Democracy is all about citizens controlling their own destiny. The underlying assumption in a democracy, of course, is that the citizens are informed on the decisions they make. Last week, the national League of Conservation Voters released its Scorecard to help voters cut through all the ads and media spin that is so much of politics today and get straight to the facts. As a citizen, it is one of the easiest tools you have to stay informed.
In this edition of Political Week in Review:
- The national League of Conservation Voters released its 2011 Scorecard: How did your representative do?
- A new study says that renewable energy manufacturing could create 21,000 jobs in our state: How is Michigan taking advantage of the opportunity?
- A northern Michigan judge ruled that natural gas companies actually have to honor their contracts with landowners!
- Sadly, we’ve not heard the last of the Keystone XL Pipeline, but this time we only have 24hrs (well, more like 17hrs now) to tell the Senate not to risk America’s heartland and clean water.
On Tuesday, the national League of Conservation Voters released its 2011 Scorecard, which scores legislators on how they voted on conservation and environmental issues. Michigan’s delegation gives us much to be proud of, but also a great deal to be pretty embarrassed about, too.
We hit the streets to get people’s reactions.
Michigan’s senators represented the state well, with both Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow scoring 91%. As for our Representatives, Michigan’s public servants in the House were a little more scattered. Hansen Clarke logged a 100% score, while Dale Kildee, Sander Levin, John Conyers, and John Dingell all scored over 80%. Gary Peters scored 74%, however it should be noted that the lower-than-usual score is due to a family emergency (missed votes are scored as “no” votes, according to long-standing policy). Prior to the personal event that required him to be absent, Rep. Peters carried a 100% lifetime score.
Far too many of Michigan’s representatives did a poor job of representing Michigan, though: Dan Benishek, Bill Huizinga, Justin Amash, Dave Camp, Fred Upton, Mike Rogers, Candace Miller, and Thaddeus McCotter voted against conservation and environmental protection over 80% of the time. As a reminder that bad votes have heavy electoral repercussions, Dan Benishek’s poll numbers have dropped correspondingly as he continues to vote for unnecessary government subsidies that only further our reliance on foreign oil.
The national LCV Scorecard provides an objective look at where your representative stands on conservation and the environment. Click here to take a look at Michigan’s scores… and be sure to bookmark it for easy reference in the future!
On Wednesday, the Energy Innovation Business Council released a fascinating report on renewable energy jobs in Michigan. As these email updates are written to spare you the time of flipping through pages of tables and charts, we’ll summarize it in a sentence: Renewable energy manufacturing in Michigan could become a $4.9 billion industry supporting 21,000 jobs by 2015.
At this point we’re talking about big numbers, so please take a moment to pause and reflect on the thousands of families whose lives would improve if they were just one of those 21,000 new jobs. Exciting, right? It is sometimes too easy to get lost in the statistics of asthma rates from coal, jobs from new clean energy projects, billions of dollars in the budget, etc. If we don’t remember the faces behind the statistics from time to time, we risk forgeting why we spend so much time researching them in the first place.
Anyway, back to the question of what to do with these crucial numbers in this report. As we’ve discussed in previous PWIRs, Michigan citizens have the unique opportunity to decide if they want to reach for a future that includes these new clean energy jobs. We firmly believe that an increased Renewable Energy Standard (RES) that is proposed for this November’s ballot would guarantee that future by ensuring that Michigan achieves 25% of our energy from renewable sources by 2025.
Renewable energy manufacturing, installation, and maintenance jobs will go where the demand is. Just because MSU beat Ohio State at basketball this weekend doesn’t mean we’re beating the state of Ohio in the fight for more jobs; they have a renewable energy standard of their own that is out-rebounding us for jobs. We can begin to box them out with this ballot initiative.
For more on the success stories already in Michigan based on clean energy, check out my live-tweeting from the EIBC’s launch in the State Capitol. So you don’t miss it in the future, you can follow us in the future by clicking here.
The shell game of hiding a company-within-a-company that Chesapeake Energy tried to pull on Northern Michigan farmers and landowners has been upended. Hundreds of landowners sued Chesapeake Energy and its shell corporations like Northern Michigan Exploration and Western Land Services after the companies broke natural gas leases that promised payment to these families.
The short summary of the situation is that these “companies” entered into contracts with local landowners by promising them signing bonuses when the Collingswood shale natural gas boom hit in 2010. Then, when the economics on drilling no longer appealed to Chesapeake, they had their shell companies cancel the leases and stiff landowners on their promised signing bonuses. For the slightly-longer summary of this story, check out the segment from a previous PWIR here.
Charlevoix County Judge Richard Pajtas recently ruled that Western Land Services (one of the shell corporations) had to honor its lease with the Ingalls Trust, a Charlevoix County landowner. His ruling was a summary judgment, which means that there was no dispute about the facts of the case and, as a matter of law, the companies had to honor their lease agreements. In non-legal speak: The farmers won.
In a December Reuters article, former landman Kevin Koonce described how the companies tried to cancel leases for things as minor as misspelled words. Gaylord attorney Susan Topp, who represents the Ingalls Trust, hopes that Judge Pajtas’s ruling will set a precedent for the hundreds of other Michigan landowners seeking justice against Chesapeake.
So do we, Susan. Thanks for your good work and to the Michigan landowners who were willing to stand up for themselves. If anything, this is yet another reminder that when it comes to drilling in Michigan:Transparency (in land use), transparency (in water use), transparency (in chemical use)!
Although President Obama already nixed permitting for the Keystone XL pipeline, some Senators are still pushing for the pipeline once again, despite the polling that shows that Michigan voters, among others, are decidedly opposed to the pipeline. Michiganders, especially those in the Kalamazoo River region, already know the dangers of oil pipelines.
To help the Senators reconsider, the national League of Conservation Voters wants to send 500,000 messages to the Senate in 24 hours. I’ve already signed on and I hope you will join, too!
The federal government approved speeds up to 110 mph on an 80-mile stretch of track in southwest Michigan and northern Indiana. That means a half hour off the trip from Detroit to Chicago, a few more passengers on the train, and a few less cars (and a lot less exhaust) on I-94.
Until Next Week,
Political Director, Michigan League of Conservation Voters