June 16, 2016

Sierra Club: Veto Great Lakes Diversion

LANSING—Sierra Club has formally urged Gov. Rick Snyder to veto a proposed diversion of Great Lakes water when Great Lakes basin governors meet next week to decide whether to grant the suburban Milwaukee community of Waukesha what would be a precedent-setting withdrawal of Lake Michigan water. 

In a letter Wednesday to Snyder, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter leaders told the governor Wisconsin has failed to meet the Great Lakes Compact Agreement’s standards for granting an exception to a 2008 ban on diverting Great Lakes waters outside the Great Lakes basin.

“As the only state virtually entirely within the Great Lakes Basin, Michigan has more at stake in this decision than any other party to the Great Lakes Compact,” the letter stated.  “Not only do the Great Lakes literally define our borders, we depend on these waters to make our state an attractive place to live and work and to protect our irreplaceable natural resources. Michigan cannot afford to allow this badly flawed, first ever proposed Great Lakes water diversion under the Great Lakes Compact to go forward.”

The letter was signed by Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Chair David Holtz, State Director Gail Philbin and Conservation Chair Anne Woiwode.   The full text of the letter follows this release.

While Waukesha has serious problems with radium contamination of their drinking water source, for the past eight years the city has refused to use other options to diverting water for Lake Michigan even as neighboring communities do so.

“There’s no debate that the people of Waukesha need safe, clean drinking water,” said David Holtz, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Chair.  “But Waukesha and Wisconsin officials have failed their residents by refusing to do what other communities faced with similar problems have done, believing they can muscle their way to diverting Great Lakes water. “

 The Great Lakes Governors Council is scheduled to decide Wisconsin’s request on Tuesday.

“It’s up to Gov. Snyder to protect the Great Lakes from an unnecessary, precedent-setting diversion that would open the floodgates from other communities outside the Great Lakes basin who want to dip their straws into the Great Lakes,” said Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Conservation Chair.   “Wisconsin’s insistence on rejecting a less expensive treatment for their drinking water shouldn’t be rewarded.”

In its letter to Gov. Snyder, Sierra Club also pointed out a recent legal decision by the Wisconsin Attorney General that could allow communities like Waukesha to renege on agreements for managing groundwater resources. 

“What this means is if Waukesha is allowed to use water diverted from Lake Michigan they may still try to continue using groundwater resources without any limits being placed on them by the State of Wisconsin,” said Holtz.  “This essentially means the terms for granting any diversion of Great Lakes water to Wisconsin may be unenforceable. Waukesha could simply use the additional water resources it would have available to support more growth and eventually even greater demand for Great Lakes water.”


 June 16, 2016

The Honorable Rick Snyder
Executive Office
Michigan State Capitol
Lansing, MI 48933

Dear Governor Snyder:

            One of the most important decisions of your tenure as the Governor of Michigan will occur next week at the Great Lakes Governors meeting in Chicago.  We urge you to exercise your authority under the Great Lakes Compact to VETO the proposal to divert water from Lake Michigan to the City of Waukesha, Wisconsin. While modifications suggested by the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Regional Body made some important improvements to the badly flawed original proposal from Waukesha, that plan continues to fail the most fundamental criteria at the heart of Great Lakes Compact. Simply put, Waukesha cannot demonstrate a need for this diversion, and, failing that, this precedent setting diversion could permanently harm Michigan and the Great Lakes.

            For the past eight years, Waukesha has pursued approval under the Compact for diversion of water to their city.  They do face a serious problem with radium contaminating their source of water, and we do not make light of their need for safe, clean drinking water. However, the city has repeatedly rejected a less expensive course for addressing this issue that involves employing treatment options currently in use by two of their neighboring communities. From the start, Waukesha’s resistance to this feasible alternative has been the overwhelming argument for vetoing their proposed diversion, and that situation has not changed.

