By Ken Palmer of the Lansing State Journal

A legislative panel investigating the Flint water crisis will hear a report tomorrow about how serious the problem might be in the rest of the state.

The Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association and Public Sector Consultants released a report last month on Michigan’s water infrastructure.

Mike Nystrom with MITA says the report found Michigan is up to a half billion dollars short annually of what it should spend on water infrastructure.

“That’s why communities across the state are concerned…at the local level…that they might be the next Flint or something similar to that,” says Nystrom.

Earlier this year, Gov. Snyder created an advisory commission to study the state’s infrastructure needs.  Its recommendations are due at the end of the year.

“I think the committee did a great job and gave us a path forward to a coal-free future,” board Chairman David Price said in an interview. “I was pleased that affordability was a major consideration. As a commissioner, always in the back of my mind I’m thinking of the person who can least afford a rate increase. If we do this, are they going to have to cut back on some other aspect of their life if their electric rates went up?”

The Sierra Club was not as impressed, calling the committee’s analysis flawed. The strategy could burden customers with unnecessarily high utility bills, said Brad van Guilder, organizing representative for the club’s Michigan Beyond Coal Campaign.

“While the (Integrated Resource Plan) does rightly include commitments to invest in clean wind and solar energy, it neglects to set a retirement plan for the Erickson coal plant and may create more than $100 million in debt for the City of Lansing as early as 2020 in unnecessary new natural gas plants,” van Guilder said in a news release. “It also misses the opportunity to include more of the cleanest and cheapest resource: energy efficiency.”

Until recently, the coal-fired Eckert plant generated about a third of BWL’s energy needs. The utility plans to close it by 2020 and has begun a five-year improvement project that includes new transmission lines and five new or rebuilt substations.

The committee’s full recommendations will be available on Wednesday at www.LansingEnergyTomorrow.com, BWL officials said.

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