April 1, 2014

Snyder Administration Approves Handout to Oil Drilling Corporations Right After BP Spills in Lake Michigan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

MORE INFORMATION:
Mike Berkowitz
248-345-9808
Mike.berkowitz@sierraclub.org

Snyder Administration Approves Handout to Oil Drilling Corporations Right After BP Spills in Lake Michigan
New Law Flies in the Face of Taxpayers and Landowners

LANSING—Michigan property owners and taxpayers have lost ground today as Governor Snyder’s administration today signed into law a controversial bill package that gives oil and gas companies new powers to site pipelines on private property, while reducing the taxes the industry pays.  HB 4885 (Nesbitt), HB 5254 (Outman), HB 5255 (Stallworth), and HB 5274 (Pettalia) are designed to encourage so-called enhanced oil recovery operations, which entail pumping carbon dioxide (CO2) into closed oil wells to extract previously unattainable oil.  Under the new law, oil and gas companies will receive a 40% reduction in the oil severance tax as well as a 20% reduction for natural gas, essentially handing money to the industry.

“This law hurts taxpayers, landowners, and threatens water supplies while giving taxpayer handouts to the oil and gas industry,” said Mike Berkowitz, Legislative Director for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.  “Giving tax breaks to the oil industry that is putting our water at risk while they make record profits is just plain wrong. Especially considering that BP just spilled 1600 gallons of oil into Lake Michigan last week.  Michiganders deserve better from Governor Snyder and the Michigan Legislature than this harmful law.

Supporters of the industry-backed proposals say there might be environmental benefits from carbon sequestration during the oil recovery process that is included as part of the bill package.  Those claims, however, ignore the damage that will likely result from expanded drilling in environmentally sensitive areas.  Moreover, any benefits from carbon sequestration must be weighed against disruptive new pipeline construction, well conversions required to accommodate the process, additional air pollution as well as costs and environmental impacts of increased transport of oil.  These impacts combined with the increased combustion of oil extracted mean the bill package will likely result in the release of more greenhouse gases. 

“This law poses an alarming new threat for all Michigan residents who are facing aggressive oil, gas and related pipeline construction in their communities.  The Sierra Club strongly opposes the expansion of eminent domain authority to private oil and gas companies at the expense of the rights of private property owners and the public” said Anne Woiwode, Director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.  “The rapid expansion of oil and tar sands being pumped through Michigan pipelines is raising legitimate concerns from private landowners about the safety of these pipelines near their homes and businesses.  Giving oil and gas companies more ability to take lands for the transportation of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide pipeline development is the wrong decision for Michigan, for clean water, and for property owners.”

Sierra Club applauds Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood for sponsoring an amendment to HB 4885, which was adopted, that prevents companies who have been convicted of an anti-trust violation from getting a break on their severance tax for Enhanced Oil Recovery operations. This comes in light of Encana Oil and Gas USA and Chesapeake Energy Corporation recently being charged with collusion for conspiring to hold bid prices down in an October 2010 auction of oil and gas leases.

Michiganders are continuing to face increased risks to their water supplies, and now will have fewer rights over their property, while the oil and gas industry reaps the benefits of a corporate tax handout.

###                       
 The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization, with over 150,000 members and supporters in Michigan


March 21, 2014

Most Mich. Farmers Skip Their Slice of Farm Bill Pie

Livestock Farmers Who Could Benefit Most Don’t Apply for Conservation Program $$
Less=More Coalition Launches Effort to Increase Applications


A coalition of farmers, advocacy groups, and consumers aims to increase access to Farm Bill funds for small-scale and environmentally friendly Michigan livestock farmers. The five-year federal legislation signed by President Obama Feb. 7 in East Lansing includes $8.9 billion nationwide for an agricultural conservation program underutilized by many of the Michigan farmers who could benefit most from it.


The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to support practices that address natural resource concerns and protect water, soil and wildlife. In fiscal year 2013, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Michigan allocated $17,889,245  in EQIP subsidies to 1,026 applications to support conservation practices by all types of Michigan farmers, with 60% going to benefit livestock operations.


According to the Michigan office of the NRCS, the agency doesn’t track the specific number of contracts awarded to livestock producers. However, if the total number of awarded applications for all types of farmers in the state is just over 1,000, then only a small fraction of Michigan’s more than 20,000 livestock operations are benefiting from this federal subsidy program.


“Even if every one of those 1,026 applications came from a livestock operation, that would represent only five percent of the livestock farms in the state,” said Sandy Nordmark of the Michigan Farmers Union. “We need to do a better job of helping more of these farmers take advantage of the federal support that’s out there for them.”


