November 13, 2020

Sierra Club Praises Governor Whitmer’s Action and Commitment to Protecting Our Great Lakes by Revoking Enbridge’s Line 5 Easement


Friday, November 13, 2020


Christy McGillivray

(808) 726-5325

Sierra Club Praises Governor Whitmer’s Action and Commitment to Protecting Our Great Lakes by Revoking Enbridge’s Line 5 Easement

Lansing, Michigan-Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer took decisive action to shut down Enbridge’s dual Line 5 pipelines by revoking Enbridge’s 1953 easement which allows it to operate through the Straits of Mackinac. The governor’s action comes after decades of documented violations by Enbridge of the line, which poses a catastrophic threat to our Great Lakes. Enbridge has until late May of 2021 to completely shut the line down.

In response the Sierra Club made the following statement:

"The Sierra Club stands with the Governor in her strong action to protect the Great Lakes and our State. As Michiganders, we are defined by the Great Lakes and we will be remembered by how we stood up for these waters that hold 21 percent of the planet’s fresh surface water. Line 5 poses the greatest risk to our Great Lakes, drinking water, economy, and overall way of life. Violation after violation, Enbridge has shown us that they cannot be trusted. After seven years of relentless grassroots and tribal support and work, today’s action to revoke the 1953 easement by the Governor and DNR is a reaffirmation of our state’s commitment and duty to protect this precious resource in the public trust." - Christy McGillivray, Legislative and Political Director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter

September 23, 2020

Sierra Club Applauds Governor Whitmer’s Climate Action: Michigan Becomes One of Nine States Committed to Carbon Neutrality by 2050


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Contact: Renner Barsella,, 217-390-9394

Sierra Club Applauds Governor Whitmer’s Climate Action 
Michigan Becomes One of Nine States Committed to Carbon Neutrality by 2050

Lansing, Michigan--  Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced an executive action to make Michigan a leader on mitigating climate change. This economy-wide greenhouse gas emission reduction goal makes Michigan one of only nine states in the country with a full carbon neutrality commitment. The Governor’s action specifically will:

  • Achieve economy-wide carbon neutrality in Michigan by 2050 (with an interim goal of 28% reductions by 2025),

  • Reduce government facility energy use by 40% by 2040,

  • Ensure all new buildings and renovations be carbon neutral by 2040,

  • Make all state facilities powered by 100% renewable energy either on site or purchased off the grid by 2040, 

  • Direct the Michigan Department of Treasury to launch a just transition initiative aimed at supporting communities and workers when fossil fuel facilities retire,

  • Direct the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to develop a comprehensive environmental justice analysis to be utilized by the Michigan Public Service Commission in utility Integrated Resource Planning (long-term energy planning), and

  • Create an Advisory Council on Climate Solutions to oversee and guide implementation of these goals.

In response, the Sierra Club compiled the following statements:

“Every Michigander deserves to have access to clean air and water but for so many years, environmental justice communities have had to carry heavy burdens of pollution. Addressing climate change is not just about saving our environment, this is also an opportunity to protect our communities from harmful pollution and create jobs by making meaningful investments. Michigan has an opportunity to lead on climate action by centering public health and environmental justice, and Governor Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan represents this shared commitment to a future where all Michiganders can live in a healthy environment. The Sierra Club applauds Governor Whitmer’s bold leadership and we are excited to work together to address a climate crisis that will continue to shape our state and nation for many years to come,” said Justin Onwenu, Healthy Communities and Environmental Justice Organizer for Sierra Club.

Sophie Stoepker, Sierra Club’s West Michigan Clean Energy Organizer said, “We recognize that the coal industry has provided jobs and energy for many years across the state of Michigan. However, we also recognize the immense toll that these polluting power plants have on communities and the advancements in technology that allow us to address this. By making the transition off of coal to clean, renewable sources of energy, we understand that there must be many concerns from impacted workers and community members, and that is why the Sierra Club is thankful to have a leader like Governor Whitmer who takes these considerations to heart and addresses the need for just transition planning. We look forward to working alongside the Governor, community members, and power plant workers to create plans that will provide jobs, economic prosperity, and establish healthy communities for all of Michigan.”

“With climate driven disasters around the world to historic floods here at home, we are witnessing the disruptive impacts of climate change. The burdens of this crisis will fall most heavily on workers, low-income communities, and the most vulnerable. Thankfully, Governor Whitmer’s announcement provides the leadership required to move forward. To accomplish this, Michigan must implement the largest energy transition in more than a century. Communities that have depended on fossil fuels for their livelihoods must be among the first to share in the economic benefits from clean, renewable energy. However, we are confident that this administration’s plan can meet the challenges of reaching a cleaner, better future. The Sierra Club is ready to work together with Governor Whitmer to build a clean economy, preserve our natural environment, and stand with workers,” said Andrew Sarpolis, senior organizing representative for the Beyond Coal Campaign.


