Since this report was published, additional research uncovered that the Emergency Powers of Governor Act was used on at least two occasions not included in this report. The report errs, then, in saying that the EPGA has only been invoked 11 times before 2020, with the tally now at 13. The report also mistakenly says the EPGA's first use was in 1964. That information came from articles published in the Detroit Free Press and Lansing State Journal that year, which included comments from Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley. It was first used in 1946 and then again in 1950.
1946 Coal Emergency
Gov. Harry Kelly declared an emergency through the EPGA on Dec. 6, 1946, in response to a coal miner labor strike and resulting coal shortage. Donald Leonard, who is thought to have authored the EPGA, was the state fuel administrator at the time and advised Gov. Kelly to declare the emergency. Coal was in short supply in about 40 Michigan communities due to the labor strike.
Gov. Kelly did not issue any rules or orders related to the emergency, however. The governor said the only effect of the declaration would be that local police could enforce a federal “dim-out” order meant to reduce electricity use and the demand for coal.
The emergency lasted only five days. On Dec. 7, the day after the declaration, newspapers announced that the coal strike had ended. Gov. Kelly formally ended the emergency on Dec. 10.
1950 Coal Emergency
Gov. G. Mennen, or “Soapy,” Williams also used the EPGA to declare a coal-related emergency on Feb. 27, 1950. This came, again, under the advisement of Donald Leonard. The Lansing State Journal wrote that Gov. Williams would have “virtual dictatorial controls” with this authority.
However, Gov. Williams did not issue statewide orders through this emergency declaration nor use anything like dictatorial controls. Instead, his order left it up to local public officials, such as mayors and county sheriffs, to decide if they wanted to make use of the emergency rules. If they opted into the regulations, communities could restrict their coal supplies and distribute it only for qualified purposes, as listed in the governor’s order.
This coal emergency lasted just over two weeks, with Gov. Williams putting an end to it on March 16. Newspapers reported that about 50 Michigan communities opted into the state’s emergency rationing system.
Any additional historical uses of the EPGA discovered as a result of future research will be added to this page.