            A recent decision by the Wisconsin Attorney General has added even greater urgency to denying this proposed diversion. Under a May 10, 2016 opinion that has now been adopted by the Department of Natural Resources, WI Attorney General Brad D. Schimel has concluded that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has no authority to manage “high capacity groundwater well withdrawal permits” to protect or manage groundwater resources or impacts on surface waters because the Wisconsin Legislature has not explicitly delegated public trust over non-navigable waters of the state to the WDNR. One consequence of this is that the WDNR will not be able to require the City of Waukesha to discontinue the withdrawal of water from their groundwater wells even if the diversion from Lake Michigan is approved. Moreover, they will not be able to restrict neighboring communities or industries from pumping water from the same aquifer.  More importantly, despite efforts throughout the history of the Great Lakes Compact to assure that each state was also carefully stewarding its groundwater resources, in Wisconsin any prior commitments to that effect are currently incapable of being enforced by the agency vested with that duty. 

            As the only state virtually entirely within the Great Lakes Basin, Michigan has more at stake in this decision than any other party to the Great Lakes Compact. Not only do the Great Lakes literally define our borders, we depend on these waters to make our state an attractive place to live and work and to protect our irreplaceable natural resources. Michigan cannot afford to allow this badly flawed, first ever proposed Great Lakes water diversion under the Great Lakes Compact to go forward.  Your veto of this proposal is critical for Michigan’s future. 


David Holtz, Chair                                                                           
Gail Philbin, Director
Anne Woiwode, Conservation Chair

June 15, 2016


Tell the EPA to Declare Lake Erie "Impaired"!

It’s not even summer yet and the algae that plagues Lake Erie and many inland lakes is already causing trouble. The suffocating, sometimes poisonous growth fed mainly by nutrient runoff from agriculture—including animal waste from factory farms—typically causes havoc later in the season. Yet, on June 3 an algal bloom containing microcystin in the Maumee River near Defiance, OH prompted a “no contact” advisory warning against swimming and wading for children, pregnant or nursing women and pets. This is the same toxin that poisoned the Lake Erie water supply for a half-million people in Toledo and southern Michigan in 2014.

The Defiance water warning happened one day after Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan (ECCSCM) recorded dangerous levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in the air of Lenawee County.  The pollution came from manure particles released when waste from local factory farms was sprayed on fields, a common practice that can also lead to runoff in waterways.  ECCSCM members found outdoor H2S readings exceeding OSHA Worker Safety and US ArmyCorps of Engineers permissible exposure levels, which they posted on their website, www.nocafos.org. Breathing at the levels they recorded is considered dangerous, and some members had to leave their home for days.

Though miles apart, these incidents are connected by the Western Lake Erie Watershed, which encompasses both the Maumee River, the largest tributary to Lake Erie, and Michigan’s Raisin River in Lenawee County. As shown in the Less=More Coalition’s groundbreaking report, Follow the Manure: Factory Farms and Lake Erie Algal Blooms, the watershed contains 146 factory farms with nearly 12 million livestock that annually generate over 630 million gallons of waste containing dissolved phosphorus that feeds toxic algae. Some of it originates in Lenawee and Hillsdale Counties where ECCSCM members choked on toxic air earlier this month, and eventually joins the waste from dozens of animal factories in the Maumee headed for Lake Erie.

Air and water pollution are the hidden costs of a heavily subsidized industrial food system that churns out deceptively cheap food. Less=More, a sustainable agriculture coalition led by Sierra Club, is tackling the unfair playing field created by taxpayer subsidies and working to shift support away from polluting factory farms to sustainable agriculture. 

This is a long-term solution, but our government could take a big step right now by declaring Lake Erie an “impaired watershed” for nutrients like phosphorus. This federal designation would set a quantitative standard called a Total Maximum Daily Load that could be consistently measured, and regulations could be created and enforced to meet this standard. Michigan currently has phosphorus standards for industry and wastewater treatment plants but none for agriculture.