Less=More hopes to raise the application rate among Michigan’s sustainable livestock farmers, in particular. The group, a sustainable agriculture coalition of farmers, consumers and advocacy groups (see membership below), has created an online resource for farmers to easily access information about EQIP and the 2014 Farm Bill in one place at http://tinyurl.com/subsidyinfo2014.


Sustainable agriculture emphasizes stewardship of natural and human resources to produce safe, healthy food and doesn’t lead to the environmental concerns of industrial agriculture.  Less=More says that EQIP support for practices like brush management, grassed waterways, fencing and filter strips would enable sustainable livestock farmers to compete in a marketplace where large-scale intensive livestock operations have an unfair advantage.


The NRCS, an arm of the US Department of Agriculture that administers EQIP through the office of the Michigan State Conservationist, is mandated to distribute 60 percent of EQIP funds for livestock practices of all types. However, some of the biggest subsidies available are for practices designed to address problems associated with the huge amounts of waste generated by Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), or factory farms. For example, in 2014 a CAFO can apply for and receive more than $103,000 to fund a mechanical system for a waste separation facility and nearly $93,000 for manure conveyance for a separator system. Anaerobic digesters fetch anywhere from roughly $300-$650 per animal unit, which translates to a substantial sum for operations with 1,000-2,500 animal units.


“Factory farms take a perfectly good natural material, animal manure, and concentrate it until it becomes an environmental issue and then get federal money to address the problem they’ve created,” said Anne Woiwode, director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, a Less=More member. “Meanwhile, sustainable farmers who work with nature and have appropriate numbers of animals for the land have little need for funds to deal with waste, but they would benefit greatly from receiving more support for their sustainable practices.”


EQIP subsidies for waste-related practices don’t solve the underlying problems inherent in large-scale operations that warehouse thousands of animals, so many CAFOs end up polluting anyway. In 2013, Less=More issued a report, Restoring the Balance to Michigan’s Farming Landscape, demonstrating that many polluting factory farms continue to receive taxpayer money. The report found that 37 Michigan factory farms cited for environmental violations and unpermitted discharges over the 15 years ending in 2011 were awarded nearly $27 million in various Farm Bill subsidies between 1995 and 2011.  Of these operations, 26 jointly racked up fines and penalties of more than $1.3 million for their share of these violations.


Less=More members joined together in 2012 to address the inequity of Farm Bill subsidy distribution in Michigan and how the current system favors polluting factory farms over safe, sustainable livestock farms at the expense of the environment and public health. It is a coalition of organizations engaged in various aspects of our food system that seek to level the playing field for sustainable farmers by addressing the inequity of how taxpayer subsidies are distributed in Michigan.
Less=More includes: Beery Farms of Michigan, LLC, the Center for Food Safety, Crane Dance Farm, LLC, Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, Food & Water Watch, Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council, Groundswell Farm, The Humane Society of the United States, Michigan Farmers Union, Michigan Small Farm Council, Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition, Michigan Voices for Good Food Policy, Michigan Young Farmers Coalition, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Socially Responsible Agricultural Project. 


Restoring the Balance to Michigan’s Farming Landscape and other information about Less=More is available at www.MoreforMichigan.org.

March 19, 2014

Michigan Senate Votes to Give Corporate Handout to Oil Drillers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 19, 2014

MORE INFORMATION:
Mike Berkowitz
248-345-9808
Mike.berkowitz@sierraclub.org

Michigan Senate Votes to Give Corporate Handout to Oil Drillers
Sierra Club Calls on Michigan House and Governor Snyder to Reject the Legislation 

LANSING—The Michigan Senate today passed a controversial bill package that gives oil and gas companies new powers to construct pipelines on private property over the objections of Michigan landowners, while giving new tax breaks to industry.  HB 4885 (Nesbitt), HB 5254 (Outman), HB 5255 (Stallworth), and HB 5274 (Pettalia) are designed to encourage so-called enhanced oil recovery operations, which entail pumping carbon dioxide (CO2) into closed oil wells to extract previously unattainable oil.  Under the proposed legislation, oil and gas companies would get a 40% break on the oil severance tax while taxes on drilling for gas would be reduced by 20%.

“These bills hurt taxpayers, landowners, and threaten water supplies while giving taxpayer handouts to the oil and gas industry,” said Mike Berkowitz, Legislative Director for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.  “Fundamentally, we should not be giving tax breaks to an oil industry that is putting our water at risk and making record profits.  The Michigan House of Representatives and Governor Snyder need to reject this corporate giveaway to oil companies.”