About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.8 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, 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

July 29, 2020



Tim Minotas


The Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club announced its second wave of endorsements going into the 2020 election. The Sierra Club endorses incumbent candidates who have strong pro-environment records and challengers who show a strong commitment to the principles of environmental protection held by the Sierra Club.

The Sierra Club is America’s oldest environmental advocacy and protection group and the Michigan Chapter has 150,000 members and supporters to hold candidates and officeholders accountable on key issues like Line 5 and drinking water protections.

"The Michigan Chapter’s Political Committee conducts thorough reviews of all candidates based on their environmental history, voting records and policy positions through candidate interviews, voting scorecards, and responses to candidate questionnaires,” said Tim Minotas, the Legislative and Political Coordinator for the Michigan Chapter. “The Sierra Club's endorsement means a lot to our members and supporters in these districts and to the general voting public. Our endorsement sends a message of these candidates strong support for clean water, clean air, protecting our public lands, combatting climate change, and fighting injustice."

Given the continued unprecedented threats to our clean air and water and public lands, it is more important than ever to elect environmental champions to public office. The Sierra Club is committed to implementing the most robust effort of any election year in our history. The times demand it.

“Along with the endorsement, the Sierra Club will lend its volunteer strength to these candidates
We pledge to do all we can to help ensure these candidates get elected,” said Mark Meadows, Political Chair of the Michigan Chapter. “Sierra Club volunteers will contact voters on behalf of our endorsed candidates and we will speak to the public as often as possible about them. We look forward to electing an environmental majority at all levels of government.”

This round of endorsements precedes August’s primary election. A third and final round of endorsements will come following the primary.

The Sierra Club has endorsed candidates running for office at all levels of government. A full list of candidates endorsed by the Michigan Sierra Club, including federal, state and local candidates, is available at the following website: 

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.8 million members and supporters nationwide, and over 150,000 in Michigan. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation. For more information, visit

Paid for by Michigan Sierra PAC (109 E. Cesar E. Chavez Ave. Lansing, MI 48906)

May 6, 2020

Enbridge’s Line 5 Oil Tunnel Permit Fails State's First Test

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Return to Sender: 
Enbridge’s Line 5 Oil Tunnel
Permit Fails State's First Test
Numerous Problems Cited,
Need To Analyze Other Options

LANSING--State regulators this week turned back Enbridge’s application for a permit to build a Line 5 oil tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac, saying the Canadian oil transport giant failed to evaluate other alternatives under Michigan’s environmental laws. 

The decision to send the oil tunnel permit request back to Enbridge because it was incomplete--although not a death knell for the controversial project--was applauded by legal experts and environmental organizations.The setback to Enbridge’s plans may also be an important signal that the administration of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants to take a closer look at the threat of oil pipelines in the Great Lakes and their damage to the climate.  

In its letter to Enbridge rejecting the permit application, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) cited Enbridge’s failure to analyze alternatives to the proposed oil tunnel under Michigan’s Environmental Protection Act. Enbridge will have 30 days to resubmit the permit application or it will be considered withdrawn, according to the EGLE letter.

“The Whitmer administration’s decisions on Line 5 will likely define her environmental record as much as anything else she does as governor,” said Sean McBrearty, Oil & Water Don’t Mix coordinator. “This initial step means EGLE isn’t just rubber-stamping Enbridge’s permit application but will apply appropriate environmental standards in making the decision. The burden is now on Enbridge to prove why Michigan and the Great Lakes should shoulder the huge risk of having Line 5 oil pipelines in the Great Lakes and crossing 400 other waterways. We don’t think that’s a hurdle Enbridge can overcome. Line 5 and oil are not the future -- water is, and an oil tunnel in the Great Lakes is a bad bet for Michigan.”

Kate Madigan, Director of the Michigan Climate Action Network, said the Whitmer administration should evaluate climate impacts of the proposed oil tunnel.  

“The Michigan Environmental Protection Act requires the state to consider the climate impacts of a new oil pipeline project. It would be disastrous for our state to allow an oil pipeline that is proposed to last 99 years at a time when scientists urge us to cut all climate emissions in half this decade and much of the world is turning away from fossil fuels,” said Madigan. “We know Michigan doesn’t need Line 5. We shouldn’t be taking a huge environmental and financial risk when there are more reliable, cleaner, safer energy sources out there and when the oil industry is an increasingly bad financial bet.”

