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E-M:/ MEC Capitol Update - Deregulation of Electric Utilities

Enviro-Mich message from James Clift <jamesmec@voyager.net>

The House last night passed the package of bills to deregulate the
electric power industry.
The bottom line is; of the 24 states to deregulate their electric
utility industry, Michigan law is one of the weakest in the country as
far as protection of the environment goes.

Representative Callahan offered an amendment to require the state to
regulate mercury from coal-fired power plants.  These are the largest
sources of mercury emissions into the air and are currently
unregulated.  The amendment would have allowed the MDEQ to determine
what level of mercury emissions were safe and promulgate a rule by July
1, 2002.  The administration and utility companies opposed the
amendment. The amendment received the 56 votes needed for passage, but
House leadership used a quick gavel to reconsider the vote by which it
passed, then revote again (no record roll call) and declare the
amendment had failed (elapse time, 5-10 seconds).

This tactic basically decided that votes didn't matter and whatever the
administration wanted to happen would happen.  A slap to all residents
of Michigan who think they live in a democracy.

A substitute bill offered by Rep. Lemmons that would have provided
greater environmental protection and a larger rate cut was also

The final bill that passed 72-35, contains:

Disclosure - of source of energy by type and the emissions per MW of
produced compared to regional averages. Note, this is all public
information but now
the utilities will be required to send it directly to their customers.

Low-income assistance and energy efficiency  - Funding may be provided
for this
purpose.  It will only materialize if savings from securitization
(refinancing of
utility debt load) is enough to pay for a 5% rate cut for all customers.
interests will argue that the bond should be a small as possible, thus
resulting in
smaller savings and possibly no funding for energy efficiency.  Possible
range for funding is $0-$50 million / year for 6 years.

This bill reconfirms what we already knew.  This administration is very
extreme on environmental issues and out of step with the residents of
Michigan.  A recent League of Conservation Voters Education Fund poll
revealed that 76% of Michigan voters supported provisions that resulted
in cleaner energy (even if it costs them a few extra dollars a month).
Instead of paying an extra nickel a day for cleaner energy, customers
will receive a nickel day (and pay for it later).  Those families with
children with asthma, or other members with respiratory problems will
continue to pay more, both in higher health care costs and more
importantly in their struggle for a breath of clean air.

Prepared by:

James Clift
Policy Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI 48912
517-487-9541 (fax)

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