March 19, 2015

Sierra Club Calls on DNR Director Creagh to Deny Graymont Land Sale


Decision Expected at Natural Resources Commissions Meeting Thursday

Media Contact: Anne Woiwode, anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org , 517-484-2372 x 11
Note:  Sierra Club Forest Ecologist Marvin Roberson will be available at the NRC Meeting Referenced in this release.

LANSING--Sierra Club today called on Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Keith Creagh to reject the sale of DNR lands to Graymont, a Canadian limestone mining company. If approved by Creagh, the proposed sale would constitute the largest sale of publicly owned land to a private company in Michigan’s history.  Creagh’s decision could come as soon as Thursday at the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) meeting in Roscommon. 

“Director Creagh should follow the law with regard to disposal of state lands and deny this proposed sale,” said Marvin Roberson, Sierra Club Forest Ecologist.  “As proposed, the Graymont sale would establish a dangerous precedent and undermine our long-standing Michigan tradition of ensuring publicly owned lands that we value today are also there for future generations of Michiganders.”

Sierra Club’s concerns were detailed in a March 16 letter to Director Creagh and will be presented at the NRC meeting Thursday.  In the letter, Sierra Club outlined Creagh’s failure to comply with requirements under state law regarding the sale and disposal of state lands. Other concerns include the state’s failure to make the necessary determination that the proposed Graymont sale involves land that has been designated “surplus” under state law.  Moreover, the scale of the transaction—involving ten times the land of any previous land sale—could set a precedent for other similar sales of that magnitude.

“The DNR has an obligation to manage our public lands to serve the interests of Michigan citizens, who put a very high value on the many benefits our state lands give us,” said Roberson. “Director Creagh is obliged to ensure that he and his agency are serving the long-term interests of the people of Michigan, and the handling of the Graymont proposal fails to comply with that duty.”

March 18, 2015

Sierra Club Endorses Proposal 1

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 18 2015

Media contact:  David Holtz 313-300-4454 

Sierra Club Endorses Proposal 1
$115 Million in Transit Funding Addresses Critical Michigan Need


LANSING—The Michigan Chapter of Sierra Club today announced its endorsement of Proposal 1 on the May election ballot, citing a key component of the measure that increases funding for public transit.

“Proposal 1 provides essential funding for Michigan’s public transportation needs that have long been neglected,” said David Holtz, Chair of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Executive Committee.  “This complex proposal may not be ideal, but it is a bipartisan compromise that will increase financial support for transportation while not harming schools, cities and other important environmental priorities.  If it fails, all of these will be put at risk.”

Proposal 1 will provide $115 million a year in increased funding for public transportation throughout Michigan. This will likely allow expanded bus service for seniors, low-income workers and others while reducing the use of cars and greenhouse gas emissions.  Proposal 1 will also provide $10 million a year to the Department of Natural Resource’s Recreation Improvement Fund which provides grants for the operation, maintenance and development of recreation trails and restoration of lands damaged by off-road vehicles and inland lake cleanup.

The decision to endorse Proposal 1 was made by Sierra Club’s 18-member Michigan Chapter Executive Committee and its Political Committee and will be communicated to the group’s 60,000 members and supporters in Michigan.

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March 13, 2015

Citizens Groups Call for More Action, Less Lip Service from Gov. Snyder

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
News from Clean Energy Now
March 13, 2015
Contact: Marissa Luna, 989-798-3051, marissa@engagemichigan.org
Citizens Groups Call for More Action, Less Lip Service from Gov. Snyder
Governor must set specific renewable energy, energy efficiency policies
WARREN – Today, Governor Rick Snyder presented his Special Message on Energy, outlining his vision for Michigan’s energy future over the next 10 years. He highlighted the need to reduce utilities over reliance on coal, increase utilities use of renewable energy, and reduce energy waste as the best way to protect public health and preserve Michigan’s Great Lakes and environment, but did not put forward any specific policy suggestions.

“Governor Snyder needs to set clear and measurable energy standards to make the potential goals that he outlined in his energy message actually happen. For over two years now, the governor has talked about his energy framework for Michigan. Now is the time for action,” said Mike Berkowitz, legislative & political director for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “The reason utilities generate 9 percent of their energy from renewable sources is because of the laws passed in 2008 requiring it. We need a Renewable Energy Standard and Energy Optimization Standard in order to ensure that utilities continue decreasing energy waste and increasing clean energy generation. We didn’t get that from the governor today.”

Michigan’s current renewable energy standard requires that utilities generate 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by the end of the year — a target that utilities are on track to meet at a lower cost than initially projected. A study released this year by the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute found that utilities are capable of reaching a 40 percent renewable energy standard by 2035.

Additionally, many of Michigan’s old, expensive and obsolete coal-fired power plants are reaching, or have already reached, the end of their life spans and will soon need to close down.