EGLE’s three-page letter to Enbridge outlined other failures of the company’s submission, including the fact that in its 350-page permit application Enbridge does not acknowledge that the future of its Line 5 oil pipeline is the subject of legal challenges, including a lawsuit seeking by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel seeking an orderly decommissioning of Line 5.
“We agree with EGLE that Enbridge’s application falls woefully short of complying with legal requirements,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW, a Great Lakes law and policy center based in Traverse City. “Now the state of Michigan should require Enbridge to apply for and obtain authorization for an easement to occupy state-owned bottomlands with a tunnel before any construction permitting proceeds. Enbridge is putting the cart before the horse, which suits their interests, but not the public interest in protecting the Great Lakes. The company’s haphazard rush during the pandemic is alarming.”
Michigan's tribal community responded to EGLE's action on Enbridge's permit by spotlighting the stakes involved in the final outcome.
"Protecting Michigan's environment from the threat of Line 5 is more than just protecting the rights of tribal fishing and tribal way of life. We must shut down Line 5 to protect the health and safety of Michigan's families, wildlife and an international economy based on the Great Lakes," said Bryan Newland, president of Bay Mills Indian Community. "Our decisions must be made to protect our natural resources, putting our environment and people above profits and pipelines.
Oil & Water Don’t Mix is a broad campaign of organizations, citizens and businesses across Michigan who are working to keep oil out of our Great Lakes by shutting down the dangerous Line 5 Pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. The campaign fights for clean water and air, Indigenous rights, reducing pollution, sustainable economies and protecting sporting, tourism, and jobs that are dependent on our water and Pure Michigan way of life.  Learn more at
Oil & Water Don’t Mix Steering Committee
Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, Clean Water Action, For Love of Water, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, League of Women Voters of Michigan, Michigan Environmental Council, Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council, Sierra Club, Straits of Mackinac Alliance, Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment, Sunrise Movement, TC350

April 13, 2020

URGENT: Your Neighbors Need Your Help During This Pandemic!

Dear Friend,

Most Americans will soon receive a check from the government as part of a federal stimulus package to alleviate some of the economic pain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic . It's not a fix-all, but I'm glad that many Michiganders -- especially those hit hardest by this unprecedented crisis -- will get some relief. 

If you need your stimulus check, I am thankful you will be getting this support. However, if you’re fortunate enough to not need this federal support to get through the next few weeks or months, I have an urgent request for you: 

Please consider donating your portion of the federal stimulus to support the tireless efforts of the front line groups that are helping Michigan residents at greatest risk during this pandemic. If you’re lucky enough to earn too much to receive a federal check, please consider donating anyway to help your fellow Michiganders through this very difficult time.

The organizations below already work daily to address the many challenges faced by our most vulnerable neighbors across the state, but their help is needed now more than ever.

Brightmoor Connection Food Pantry provides food and water to those in need due to the economic toll of the crisis. Pictured is director Rev. Roslyn Bouier with donated water.

We the People of Detroit delivers water where it's needed, including homes that have faced water shutoffs.
Michigan Welfare Rights offers an array of services to residents in poverty.
Flint Rising, born out of the Flint Water Crisis, is still working to secure clean water for all -- especially now. 

I will be donating my stimulus check to these organizations, because I want to see these funds go where they can do the most good. In Michigan, that's Detroit, where COVID-19 infection rates are accelerating faster than elsewhere, as well as Flint and other communities where poverty and related health issues put people of color— especially African Americans -- at greater risk.  In addition, years of residential shutoffs in these cities also mean thousands have no access to water in the middle of this pandemic. Native American tribes are also experiencing the impacts of the virus.
Imagine not having water to wash your hands, food containers and surfaces in your home, despite a steady drumbeat of warnings from government and health officials to do just that to stop the spread of the virus. 

Recently, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer finally took concrete steps  to get water turned back on to all Michigan residents during this crisis. We’re glad that Gov. Whitmer is a responsive leader who listened to these frontline groups, and now we’re supporting these same organizations as they hold officials accountable to ensure Whitmer’s Executive Order is carried out. 

Please join me in standing in solidarity with these organizations and the Michiganders they serve and turn your federal check into a stimulus for hope and a better future for everyone. Thanks. We’re all in this together.


