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The following article explains three bills that have been introduced by the Michigan state legislature between 2021 and 2022 concerning environmental and resource protection and regulation.

The Michigan Daily spoke with representatives from University student political organizations to discuss the impact each bill could have on environmental issues in the state of Michigan.

1. Methane Gas Control and Capture Requirements

Status: Referred to the Committee on Environmental Quality

On Jan. 19, 2022 State Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Washtenaw County, introduced Senate Bill 823, which would prohibit oil and gas well operations — sites where oil is extracted from the earth — unless there is a methane control or capture system to reduce methane emissions by 99%. 

Methane emissions occur during all phases of oil drilling and production and are often intentionally released through flaring — or burning natural gas produced during oil and gas extraction to dispose of it. In addition to wasting the natural gas, flaring releases substantial amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In 2019, the U.S. flared or vented — which refers to releasing natural gas directly into the atmosphere — 1.48 billion cubic feet per day. 

If approved, S.B. 823 would prohibit operators of oil or gas wells from using flaring as a method to control methane emissions.

LSA senior Aaron Boockvar-Klein, President of Students for Clean Energy, said a ban on flaring would help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. 

“The reason (flaring) exists in the first place was to make it carbon dioxide instead of methane in terms of emissions,” Klein said. “Now we’re saying we don’t want (carbon dioxide) to be there, so you have to capture (the methane). It’s really holding (operators) accountable for the externalities of the work they do. They don’t have a right to pollute.”

The bill would amend the 1994 Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, which was designed to regulate pollution and natural gas emissions into the environment and the use of certain lands, waters and other natural resources in the state. The act also outlines specific penalties for operations that fail to comply with environmental regulations.

In total, the bill would fine $100,000 to any gas or oil well operator who does not reduce methane emissions and would revoke their permit.

Sithara Menon, a campus organizer for the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan, told The Michigan Daily that while banning flaring would mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, they believe legislation supporting renewable energy should be the focus of current climate policy.

“It would not only decrease the health hazards that are associated with burning fossil fuels, but it also would decrease our contribution to climate change, which is considered by many to be the biggest threat to both human health and our environment,” Menon said.

Several state governments have drafted or signed legislation to move their state towards clean energy and carbon neutrality. In September 2020, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer directed the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to develop a plan for the state to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. The Department released a draft of the plan on Jan. 14.

2. Water Shut-Off Protection

Status: Referred to the Committee on Environmental Quality

Senate Bill 343, the Water Shut-Off Protection Act, was introduced on March 25, 2021 by a group of ten senators. If passed, the act would prohibit water and sewage system providers from shutting off service for customers with standing delinquent payments without sufficient notice. 

The bill would require providers to post a notification detailing applicable water affordability plans — income-based programs designed to help residents’ outstanding water bills — on the door of their customers at least 60 days before the proposed shut-off. The provider would also be required to post another notice 10 days before the shut-off date and to make a personal visit and phone call to the customer within the week before the proposed shut-off to discuss any potential water affordability plans. So long as a customer remains in compliance with a water affordability program, the Water Shut-Off Protection Act would ensure their water remains on.

The bill is in accordance with the Federal Emergency Water is a Human Right Act U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, MI-12, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, MI-13, introduced in April 2020 to assist low-income households with water security during the pandemic. 

LSA sophomore Joseph Cerniglia, Co-President of Citizens Climate Lobby, told The Daily the Water Shut-Off Protection Act is an important step toward ensuring fair access to water across the state. He said the bill is aligned with the mission of the current environmental justice movement, which aims to make the distribution of resources more sustainable and equitable across different social classes.

“Climate change is an issue which predominantly affects those who are already disadvantaged in our society,” Cerniglia said. “(It affects) predominantly lower-income people who don’t necessarily have the resources to avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change.”

3. Expanding Asbestos Inspection and Removal

Status: Referred to the Committee on Environmental Quality

Senate Bill 341 was introduced on March 25, 2021 by three senators which would implement annual state-funded inspections for asbestos in compliance with the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants program for asbestos. Like S.B. 823, this bill would also amend the 1994 Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act — it would add two sections to implement the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants and would create an asbestos inspection fund within the state treasury.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring toxic mineral found in some building materials including certain types of attic and wall insulation, vinyl floor tiles and roofing shingles. Exposure to asbestos can cause cancer and progressive health disease.

If the bill passes, property owners would be able to notify the state about the presence of asbestos in their property prior to its demolition or renovation. The bill would then require the state to inspect these buildings to determine the level of asbestos present. The bill calls for the state to complete asbestos inspections for 15% of received asbestos notifications for 2022 and 2023, 20% in 2024 and 2025 and 25% in 2026 and thereafter. The bill does not specify how these percentages were determined.

Menon said the bill is a step in the right direction for decreasing toxins in Michigan, but there is still much to be done.

“It certainly is a really great step because we know that there is no level of asbestos that is considered safe,” Menon said. “So having a way to deal with asbestos is definitely very important in terms of not just air quality, but also in terms of the toxins that people are exposed to in their homes. But this still only requires inspections of about 25% of renovations, so it is not the most comprehensive.”

Daily Staff Reporter Vanessa Kiefer can be reached at