Michigan is at a crossroads and we have a moral obligation to choose the path that protects our children and future generations from the danger and cost of environmental destruction,” said Alexis Blizman, policy director for the Ecology Center. “Our elected leaders have a choice: protect our clean air and drinking water, or allow destructive industries to sacrifice our health and our kids’ future.”

On March 3, Michigan House and Senate Democrats voiced support for increasing the state's renewable energy standard to 20 percent by 2022. Two days later, Rep. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) introduced an eight-bill package that would corrupt Michigan’s renewable energy standard by classifying burning hazardous waste as renewable energy and repeal the state’s energy optimization standards for both electric and natural gas utilities.

Clearly, Governor Snyder now needs to lay out clear and defined goals. Today, as with the last three years, the governor’s speech had a lot of rhetoric but no substance,” said Eric Keller, campaigns director for Michigan Clean Water Action. “What we need is for the Governor and our elected officials to lead the way. This means first being leaders themselves and going beyond rhetoric and the bare minimum.”
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Clean Energy Now is a coalition of groups that supports policies that will move Michigan beyond coal power and toward greater use of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency as a way to protect public health, the environment, and build prosperity. Follow the campaign at CleanEnergyNowMI.org.

March 12, 2015

K’zoo County Manure Spill Bolsters Call for DEQ to Ban Winter Spreading

Environmental Disaster Highlights Need for Agricultural Reform in Michigan

Media Contact: Gail Philbin, gail.philbin@sierraclub.org, 312-493-2384

Lansing, Mich.-- A massive manure spill encroaching on water, wildlife and residents in Kalamazoo County underscores the urgency to revamp our agricultural system, just days after Less=More brought together 140 farmers, consumers and advocates to chart a path to a safer food future during Michigan State University’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Week.

VDS Farms, LLC, a dairy permitted by Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) as a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) under the Clean Water Act,  spread manure on frozen and snow-covered fields near Fulton that began thawing in warmer temperatures this week. This led to a waste-infused snow melt spilling onto a county roadway and into roadside ditches, area wetlands, and private property earlier this week. 

Last year, Less=More joined dozens of other agriculture and environmental advocates in calling for the DEQ to ban the application of waste on frozen and snow-covered ground, which is currently allowed in the agency’s general water quality permit for CAFOs like VDS Farms. The DEQ is considering changes to that permit as part of a five-year renewal process, but it hasn’t made a decision yet and has favored voluntary compliance over banning the practice up to this point.

“Under DEQ’s current permits this isn’t an uncommon practice at this time of year as factory farms empty their lagoons that have been collecting millions of gallons of animal waste over the winter,” said Lynn Henning of Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, a Less=More member. “It’s also not uncommon to have spills like this that threaten environmental and public health.  This kind of waste runoff is part of the reason we had poisoned drinking water from Lake Erie last summer.”

An algal bloom fueled by phosphorus runoff led to the growth of a toxin in August 2014 that made water from Lake Erie undrinkable for nearly a half-million people in and around Toledo for two days.

“Clearly, asking CAFO operators to voluntarily use their judgment as to when it’s not a good time to spread on frozen or snow-covered ground isn’t working,” said Sandy Nordmark, a farmer and member of Less=More.  “Banning winter waste application is a no-brainer. In fact, these are industrial facilities and they should be regulated as such.”

VDS Farms was one of the facilities cited in Restoring the Balance to Michigan’s Farming Landscape, Less=More’s 2013 report on the relationship between factory farm pollution and Farm Bill subsidies in Michigan (available at http://tinyurl.com/Less-MoreReport). VDS has a history of non-compliance with environmental regulations. The DEQ sued the operation in 2007 for violation of state laws and permits related to the protection of water quality. Other documented offenses included groundwater contamination in 2009 and fines and penalties of $40,000 in 2001.

“We need people concerned about sustainable agriculture and healthy food to speak up when state agencies are changing rules that govern how industrial scale farming is done,” said Gail Philbin, director of Sierra Club Michigan, a Less=More member. “There is a host of things that go on behind the scenes—like the subsidies for factory farms that Less=More is targeting-- that affect the kind of food we have access to as consumers.”

Less=More is a sustainable agriculture coalition comprised of national, state and local organizations, farmers and consumers. The March 9 Farming Our Future: The Forces and Faces of 21st Century Agriculture conference hosted by Less=More gave urban and rural sustainable agriculture practitioners, researchers, lawyers, and other experts the opportunity to explore the state of farming today and answer the question: How did we get to the point where the way we raise our food can actually endanger our health rather than promote it? Speakers discussed how to move beyond our industrial agriculture system, spotlighting emerging trends, innovative projects, and programs that support sustainable farmers. They also urged greater citizen engagement in the processes and programs that determine who gets to farm and how they farm.

For more information about Less=More, visit www.MoreforMichigan.org.  To sign up to get email updates about the coalition’s work, email gail.philbin@sierraclub.org.