Gail Philbin, Chapter Director

P.S. To learn how to help neighbors in your community and other regions of Michigan, visit this link for statewide information from Michigan COVID-19 Community Response. To learn more about how to support Michigan tribes, visit

April 3, 2020

Sierra Club and Earthjustice Send Letter to MPSC to Address Coronavirus Crisis

April 3, 2020

Michigan Public Service Commission
7109 W. Saginaw Highway
Lansing, MI 48917

Via Electronic Mail (

Re:      Seeking MPSC Leadership to Address Key Impacts of the Coronavirus Crisis 

Dear Commissioners Talberg, Scripps, and Phillips:

We write on behalf of Sierra Club and its more than 23,000 members in Michigan, and Earthjustice, to urge you to take immediate action to ensure all residents have access to essential utility services as the state confronts a public health emergency. We echo the concerns raised by the DTE Works for Me coalition in its letter of March 25, 2020, as well as those raised by the Michigan Energy Efficiency for All coalition’s letter to Governor Whitmer on the same date [1]. Although DTE Energy and Consumers Energy have enacted certain voluntary measures, a Commission order would provide needed clarification as to the duration and scope of this relief and would extend to customers served by other utilities, such as the state’s municipalities and co-ops. 

In addition to issuing an emergency order to immediately address utility shut-offs and reconnections, the Commission should prioritize affordability issues across its dockets, and should open a new docket to specifically address the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. As jobless rates soar, affordability will become paramount for an increasing percentage of each utility’s customers. Moreover, social distancing and stay-at-home orders both increase residential energy use while making energy efficiency work to bring down bills more challenging, or even impossible, during the current emergency. Finally, as stakeholder meetings cannot be held in person at this time, the Commission should develop procedures for robust online or phone-based alternatives that are as inclusive as possible, and that should be used by the Commission and utilities until such time as public health conditions allow for in-person meetings and hearings to safely resume. The Commission must take a leadership role in navigating each of these issues to protect the public interest.

We request that the Commission:

(1)   Issue an emergency order pursuant to MCL 24.248 that
       Suspends gas and electric utility shut-offs for nonpayment for all customers;
       Orders reinstitution of gas and electric services that have already been shut off for nonpayment, whether the shut-off occurred before or after the onset of the coronavirus emergency;  
       Requires utilities to include a bill insert in the next billing cycle noting all financial assistance or flexible payment programs available, and how the customer can access more information about such programs. The utility should also describe the specific eligibility requirements and timeframe for programs specific to coronavirus relief. Utilities should make this information accessible to all customers, whether or not they have internet access or English language proficiency. 

(2)   Pursuant to the Commission’s broad authority under MCL 460.6(1) , require each utility to submit an “affordability plan” to the Commission within 180 days that describes the steps each utility will take to address the economic hardship of residential customers resulting from the COVID-19 crisis and considers reforms to the utility’s working definition of “low-income,” the utility’s fixed charges for residential customers, its net-metering tariff and other policies affecting the affordability of distributed generation, assistance programs for low-income and senior customers, and energy efficiency assistance, with the goal of reducing the number of customers who cannot consistently pay their bills. The Commission should offer a public comment period on each plan and should hold a public hearing virtually or, if public health conditions permit, in person. Following public comment, the Commission should either approve or recommend changes to the utility’s plan. If it is a utility’s preference to file the affordability plan as part of a rate case filed within the 180-day period, the utility should be permitted discretion to do so. In such instances, the Commission should require the utility to identify and describe all the elements of the affordability plan in direct testimony.

(3)   Establish a stakeholder process to create continuity plans for energy efficiency programs, energy assistance, and the energy workforce during the crisis, as proposed to the Governor’s office by Michigan Energy Efficiency for All. As explained by MEEFA:
The energy efficiency sector, like all other sectors of the economy, has experienced severe disruption. However, as residents are being advised to stay home, it is increasingly important that the homes they are staying in are safe, comfortable, healthy and efficient. We should be planning to create continuity within the energy efficiency, weatherization and assistance programs, particularly for those who serve low-income residents. This process should also ensure continuity of energy efficiency and related program dollars flowing to workers and agencies administering and delivering energy efficiency, energy assistance and other complementary programs. That way we can ensure there is a plan in place to jumpstart this critical work once the immediate emergency has passed. The MPSC process should be inclusive and open to all interested parties.
(4)   Issue guidance with best practices for how utilities should engage with stakeholders during periods where public gatherings are not permitted. For example, Consumers Energy had intended to hold stakeholder meetings for its 2021 Integrated Resource Plan throughout the spring. The public should still be provided a meaningful and timely opportunity to participate in any stakeholder process intended to take place during the stay-at-home order. The Commission should provide an opportunity for public input on the guidance.

Thank you for your attention to these critical issues. We look forward to your decisive action to protect Michigan’s utility customers in these difficult times.


