Environmental Issues: Washtenaw County’s Clean Energy Employment Sector Growth




  • Michigan has the most clean energy projects in the country, securing more than $21 billion in investment, according to a report from Climate Power, a news organization focused on building support for climate action. The report highlights the impact of the Inflation Control Act on clean energy projects across the country, with 176,606 jobs in 44 states between August 16, 2022, when the law was signed, and July 20, 2023. It is said that new jobs have been created. Federal investments aimed at advancing the nation’s clean energy efforts total $369 billion, of which approximately $270 billion is earmarked for tax incentives. As a result of these investments, Michigan is projected to create 167,000 clean energy jobs over the next 10 years. (Source: *Direct quote* https://michiganadvance.com/2023/07/27/michigan-leads-the-country-in-clean-energy-jobs-new-report-says/)
  • Innovation and technology centers, especially large universities like Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan, are well-positioned to drive job growth due to the need for climate change solutions. “We’ve seen a lot of changes in climate change,” said climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck, the Samuel A. Graham Dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Environment and Sustainability.[Climate change] This is expected to make Michigan a major economic winner in the rapidly expanding market for clean energy sustainable solutions around the world. Most of you reading this probably already understand that Michigan’s mobility industry is well-positioned to benefit greatly as the entire planet transitions to electric cars, trucks, buses, and more. .
  • At the same time, as the entire global economy transitions away from fossil fuels and toward a sustainable, low-carbon economy, Michigan may also see growth in businesses that provide other knowledge and technology solutions to the world. The key to building a new, robust, low-carbon economic engine for Michigan is building an innovative workforce and companies that can partner with leading universities to provide the solutions needed not only in Michigan but around the world. It’s the ability to attract Michigan. . This talent will need Michigan to be a climate leader in its own backyard and a veritable climate sanctuary with good-paying jobs, beautiful surroundings, and an affordable cost of living. right. A state with a sustainable and fair economy. ” (sauce: *Direct quote* https://news.umich.edu/climate-change-and-michigan-challenges-and-opportunities/)
  • In addition to advancing climate change solutions through research and development at large universities, of particular interest to Washtenaw County and surrounding communities are new opportunities in the clean transportation sector. In the Midwest, employment in the clean transportation sector, the region’s fastest growing sector, increased by 11.2% in 2022. However, there is widespread speculation that the slower-than-expected uptake of EVs could cause a pause in auto manufacturing, leading to job losses. There are still 658 clean vehicle jobs and 4,225 gas/diesel vehicle jobs available in Washtenaw County’s green energy sector, according to cleanjobsamerica.e2.org.


David Fair: 89 One Wem. And today, we’ll take a peek into 2024 and see where growth is likely to occur in the climate and energy sectors. I’m David Fair. Welcome to WEMU’s Environmental Issues. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the Clean Energy and Jobs Act in November, aimed at creating a more sustainable climate and energy future while creating growth in so-called green jobs. Yousef Rabi was a strong supporter of such measures when he served as a state representative in Ann Arbor. He currently represents District 8 on the Washtenaw County Commission and continues to work to generate more clean energy solutions. Commissioner Rabbi, thank you very much for your time today. I appreciate it

Rabbi Yusef: Well, thank you so much for having me. It’s nice to be here with you.

David Fair: When Governor Whitmer signed the Clean Energy and Jobs Act, it must have been satisfying for you.

Rabbi Yusef: What’s great to see is a bill that I’ve been working on for many years — you know, six years with minority support in the Legislature — to build a renewable energy portfolio in Michigan and get 100 % of renewable energy standards. Expansion of renewable energy and solar power generation. And many of those components were kind of included in the bill package that Governor Whitmer signed. So it’s really great to see concepts and bills that I’ve been working on for many years come together into one big bill and be signed into law. So, yes, watching it gives me great satisfaction. I told someone the other day that it felt like keeping a match lit in a rainstorm for six years. But now, being able to see that match lit is truly rewarding.

David Fair: Michigan’s clean energy job market is off to a good start and continues to gain momentum. According to Clean Jobs America, Washtenaw County ranks No. 6 in the state for clean job creation. How do you hope to develop that as a member of the County Commission?

Rabbi Yusef: Well, that’s a great question. And obviously, sixth place in the state is not good enough for me. And I think that’s true for many of my colleagues as well. We’ve done a lot of work on this in Washtenaw County, some of it before I returned to the County Commission. So when I was a state representative, my colleagues and some of the people who were serving as county commissioners at the time formed the Environmental Council. And that council has been meeting for several years now and is doing some really good work in planning and building not just clean energy, but resiliency and sustainability, what the future of Washtenaw County is going to be. Masu. So one of the things we fought for this year was to create a position to actually staff the Washtenaw County Office of Resilience. So the first two of these positions were funded in the budget we voted on earlier this month. So we’re excited to go into 2024 with the prospect of hiring for these two positions to really get this Resilience Department and the Environmental Council off the ground in a number of ways and take it to the next level. doing. And introduce subsidies. There’s a lot of federal funding right now, and even some state funding that can be brought into counties to do all sorts of different projects. And having these staff members is going to be really big. So this was a big win for us in this budget and something I worked hard for. My expectation was that three positions would be funded. There were only two. Second place is still a victory, but in 2024 he plans to go back to square one and aim for third place.

