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Michigan state legislature shift may impact environmental policy

A purple ice plant flourishes under a spectrum of light designed to help it flower and thrive in an indoor environment at Fresh Impact Farms in Arlington, Va.
Whitney Pipkin for NPR
A purple ice plant flourishes under a spectrum of light designed to help it flower and thrive in an indoor environment at Fresh Impact Farms in Arlington, Va.

In January, Michigan Democrats will take control of the state House and Senate in what’s been called a historic power shift, but the new makeup of the legislature may also have impacts on environmental policy.

Environmental policy is not always motivated by partisan affiliations. Issues involving water infrastructure have received bipartisan support in the past, but a blue state legislature may spur more action on environmental initiatives.

Nick Dodge is with the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (MLCV). The MLCV endorsed 69 candidates who recently won seats in the state legislature. Dodge said he’s hopeful these lawmakers can make environmental issues a priority.

“Environmental policy has not been really viewed in the lens that it should be,” Dodge said. “It's about human health, and so I think that this newly elected legislature - and we're going to be working with them on this - will address these issues with that frame.

With the help of federal funding and political will, Dodge said Michigan has an opportunity to address contamination, environmental injustice and climate change through the MI Healthy Climate Plan, as well as strengthen polluter pay laws.

Dodge said environmental policy has not always been a priority with a Republican-majority legislature, but he said voters have shown in this recent election they want lawmakers who are focused on clean drinking water, protecting the Great Lakes and supporting public health initiatives.

“These are issues that are everyday issues for people and issues that go across partisan lines,” Dodge said. “Enacting policies that are protective of our environment and our health [is] good for everyone in Michigan, not just Democrats or Republicans.”

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corp Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She is covering rural environmental issues, public health and Michigan commerce. Homsi has a bachelor’s from Central Michigan University in environmental studies, journalism and anthropology. During her undergraduate, she was a beat reporter for CMU’s student newspaper Central Michigan Life and interned for the Huron Daily Tribune. She has also interned for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy in the superfund section. *Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms, more info at https://www.reportforamerica.org/