Hours before Snyder pledged to create a new Agency for Energy and deliver a special message on energy in March, three lawmakers met with industry leaders at the American Wind Energy Association meeting at the Kellogg Center on the Michigan State University campus.
Valerie BRADER, deputy legal counsel for Snyder's office, said during the conference that energy is the administration's second-biggest priority, behind keeping trained and educated workers in the state.
She said the state has to plan for a new environmental future, "and wind is a definite part of that future."
The early signs point toward Snyder suggesting further investment in renewable energy. And to that, Sens. Hoon-Yung HOPGOOD (D-Taylor), John PROOS (R-St. Joseph), and Rep. Bill LAVOY (D-Monroe) seemed cautiously supportive of the prospect.
The talk is timely considering Michigan's Renewable Portfolio Standard of 10 percent renewable energy by 2015 expires this year and the federal Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) public comment period for a proposal to cut carbon emissions drags on.
Lawmakers didn't offer specific targets for wind energy goals. LaVoy said he's going to wait for Snyder's word before pledging support.
But all three urged the crowd of roughly 100 industry leaders and stakeholders to contact lawmakers and Snyder's office with their opinions.
Aside from the boon for manufacturing and the obvious environmental benefits, Proos said landowners could benefit from allowing turbines on their property as well. But he stopped short of giving a definitive answer about his support for further wind development or clean energy in general.
Part of the issue seems to be simply defining clean energy. "We would see lots of different opinions about what that means," said Proos said.
And it's anybody's guess as to whether the state's energy market will open up, after the level of competition was capped at 10 percent of the market when the Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act passed in 2008, the same act that required the state to have 10 percent of its energy come from renewable sources by 2015.
"That's gonna be your big 800-pound gorilla in the room," Proos said. "There are a lot of dogs barking on that issue right now."
But the three agreed that energy is going to be one of the next big topics coming up in the 2015 legislative session.
"I represent a coal plant as well as a nuclear plant," LaVoy said, citing this as evidence of his particular sensitivity toward energy issues. "This is too big of an issue to become politicized."
Speaking later in the day, Nic CLARK, director of Clean Water Action, said whatever Snyder ultimately proposes cannot include natural gas as clean energy. Overreliance on "outdated, dirty fossil fuels" is "already wreaking havoc on our health, our air, and our Great Lakes." He, too, pushed for transition to more wind and solar as the type of clear energy "truly" reduces pollution and reins in the "impacts of climate disruption."