Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, D, on Monday committed her state to the U.S. goal under the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025.
The commitment was one of three executive orders from Whitmer on energy and environmental policy. In a speech before signing, Whitmer noted the urgency of the orders in the context of record low temperatures last week, which became more concerning after a fire at a Consumers Energy natural gas compressor station limited fuel supplies to the region.
The governor later on Monday sent a letter to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), requesting they "review the supply, engineering, and deliverability of Michigan's natural gas, electricity, and propane."
Whitmer's orders and subsequent letter to the commission highlight growing action on energy and climate at the state level in the face of federal inaction and a wave of new Democratic governors.
States across the Midwest last week experienced record-low wind chill temperatures exceeding -50 degrees in some places. After Michigan's natural gas supply became limited from the fire, the governor urged residents and businesses to limit their heat usage. Consumers Energy directed residential customers to turn their heat down to 65 degrees.
"Last week was a tough week," said Whitmer after signing the orders. "We had to make some tough decisions and I think the actions we took saved lives, but we've got to learn from it and make sure that the MPSC is operating with full informed information and is holding individuals and companies accountable in our state so that as the globe continues to warm, that we have a plan for when crises happen."
Whitmer asked the Public Service Commission to provide her with a report by July 1 that evaluates "if the systems are adequate to account for changing system conditions and extreme weather events and identifies recommendations to mitigate risk and ensure safe, reliable energy." The evaluation should include demand response protocols, "linkages and gaps between real-time operational reliability and infrastructure planning for long-term reliability," as well as distribution, transmission and generation methodologies, among other things.
Michigan is now the 20th state to commit to the U.S. carbon reduction goals under the Paris Climate Agreement — President Donald Trump said in 2017 the U.S. would withdraw from the accord. Those 20 states represent 47% of the U.S. population, over half the national GDP and one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Climate Alliance.
New Mexico and Illinois, which both have new governors, are the two most recent states to join the alliance, part of an anticipated wave of clean energy action, after those two and five other gubernatorial seats flipped blue during the midterms.
"We have a whole new group of governors for the Great Lakes region and I've already elevated our discussion of getting us on the same page," said Whitmer after signing the orders.
Two of the state's largest utilities, DTE Energy and Consumers plan to generate 50% clean energy by 2030, eliminate coal-fired generation by 2040 and reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050.
The other two orders restructure the state's Department of Environmental Quality, to be renamed the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and strengthen the state's polyfluoroalkyl substances response team.