Join us in calling for action on Lake Erie today! Call or email U.S. EPA Region 5 (Great Lakes Region) Director Robert A. Kaplan and urge him to declare Lake Erie "impaired." Call or email TODAY: (312) 886-3000 or kaplan.robert@epa.gov

May 31, 2016

Sierra Club statement on Great Lakes Office Director Jon Allen’s Support for the Waukesha, WI, Great Lakes Water Diversion

Sierra Club statement on Great Lakes Office Director Jon Allen’s Support for the Waukesha, WI, Great Lakes Water Diversion
Anne Woiwode, Michigan Chapter Conservation Chair
Bill Davis, John Muir (Wisconsin) Chapter Director
May 31, 2016

Anyone who cares about protecting the Great Lakes will be extremely disappointed in the decision by Jon Allen, the Director of Michigan Office of the Great Lakes, to support the first diversion of Great Lakes water outside of the Great Lakes basin under the Great Lakes Compact[1].  It is nothing more than an attempt to put a public relations spin on a bad decision to recommend that Waukesha be granted a precedent-setting Great Lakes diversion, the first under the historic 2008 Compact agreement.

The Great Lakes define both Wisconsin and Michigan, and are one of our region’s most important natural resources. That is why the Great Lakes Compact has enjoyed such widespread support from Michigan elected leaders from both parties and from so many Michiganders. The Great Lakes Compact was created to make sure water stays in the Great Lakes to continue to provide economic and recreational opportunities for our region for future generations.  First and foremost, to meet the requirements of the Great Lakes Compact a community must show there is no other feasible alternative to Great Lakes water to meet their needs.  The city of Waukesha’s application fails on that point. 

To argue, as Mr. Allen does, that the diversion should be permitted because some of the groundwater Waukesha is currently pumping may be connected to the Great Lakes is absurd.  It violates the basic premise of the Compact that a community must show they need to pump water out of the Great Lakes.  This was intended to be a “high bar” but under Mr. Allen’s logic any community that could make a claim that their groundwater is somehow connected to the lakes would be granted a permit.  This is not what was intended.

Mr. Allen’s comments are particularly ironic in light of the Michigan Senate action last week; the Senate got it right when it passed Resolution 173 on a bipartisan basis which calls on Governor Snyder to veto the proposed Waukesha Diversion.  The resolution acknowledges that other alternatives exist for Waukesha and the precedent of approving this first diversion would be potentially devastating to the Great Lakes and to Michigan, the Great Lakes State. 

We urge Governor Snyder to heed the calls from increasing numbers of organizations and officials urging that he veto this proposed diversion of our Great Lakes waters.


Contact information:
Bill Davis: 608 256-0565, 608 345-2087 cell; bill.davis@sierraclub.org
Anne Woiwode: 517-974-2112; anne.woiwode@michigan.sierraclub.org

[1] “Allan: Stop diversion of water from Lake Michigan into Wisconsin,”
Lansing State Journal,

May 24, 2016

New Study Finds LBWL’s Proposed Energy Plan Misses Opportunities for Clean Energy, Customer Savings

May 24, 2016

Media Contacts:
Regina Strong, 248.991.5701regina.strong@sierraclub.org  

LBWL’s Plan Lacks Definite Retirement Dates for Erickson and Eckert Coal Plants; Overlooks Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

Lansing, MI -- Tonightresults of a study on energy options for Lansing-area residents conducted by MSB Energy Associates and Evans Power Consulting for the Sierra Club revealed that LBWL has missed potential cost savings and positive health impacts for Capital Area residents.  According to the study, the savings could be realized by including a wider range of options in Lansing Board of Water and Light’s (LBWL) plan for Lansing’s energy future, which is currently being considered by the utility’s Board of Commissioners.

Study results were presented during the comment period at the LBWL Board of Commissioners meeting this evening.  Expert analysis of publicly available information used to create the LBWL’s Citizens Advisory Committee’s plan revealed serious flaws in the process, which could lead to wasteful, costly and unnecessary investments by the utility.

