Whitmer calls for green prisons and renewable parks in effort for more environmental government

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is calling for a more sustainable government in an effort to lead by example.

In a news release issued Thursday morning, Whitmer said several state departments are announcing "new efforts to lead by example on environmental sustainability across state government."

"I have directed Departments to implement more sustainable practices in state buildings and reduce energy usage where possible," she said. 

Calling it a win-win for both the environment and taxpayers, the government's lower environmental footprint and lower energy costs would work across the state. Specific departments referenced in release were those managing the state's prisons and parks.

The pilot program in the Department of Natural Resources will convert parks and fish hatcheries to renewable energy. Specific efforts would include building solar arrays at Seven Lakes State Park in Oakland County and the Oden State Fish Hatchery in the northern tip of the lower peninsula - two of the most visited sights under the DNR's management.

A proposal for those arrays will be submitted in September of 2019 and construction will be completed in December of 2020.

For prisons, the Department of Corrections wants to build solar panels and energy performance improvements at the St. Louis Correctional Facility. The construction will make it the state's first green prison. The MDOC has already upgraded prisons in Jackson, Ionia and Kincheloe, which has saved the department $15 million a year. 

This isn't the first initiative put forth by Whitmer in an effort to revamp the state's focus on environmental issues. During the governor's grace period when she entered office, Whitmer made an executive order to reshape the Department of Environmental Quality into the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

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The former department came under national scrutiny for its handling of the Flint Water Crisis. Since then, Whitmer has also incorporated a new role to oversee "environmental justice" with a public advocacy office.