspects of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s first budget proposal involving education and road funding have drawn mixed reactions from the business community, but advocates are aligned in opposition of leveling the tax rate among Michigan companies. Whitmer has proposed reinstating a tax exemption on pensions that was eliminated by former Gov. Rick Snyder, and offsetting the decreased revenue with higher taxes on smaller businesses.

A $1.4 million line item in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s $60.2 billion budget proposal unveiled March 5 calls for a three-year project to catalog “hazardous materials pipelines” that cross Michigan waterways. Department of Natural Resources Director Daniel Eichinger told lawmakers this month the study, spurred by the debate over Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, is needed to fill an information gap about dangers posed to Michigan waters.

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