March 5, 2015

House Republican Bill Package Proposes to Corrupt Michigan's Renewable Energy Standard


News from Progress Michigan

March 5, 2015

Bills would also repeal Energy Optimization standard despite documented cost savings

MICHIGAN – Today, Rep. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) introduced an eight-bill package that would undermine Michigan’s renewable energy standard by classifying incinerating hazardous waste as renewable energy and repeal the state’s energy optimization standards for both electric and natural gas utilities.

Rep. Nesbitt’s announcement comes after House and Senate Democrats voiced support to double the amount of electricity that utilities are required to produce from legitimate renewable energy sources, like wind and solar.

“Michigan’s renewable energy standards have been a great success in protecting public health, our Great Lakes, and our air. Utilities are on track to reach the current 10 percent renewable energy goal by the end of this year,” said Mike Berkowitz, legislative & political director at the Sierra Club. “Now is the time for our state elected officials to increase Michigan’s renewable energy standard, not undo the progress we’ve made by attempting to disguise pollution as clean energy.”

The proposal to repeal of the energy optimization standard contradicts both Governor Snyder’s stated support for eliminating energy waste and the outstanding success of the current measures in saving ratepayers money.

“This is a nonsensical proposal that will actually hurt Michigan’s utility customers by driving up the cost of energy bills,” said Jim Dulzo, senior energy policy specialist at the Michigan Land Use Institute. “Why anyone would think this is a good idea is hard to fathom.”

These bills are just another attempt by corporate polluters to maximize their own profits at the expense of Michiganders’ health, said Alexis Blizman, legislative & policy director at the Ecology Center. “Legislators should be prioritizing more investments in renewable energy like wind and solar that doesn’t create pollution and threaten public health, not siding with fossil fuel industries.”

“Michigan has a long history of renewable energy innovation and our representatives should continue to lead in developing clean, cutting edge renewable energy technology,” said Nic Clark, executive director of Michigan Clean Water Action.

Last month, a poll conducted by EPIC-MRA found that 60 percent of Michigan residents support increasing the state’s renewable energy standard.

The undersigned groups oppose this package of legislation:
Ecology Center, Michigan Clean Water Action, Sierra Club, Michigan Land Use Institute, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, and Keweenaw Renewable Energy Coalition.

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March 4, 2015

Sierra Club Announces Intent of Sue Lansing Board of Water and Light for 3,500 Violations of Clean Air Act


LBWL has failed to act for nearly a year since Sierra Club put utility on notice


LANSING, Michigan -- At a press event today, Sierra Club officials made public a letter and notice of intent to sue Lansing Board of Water & Light (LBWL) for its more than 3,500 self-reported violations of the federal Clean Air Act at the utility’s Erickson and Eckert coal plants. LBWL has not acted to correct these violations for nearly a year since receiving the Sierra Club’s notice, posing a serious threat to the community’s health.The Clean Air Act provides for civil penalties of up to $37,500 per violation.

“The people of Lansing own this utility, and they deserve to know how it’s operating,” said Anne Woiwode, conservation director for the Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter. “Lansing Board of Water & Light officials have known about these violations for years, but have failed to address them. It’s time to face this pollution problem and create a responsible plan to transition away from these polluting, aging coal plants.”

Air pollution from burning coal triggers respiratory problems like asthma attacks, nervous system disorders, and cardiovascular problems. Over time, exposure can lead to permanent lung damage and even premature death. The Lansing neighborhoods in close proximity to the LBWL plants experience the highest asthma hospitalization rates, according to the Ingham County Health Department.

The Sierra Club estimates that LBWL is polluting more sulfur dioxide per unit of electricity than the whole fleet of coal plants operated by DTE, ranked No 1. among the top 100 nationwide power producers for sulfur pollution per unit of electricity, according to a 2014 CERES report (the methodology of which Sierra Club used in its calculations).

“It’s staggering to think that these coal plants pollute at a rate that outpaces one of the worst corporate polluters in the country,” said Regina Strong, director of the Beyond Coal Campaign in Michigan. “The board of commissioners should choose to replace these coal-burning plants with Michigan-based renewable energy that doesn't endanger our air.

For more information on the impacts of LBWL’s pollution and a computer modeled map showing its potential reach, click here.

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March 3, 2015

Sierra Club Response to Democratic Leadership's Energy Policy Announcement

Contact: Mike Berkowitz
248-345-9808
mike.berkowitz@sierraclub.org

"Today’s announcement by Democratic leaders that they endorse policies increasing renewable energy and energy efficiency is encouraging and we strongly welcome their proposal" said Mike Berkowitz, Legislative Director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. "Michigan is falling behind as other states create new economic opportunities and well paid jobs through energy efficiency efforts and by developing clean, low-carbon energy technologies. Michigan is in an excellent position to be part of the wave of innovation as we transition away from dirty, expensive fossil fuels and that’s why we applaud the Democratic proposal and look forward to working with all lawmakers on legislation that will boldly claim clean energy as a Michigan priority.”