Significant problems with the IRP Report include:
  • The failure to evaluate an earlier retirement date for the Erickson coal-fired power plant;
  • The failure to include reasonable energy efficiency and demand response goals, which could reduce the need for new capacity;
  • The failure to include all resources in the modeling, leading the model to overpredict the need for capacity by approximately 80-200 MW; and
  • The failure to consider a scenario that would minimize environmental and health impacts.
A poll released last week found that support for clean, renewable energy is strong among Lansing-area voters, with three-quarters of voters voicing preferences for using more renewable energy and energy efficiency over continued reliance on fossil fuels.

Announcing the new report,  Brad van Guilder, Sierra Club Michigan Beyond Coal Campaign's Lansing Organizer released the following statement:

“Our study highlights the fact that LBWL has left out  many options for a cleaner, more responsible energy future for the Lansing area. It is time to set realistic dates for phasing out both the Eckert and Erickson coal power plants to limit potential costs down the road for LBWL and its customers. Pushing the retirement of the Erickson plant too far into the future would incur more health costs for Lansing residents, increase potential costs to meet environmental standards, and delay community planning for a transition away from coal.

“Lansing area residents could benefit greatly from a plan that maximizes both energy efficiency and renewable energy, taking advantage of clean technology that continues to become cheaper and more cost-effective. Instead, the IRP Report proposes to continue to rely on dirty fossil fuels, potentially wasting tens if not hundreds of millions of customer dollars.  

“LBWL must fix the issues identified by our experts and provide the people of Lansing with a fair and transparent understanding of its resource options. LBWL is a publicly-owned utility, and it should be providing the public with the best information and options possible as the city plans its energy future.”


May 20, 2016

Groundbreaking New Poll to Measure Community Attitudes on a Proactive Plan to Phase out BWL’s Coal Powered Plants

May 20, 2016

Friday, May 20, 2016 at 12:15 PM ET
Phone: 1-(888)-632-3382
Passcode: Lansing (spoken to operator)


Media Contacts:
Ricky Junquera, 617.599.7048, ricky.junquera@sierraclub.org  

Groundbreaking New Poll to Measure Community Attitudes on a Proactive Plan to Phase out BWL’s Coal Powered Plants
Poll highlights overwhelming support for a move away from coal and toward renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Lansing, MI -- Lansing Board of Water and Light (LBWL) is the largest municipal utility in the state of Michigan. The utility serves Lansing, Michigan’s Capital city, as well as the town of East Lansing and the surrounding townships of Delta, Delhi, Meridian and DeWitt. LBWL has demonstrated some willingness to respond to community concerns. Beginning last fall, the utility brought together a Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) and held a series of public meetings to consider options for power generation going forward. LBWL has indicated its intention to close the remaining units of the Eckert power plant but has not addressed the fate of the Erickson plant.

Global Strategy Group (GSG), a leading national polling firm, recently conducted a 400-interview survey of registered voters in Lansing, East Lansing, and Lansing Township between May 11th and May 12th, 2016 on behalf of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign to measure support for a transition away from coal in Lansing.

That polling found that:

  • Lansing voters are strongly in favor of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Three quarters think their part of Michigan should be using more renewable energy (76%) and energy efficiency (75%). On the other hand, only 40% think their part of Michigan should be using more natural gas power, and a strong majority feel that it should use less coal (64%).
  • Support for both proposals independently is high, but the proposal with the 100% renewable goal has much more intense support. The 100% renewable proposal (72% support) and the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s proposal (68% support) are equally well-supported at the broadest level, but only 32% strongly support the LBWL proposal, while 47% strongly support the 100% renewable proposal.
  • Pitted against each other, the 100% renewable proposal comes out on top by a solid margin (51% support 100% renewable/32% support LBWL).
  • Further, voters’ preference here is durable, withstanding after voters hear arguments from both sides. After they hear a message in support of each proposal, levels of support in the head-to-head choice remain essentially the same, with the 100% renewable proposal increasing its lead by four points (53% support 100% renewable/30% support LBWL).

