This letter is in response to the guest commentary from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy regarding energy legislation that appeared in Bridge on October 25, 2016.
The mission of the Michigan Chamber is to promote conditions favorable to job creation and business success in Michigan. As a statewide business organization with 6,700 members that employ over one million Michigan residents, our advocacy team is in the Capitol Building fighting for free enterprise and standing up for Michigan’s job providers every day state lawmakers are in session.
As you might imagine, we strongly agree with the Mackinac Center about the importance of free enterprise. Our friends in Midland are at their best when they conduct timely and original policy research on important economic issues. Unfortunately, the October 25th opinion piece on energy legislation current pending before the Michigan Senate was not up to their usual high standards. Much of the Mackinac Center’s commentary was either out of date or inaccurate.
For example, in an effort to cast Senate Bill 437 (sponsored by Mike Nofs) in a negative light, the October 25th column highlights an outdated 2015 discussion of House energy legislation that is not under consideration in the Michigan Senate. The Mackinac Center criticism of Senate Bill 437 also refers to a 2013 poll that showed “Michigan residents supported electricity choice.” Who conducted the poll? Who was surveyed? What was the methodology? And how does a three-year-old poll relate to the new and improved version of Senate Bill 437 now on the Senate calendar in November 2016?
As former U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Here are some key facts regarding Senate Bill 437. The latest version of the bill is substantially different than the bill that was reported out of committee months ago. In 2007 there was a concerted effort in the state House to eliminate customer choice and return Michigan’s electricity market to total state regulation. The Michigan Chamber opposed that effort and led the fight to retain customer choice. The 2007 battle over customer choice and competition eventually resulted in passage of legislation that became the 2008 state energy law still in effect today.
So let’s be clear: For the past nine years, the Michigan Chamber has supported customer choice and competition. If Senate Bill 437 “would end electricity choice” as the Mackinac Center claimed, we would oppose the bill. As a direct result of lengthy negotiations that took place over the past few weeks, Senate Bill 437 has now been dramatically rewritten and substantially improved. Amendments the chamber fought for and won in these negotiations will sustain customer choice; provide for effective competitive bidding, and improve reliability.
Senate Bill 437 will put Michigan in control of our energy future while allowing customers using Alternative Energy Suppliers (AESs) to grow – even if that growth exceeds the current 10 percent cap. Senate Bill 437 also now guarantees a competitive process for new power plants and renewable energy – ensuring Michigan’s businesses and families get the affordable and reliable energy they deserve.
Now is the time for lawmakers to revise and update Michigan’s 2008 energy law to reflect changes in state and federal regulations, changes in the energy marketplace and changes in technology. We should not allow Michigan to become overly dependent on other states to supply the power our families and businesses need.
Doing nothing is not an option. After months and months of committee meetings and public hearings in both the state House and Senate, it is time for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to come together after the November general election to pass fair and balanced energy legislation to move Michigan forward.