Mike Berkowitz, Campaign Representative

Elena Saxonhouse, Senior Attorney
(415) 265-2943
Sierra Club
(248) 345-9808
Sierra Club

Michael Soules, Staff Attorney

Shannon Fisk, Managing Attorney
(202) 797-5237

(215) 717-4522
cc:        Governor Whitmer (
            Attorney General Nessel (
            Kara Cook (
            Michael Moody (

April 1, 2020

Michigan’s New Factory Farm Pollution Permit Improved, but Still Flawed

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Contact: Gail Philbin, 616-805-3063 or 312-493-2384,
Rebecca Wolf, 609-649-0100,
Michigan’s New Factory Farm Pollution Permit Improved, but Still Flawed
Crucial issues remain unaddressed; won’t stop flow of waste

Lansing, MI – Michigan’s new permit governing how the state’s nearly 300 factory farms manage the millions of gallons of waste they generate for the next five years is an improvement over previous permits, but leaves key issues effectively unaddressed, according to Great Farms Great Lakes, a coalition of national environmental organizations including Food & Water Action, Sierra Club, and Public Justice.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s 2020 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for factory farms goes into effect today, after a year of stakeholder meetings, public input and deliberation. The Great Farms Great Lakes Coalition encouraged over 1,200 advocates to submit comments on the draft permit to the state, and the coalition submitted its own detailed technical comments last December. 

The 2020 NPDES Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations General Permit makes a few long-overdue improvements such as a ban on the land application of animal waste from January through March, but remains largely ineffective in actually controlling water pollution related to industrial animal agriculture. The permit ignores the science concerning polluted watersheds and allows too many exceptions and “get-out-of-jail-free” cards for waste application in months where the freeze-thaw cycle is unpredictable. It also leaves the door wide open for manure-to-energy schemes.

Of greatest concern to the coalition are these gaps in the new permit:
  • The permit relies on “best management practices” such as buffer strips and vegetation rather than stricter regulations to stop the flow of nutrients from liquid manure, such as the dissolved phosphorus that drives the toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie.  This ignores the reality of miles of perforated pipes known as tiles underneath farm fields that serve as direct conduits for the dissolved nutrients to nearby waterways.
  • The January-March manure spreading ban still contains exceptions that allow the practice to continue at the riskiest time of year under certain conditions if “immediate incorporation” of the waste by injection takes place. Yet soil injection will only better position the waste to make its way to nearby waters via underground tiles. 
  • Without established standards or water quality data to back it up, the state assumes compliance with the new permit and best management practices mean a factory farm in a federally “impaired” watershed will automatically meet total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for nutrient pollutants such as phosphorus and nitrogen.  
  • The permit ignores the many problems related to “manure digesters” that produce biogas energy but still leave waste and nutrients behind. 
Advocates have been pushing for years for a complete ban on the application of waste on frozen and snow-covered ground in Michigan as well as compliance with the US EPA’s TMDLs for pollutants allowed in designated “impaired waters,” and an end to the questionable practice of factory farm biogas production. EGLE’s stakeholder and public hearing process for the new permit held promise that Michigan would turn a corner with changes in the permit that would finally meaningfully address the nutrient pollution from animal agriculture that plagues our inland waters and Great Lakes. Unfortunately, the 2020 permit fails to guarantee that factory farms will not further impair Michigan’s waters.

Statements from Members of the Great Farms Great Lakes Coalition:
Gail Philbin, Director of the Michigan Sierra Club:
“After more than two decades of battling factory farm pollution in Michigan, we were encouraged by the changes proposed during the permit stakeholder and public comment process to address the huge environmental and health problems caused by large-scale livestock facilities. However, the limited steps taken in the final permit fall short of what's needed and represent a missed opportunity to add real protections to seriously address current water quality issues and set us on a course for a better environmental and economic future."

 Food & Water Action Senior Organizer Rebecca Wolf:
“While this permit is a testament to the power of people coming together and holding polluters accountable, it needed to create full protections from the most egregious forms of manure pollution. EGLE has clearly missed this opportunity, and we will continue to urge Governor Whitmer and the state legislature to take immediate and comprehensive action on factory farm pollution. This is a critical moment for the future of Lake Erie and Michigan’s waters. We’ll continue to demand a future of sustainable, pasture-based family farming--where Michigan is leading the way.”

Jessica Culpepper, Director of Public Justice’s Food Project:
“A set of regulations that leaves the door open for factory farms applying any manure in winter is not a full commitment to the health and well-being of Michiganders. Likewise, it is disappointing that factory farm biogas - a false climate solution designed to entrench the current food system at the expense of independent producers and rural communities - is not rejected outright by Michigan’s government.”