Last December, Aric Nesbitt, a proud Republican member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), introduced a bill, H.B. 5205 that went largely unnoticed. The bill would reclassify petroleum coke (“petcoke”) and solid waste as a “renewable energy resource”, eligible for renewable energy tax credits.
Yes, you’re right to gasp.
Earlier this month, Executive Director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters Lisa Wozniak wrote an op-ed for MLive.com titled “Hazardous waste is not clean, renewable energy” that puts the absurdity of this legislation into perspective:
[S]tate legislators want to rewrite the definition of renewable energy to include some of the dirtiest, most hazardous substances generated by oil refineries and coal plants. They want us to consider hazardous waste and petroleum byproducts clean, renewable energy. [...]
Last year, four-story high piles of petcoke plumed black clouds of toxic dust over the Detroit River, polluting surrounding communities and our Great Lakes. Unbelievable as it may seem, if this bill passes, burning petcoke – the dirtiest byproduct of the oil refining process – would qualify as clean, renewable energy.
Incinerating hazardous waste and calling it clean is downright indefensible. The incineration process emits carcinogenic toxins and harmful air pollution that put the health of Michiganders and our air and water on the line. Per a 2009 study commissioned by the Michigan Environmental Council, pollution from existing coal plants already cost Michigan residents more than $1 billion annually in health care costs and damages. We simply cannot afford to incentivize incineration of hazardous waste. We cannot allow Michigan legislators to gerrymander a definition of clean, renewable energy to make room for more pollution.
One of the primary intents of Michigan’s renewable energy standard is to reduce the amount of carbon spewed into our atmosphere in order to mitigate manmade climate change. Nesbitt’s bill would do just the opposite. If passed, his legislation would allow for industrial waste products like petcoke and other solid waste to be processed into carbon-based fuels that would then be burned for energy. In other words, he is trying to hijack our state’s clean energy mandate in order to fatten the pocketbooks of the Big Oil/Big Energy companies and utilities by greenwashing their operations with the net result of INCREASING carbon emissions.
And then, to add insult to injury, they could claim a renewable energy tax credit for doing so.
It’s no surprise to find out that Rep. Nesbitt is a member of ALEC. ALEC is a front group for corporations that are attempting to hijack our laws and public policy to enrich their corporate bank accounts. It’s part of the multi-pronged approach used by corporatists to turn our governments, especially state governments, into corporatocracies for the sole benefit of corporate profit statements.
In 2012, ALEC embarked on an effort to stop renewal energy mandates across the country. They have largely failed in this effort. This latest move suggests that they are not going to take that defeat lying down and are now taking the approach of making renewable energy standards meaningless with legislation such as Nesbitt’s. We can expect efforts like this to be tried in other states in the coming years.
Just when you think they can’t sink any lower, Republicans prove you wrong.