After reviewing the findings of Sierra Club’s commissioned Lansing poll, Brad van Guilder, Sierra Club Michigan Beyond Coal Campaign's Lansing Organizer said,

“These findings show an across the board support for maximizing clean energy and energy efficiency. We should be willing to at least consider the question of, what is the economic capacity for both wind and solar projects within the system for a Lansing energy future. If over time that answer results in lower rates and a cleaner environment then, I think the process for deciding where we will get our energy going forward would not be complete. We have an opportunity now, when retiring all of our coal generated power, to replace aged out generation with whatever makes the most sense for the people of our community.”


About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.

May 19, 2016

Leading Michigan environmental groups blast Nofs energy plan

Thursday, May 19, 2016
Contact: Nick Dodge, (517) 333-1606

Leading Michigan environmental groups blast Nofs energy plan

Environmental, conservation groups agree: Nofs energy plan a dangerous step backwards for Michigan

LANSING – Environmental groups across Michigan today sent a strong public message slamming the energy bills introduced by State Senator Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek). As Senator Nofs attempts to gather enough votes to move the bills out of committee, environmental groups warn that removing or weakening energy efficiency and renewable energy standards will increase dangerous pollution and increase costs.

"The good news for Michigan is that our efforts over the last seven years have resulted in record low prices for renewable energy. The bad news is that utilities are not taking advantage of those opportunities to protect our public health and the pocketbooks of Michigan families,” said James Clift, Policy Director of the Michigan Environmental Council. “The Nofs energy plan fails to utilize inexpensive renewable energy that would cut costs and reduce dangerous pollution.”

“The Nofs plan is irresponsible and would destroy Michigan’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards that curb dangerous pollution and protect our land, air and water,” said Clay Carpenter, Campaign Organizer for Clean Water Action. “It’s time for Michigan residents to take control of our energy future and hold big polluters accountable for spewing dangerous pollution into our air, lakes, rivers and streams.”

“We need an energy plan that reduces pollution, reduces waste and cuts costs for ratepayers,” said Mike Berkowitz, Legislative Director of theSierra Club Michigan Chapter. The Nofs energy plan gets rid of Michigan’s energy efficiency standard, which holds utilities accountable for costs, reins in energy waste, and protects us from air pollution.”

“Energy efficiency and renewable energy maintain affordability, lower ratepayer risk and reduce pollution, yet Michigan continues to over-rely on burning coal imported from other states,” said Sam Gomberg, Lead Midwest Energy Analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The Nofs energy plan undermines the progress Michigan has made in terms of expanding renewable energy and energy efficiency that provide significant benefits to ratepayers and create clean energy jobs right here in Michigan.”

“It would be a shame to see energy efficiency programming slashed in West Michigan with the passage of the Nofs energy bills,” said Nick Occhipinti, Policy Director of WMEAC. “We need an energy policy that is clean and fair and holds big utility companies accountable while moving Michigan toward a sustainable energy future.”

"This bill represents wrong-headed thinking that does almost nothing to support the expansion of jobs in the clean energy sector, and it perpetuates old strategies that will continue to trigger poor health for thousands of Michiganders,” said Guy O. Williams, President and CEO of Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice. “The Nofs energy plan allows utilities to keep polluting the air we breathe and the water we drink, threatening Michigan’s most vulnerable populations.”

“The Nofs energy plan would increase dangerous pollution and threaten the health and well-being of Michigan residents,” said Alexis Blizman,Legislative and Policy Director of the Ecology Center. “With asthma rates well above the national average, Michigan’s energy policy should reduce dangerous pollution through strong standards that protect public health.” 

“Michigan needs strong energy legislation that encourages innovation, competition and choice. The Nofs energy plan hinders innovation by requiring Michiganders to pay for the energy they generate themselves,” said Margrethe Kearney, Staff Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Rather than taking a step backward, we should be working to create policy that allows consumers to make the best choices for their individual energy use and for Michigan’s energy future.”