Liesl Clark

Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy Director Liesl Clark. 

(The Center Square) – The Michigan cities of Dearborn, Flint and Marquette have been selected for a $3.5 million taxpayer-funded environmental pilot program, MiNextCities.

The pilot is funded with a grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, which was announced Tuesday morning. The grant funding was awarded to NextEnergy, a “smart-city technology” company based in Detroit, and Public Sector Consultants, a public policy consulting group based in Lansing.

According to a news release issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office, NextEnergy will use the money to develop the following strategies for Dearborn, Flint and Marquette:  

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Improve mobility and quality of life. 
  • Increase attraction and retention of workers and businesses. 
  • Enhance safety. 
  • Boost private sector and community investment. 
  • Develop a Community Smart City Readiness and Deployment Guide to help other communities tailor sustainability efforts to their own needs and challenges. 

PSC will use their portion of the grant to “facilitate stakeholder engagement and program assessment.”

In a statement, EGLE Director Liesl Clark noted: “This is a multi-tiered approach that meets Michigan communities where they are and ensures they have the resources and know-how for a just transition to Michigan’s sustainable, clean-energy future.” 

Jason Hayes, environmental policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, however, told The Center Square programs such as MiNextCities work at cross purposes with the stated goals of the MI Healthy Climate Plan outlined by EGLE in April.

“Flashy green catch phrases like ‘next-generation smart energy’ sound impressive in a news release, but they lack the detail needed to judge whether they’re actually worth the expense,” Hayes said. “Linking $3.5 million in MiNextCities grants to the roadmap to 2030 in the MI Healthy Climate Plan indicates that they’re off to a very bad start.”

Hayes added the MiNextCities will have little to no impact on the climate, adding any job development spurred by the pilot program will be low-paying, temporary employment.

“Among other things, the governor’s climate plan claims going to net-zero by 2050 will ‘mitigate the worst impacts of climate change,’” he said. “That’s nonsensical. Modeling done by the Heritage Foundation showed that if all CO2 emissions across the entire country went to zero, global temperatures would decrease by a paltry 0.2°C by the year 2100. To the extent that these MINextCities grants promote the objectives of the governor’s climate plan, they will prove to be an expensive means of having zero impact on climate.”

The criteria for selecting the three cities are aligned with the goals of the Office of Climate and Energy’s Catalyst Communities initiative, the MI Healthy Climate Plan, and the Office of Environmental Justice Public Advocate's environmental justice focus

“MiNextCities will help develop a framework that communities across Michigan can use to implement sustainable measures to address climate impacts,”  Whitmer said in a statement.

“Flint, Dearborn, and Marquette have been chosen for the first phase of a three-year pilot program and I look forward to seeing how they use this grant to improve infrastructure, boost energy efficiency, and promote climate resiliency,” she continued. “Taken together, their actions will help us continue to pursue the roadmap to 2030 outlined in the MI Healthy Climate Plan and create good-paying jobs and economic prosperity for families, communities, and small businesses while addressing climate change head-on.” 

Regional Editor

Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.