Michigan Lawmakers Attempting to Prevent Local Governments from Making Energy Choices
LANSING - Michigan lawmakers are considering a bill (HB 4575) that would prohibit the state’s local governments from making choices about the continued use of fossil gas in homes and buildings, limiting their options to meet their residents’ health, energy, and economic needs. The bill would prohibit cities and towns from enacting “gas bans” for both new construction and existing buildings. While such bans are unlikely to be pursued in Michigan, the legislation would set a bad precedent by removing tools in the toolbox that cities and towns could use to clean up pollution from buildings and address air quality both inside, and outside, of homes.
HB 4575 is part of a coordinated gas industry effort to preserve their share of the market. An NPR exposé found that the American Gas Association, funded by consumer dollars, has been working in 20 states (and counting) to push for preemption legislation like HB 4575 to protect their profits and prevent communities from advancing their own building energy policies. Similar bills have been enacted across the Midwest in recent months, including in Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, and Kansas.
The following is a statement from Derrell Slaughter, Michigan Clean Energy Advocate at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council):
“Look, either you believe in local control or you do not. This bill strips municipal leaders of the ability to make decisions that have huge health and economic impact for their communities. This should be a huge concern in Michigan, where the loss of local control has had dire impacts on many cities. This is a lot more about a national trade organization with questionable priorities trying to prevent local governments from doing what's best for residents' costs and health.
“Healthy electric homes are gaining momentum as technologies continue to improve. Efficient all-electric construction is often less expensive, less polluting, and safer compared to burning fossil fuels in our buildings—and electric heating technology is available today even for Michigan’s cold climate. Michigan should encourage, not eradicate, local authority to deliver these benefits for our communities and families.”
Buildings are fossil fuel guzzlers that are responsible for about one-third of the gas consumed in the United States each year. This fossil gas (also known as “natural gas”) is used mostly for space and water heating. To address the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from burning fossil gas in buildings, municipalities across the country have been using their authorities over building energy codes and other means to incentivize buildings that use more efficient, cleaner, and healthier electric technologies. For more on gas preemption bills, see this NRDC blog.
More and more studies indicate that burning fossil gas in buildings is dangerous for human health, expensive for consumers, and a major contributor to the climate crisis. Communities are exploring ways to move away from polluting power sources (like fossil gas use) for home heating and cooking and toward electricity - which is less expensive, less polluting, and healthier, especially as we move increasingly toward renewable sources of power in Michigan. For more on the facts, see this HB 4575 fact sheet.
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.