Get to know your BLP candidates: Michael Westbrook
Jul. 14—Name: Mike Westbrook
Occupation: Shape Corp., Grand Haven, director of environmental health and safety and corporate compliance officer.
Education: Bachelor of Science from Ferris State University in industrial and environmental health management.
What qualifications make you a viable candidate for the BLP board?
I have 24 years of working experience in sustainable business and environmental compliance. I have successfully changed my employer's purchasing of utilities at sites outside of Grand Haven, including electric and natural gas, to more efficient and therefore more sustainable sources. I track my company's carbon emissions and I am currently working on a plan for carbon neutrality.
I routinely work with energy consultants and know how to effectively marry their expertise and access to data to stakeholders' needs. I have experience in a variety of clean air and clean water compliance work, including permitting for stormwater, wastewater and VOC emissions.
I consider environmental compliance one of the most important functions of any business. I am well versed in budgeting and strategic planning activities. I am also the current corporate compliance officer at Shape, overseeing compliance and business ethics. I have a strong sense of civic pride and currently serve as a member of the Grand Haven Planning Commission.
Do you think Grand Haven should have a local source of power generation?
I am not currently convinced that the proposed natural gas plant is a responsible business decision and I do not support the project at this time. In the future, I would support local-source power generation if the project was of benefit to ratepayers and/or the environment.
How should renewable energy fit into our local power portfolio?
Renewable energy, which is currently included in the BLP's portfolio, must continue to be a major focus. Renewable energy conserves valuable natural resources, reduces carbon emissions and is desirable whenever possible. Affordability and rate impacts have historically been concerns with renewable energy; however, it is exciting to see that renewable options (including energy storage systems) are becoming more economical, and I support the efforts of the BLP to considerably expand our renewable portfolio beyond our state's requirements.
How should the BLP proceed with the remediation of contaminants on Harbor Island?
Chemical contamination on Harbor Island is very concerning and has been an issue for many years. It is time for a plan to be developed to address this serious issue. The health and safety of the community is paramount and must be the top priority when making decisions regarding remediation.
The BLP must continue to partner with the EPA and Michigan EGLE to ensure that the remediation plan meets or exceeds compliance requirements. As is the case with most environmental cleanup sites, this process will likely take many years.
A short- and long-term plan must be developed, and my background as a planner in environmental matters will be invaluable. We must seek out additional resources including federal, state, county and local government to solve the contamination problem, and transparency with the community must be job one.
I work for a local company with significant concerns. Grand Haven's residential, commercial and industrial electrical rates are higher than other neighboring towns with municipal power companies, such as Holland and Zealand. Our municipal power company exists to support the needs of our local community. As a BLP trustee, I will be a proponent of communication, engagement, transparency and trust between the BLP and all its customers.