David Fair: We are talking with Yusef Rabi about environmental issues at 89 one WEMU. Yousef represents District 8 on the Washtenaw County Commission. And you’re talking about federal funding. Of course, the Inflation Control Act was critical in providing the resources needed to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. How much will that impact the 2024 budget in order to meet some goals, such as filling other positions?

Rabbi Yusef: Are we going to have the ability to actually get these grants and it’s going to have a snowball effect? ​​We’re going to be able to apply for this money and bring it in and we We can expect the effect of further expanding what can be done. Therefore, the dollar will be devalued. we are very much looking forward to it. There is a lot of funding available at the state level right now, but unfortunately it will start to run out within the next 12 to 24 months. So we’re on the edge of time in that we need to start applying for this funding and bringing it to the county.

David Fair: As you know, Washtenaw County is home to the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, and Washtenaw Community College, all with a mission to help create the clean energy workforce of the future. How does the county work directly with these agencies to ensure they have the staff to do all the jobs needed locally?

Rabbi Yusef: Well, that’s something we’re continually talking about and trying to build that network. But the other piece about workforce that I wanted to talk about early on and right away is one of the really great things about the bill that was signed. That is, the bill package basically includes the creation of a Worker Transition Authority at the state level. The question we know is what happens to all the displaced workers who require fossil fuels, and therefore are part of the fossil fuel economy. How can we ensure they transition to a green energy future? We envision our state. Every time we make these kinds of decisions, we think about what the impact is on those workers and how we can make sure those workers have opportunities in this new economy. Sho. And that’s very, very important and central to every conversation that we have to have. It’s a question of fairness. It’s a question of transparency. It’s a question of justice. And yes, this is about universities, it’s about universities, it’s about unions and the workers they represent. Because many workers, operating engineers, IBEW, many of our community’s construction unions, plumbers, pipefitters, actually hold their employees to the standards of the day to produce the highest quality work product. We have an extensive training program that will take you to the next level. There are partners around the world who are already at the table in these conversations to ensure that the dialogue is inclusive.

David Fair: Once again, we’re talking about environmental issues at 89 One WEMU with Washtenaw County Commissioner Youssef Rabi, but I’d like to take that conversation a little further down the line when we talk about partnerships and cooperation. You know, through crises, dirty air, dirty water, we have learned that there are no boundaries. How important is it to think more regionally, strategize more and work across county lines to develop clean energy and climate mitigation strategies and solutions?

Rabbi Yusef: Absolutely important. So, in addition to my work on the county commission, I also serve as the county’s liaison to SEMCOG (Southeast Michigan Council of Governments), a regional organization that covers 70 counties in southeastern Michigan. And one of the really great things that they’re doing is doing a lot of planning and regionalizing the conversation. Another thing to consider here is that more state laws are needed. And one of the things I worked hard to do as a state representative was to pass stronger pay-to-polluter laws in the state. This is something I have advocated every term in office, and it was really great to see these bills reintroduced this term. And that’s something we absolutely need to see passed. This is because, as we have seen, the boundaries of these jurisdictions allow the pollution that occurs with the Huron River pollution that occurs in Oakland County and the Milford/Wixom area to come downstream and impact us. Beyond is the kind of thinking that helps us say pollution. So it’s absolutely important to have a state-wide and regional mindset around these things. Without it, these problems cannot be solved.

David Fair: So, as we prepare for 2024, Washtenaw County and the City of Ann Arbor are both making highly ambitious climate change or carbon neutral initiatives to more effectively mitigate the climate crisis. I have a goal. How much progress does Washtenaw County need to make over the next 12 months to stay on track to meet these goals? [

Yousef Rabhi: We have a lot of work to do. I mean, that’s the reality here. We are behind. Countywide, at least, we’re behind. And frankly, I think, even if you look at it from municipality to municipality, and if you zoom out even more, we’re behind nationally and we’re behind globally. But it’s about what can we do, right? What can we do in our backyard and our community to help advance that broader goal? And I think we do have a lot of work to do, but we have a community that is ready and willing to step up to the challenge and make a difference. And what we saw, even with these positions that I was talking about earlier, it wasn’t a sure thing. The initial proposal that was put forward by administration was to fund one of the positions for one year, and the community came out in droves to our board meetings, to speak at public comment, sent us emails, sent us written public comment. And really, this groundswell of public support for, “Hey, we need to be taking care of our future. We need to be taking care of our planet,” that’s really what helped make the difference in getting the proposal that I put forward to fund two of the positions long-term. That was the difference. It was really the community coming together on that. So, yes, we have a long way to go, but we have a community that is ready and willing to organize to make it happen. And so, I have a lot of faith in our community and our county government and our city government to come together to make that happen.

David Fair: Well, I’d like to thank you for the time today and wish you and yours a very happy early New Year!

Yousef Rabhi: Thank you. And to you as well. Thank you so much for having me, as always.

David Fair: That is Washtenaw County Commissioner Yousef Rabhi, our guest on the final edition of issues of the Environment for 2023. We’ll be back with this weekly series in 2024 as Issues of the Environment enters its 29th year on the air at WEMU. For more information on today’s topic and to visit the archive, check out our website at wemu.org. Issues of the Environment is produced in partnership with the office of the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner. We bring it to you every Wednesday. I’m David Fair, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM, Ypsilanti.

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