Supporters of the industry-backed proposals say there will be environmental benefits from carbon sequestration during the oil recovery process that is promoted as part of the bill package.  Those claims, however, ignore the damage that will likely result from expanded drilling in environmentally sensitive areas.  Moreover, any benefits from carbon sequestration must be weighed against disruptive new pipeline construction, well conversions required to accommodate the process, additional air pollution as well as costs and environmental impacts of increased transport of oil.  These impacts combined with the increased combustion of oil mean the bill package will likely result in the release of more greenhouse gases. 

“These bills pose an alarming new threat for all Michigan residents who are facing aggressive oil, gas and related pipeline construction in their communities.  The Sierra Club strongly opposes giving new eminent domain authority to private oil and gas companies at the expense of the rights of private property owners and the public” said Anne Woiwode, Director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.  “The recent expansion of oil and tar sands pipelines in Michigan has led to many private landowners witnessing pipeline construction within a few yards of their homes or businesses.  Giving oil and gas companies more ability to take lands for the transportation of fossil fuels and pipeline development is the wrong decision for Michigan, for clean water, and for property owners.”

Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood sponsored an amendment to HB 4885, which was adopted, that would prevent companies who have a criminal record from getting a break on their severance tax for Enhanced Oil Recovery operations. This comes in light of Encana Oil and Gas USA and Chesapeake Energy Corporation recently being charged with collusion for conspiring to hold bid prices down in an October 2010 auction of oil and gas leases.

The bills head back to the Michigan House of Representatives which has already approved a previous version of the package. The bills are expected to be concurred in, passed, and sent to Governor Snyder.
###                       
 The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization, with over 150,000 members and supporters in Michigan. 

March 18, 2014

SIERRA CLUB ENDORSES CANDIDATES & BALLOT PROPOSALS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 18, 2014                                              

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

SIERRA CLUB ENDORSES CANDIDATES & BALLOT PROPOSALS  

The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, a non-partisan environmental protection organization, today announced its first round of 20 candidate endorsements in Michigan’s upcoming state legislative elections.  The Sierra Club also announced positions on three statewide ballot proposals.

“These Sierra Club endorsed candidates have solid environmental records as elected officials. They are champions who demonstrate strong leadership in promoting clean air, clean water, cleaner energy and a healthier Michigan,” said Mike Berkowitz, Political Director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “Our members are committed to making sure voters are aware of the strong environmental values of these endorsed candidates we will work hard to ensure they return to Lansing next year.”

Michigan Sierra Club endorsed the following candidates for state Senate:
Steve Bieda (D-9)
Rebekah Warren (D-18)
Sean McCann (D-20)
Terry Brown (D-25)
Jim Ananich (D-27)

Sierra Club also endorsed the following candidates for state Representative:
Sarah Roberts (D-18)
Jim Townsend (D-26)
Pam Faris (D-48)
Charles Smiley (D-50)
Gretchen Driskell (D-52)
Jeff Irwin (D-53)
David Rutledge (D-54)
Adam Zemke (D-55)
Tom Cochran (D-67)
Andy Schor (D-68)
Sam Singh (D-69)
Theresa Abed (D-71)
Brandon Dillon (D-75)
Collene LaMonte (D-91)
Marcia Hovey-Wright (D-92)


The Sierra Club also announced it will oppose a proposal for a part-time legislature in Michigan and support two referendums linked to wildlife issues:  A ballot proposal to overturn Public Act 520, which designated Grey Wolves as game species, and to overturn Public Act 21. PA 21 gave the Natural Resources Commission authority to designate game species and blocked a public vote on wolf hunting.

Sierra Club volunteers from among the organization’s 150,000 Michigan members and supporters will work with endorsed candidates in their own communities, identifying and recruiting other likely voters who are concerned about the state’s environmental and energy policies, said Richard Morley Barron, Political Chair of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.

“Sierra Club is a grassroots organization and our strength is in educating and mobilizing environmental voters,” said Barron.  “Given the unprecedented challenges facing our Great Lakes, our climate and a weakening of pollution protection and enforcement, we are committed to implementing the most robust effort of any election year in our history.  The times demand it and our members expect it.”

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 and responses to candidate questionnaires.

A full list of candidates and ballot proposals endorsed by the Michigan Sierra Club, including federal, state and local candidates, is available at the following website: http://michigan.sierraclub.org/politics/articles/2014Endorsements.html


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 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 http://www.sierraclub.org.

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

######

March 6, 2014

Sierra Club Endorses Paul Clements for U.S. Congress

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 6, 2014

CONTACT:Emily Rosenwasser, Emily.Rosenwasser@sierraclub.org312-251-2680 x119


Sierra Club Endorses Paul Clements for U.S. Congress
Nation’s Largest Grassroots Conservation Organization Praises Paul Clements’ Commitment to Climate Action and Environmental Justice

KALAMAZOO, MI - Today, the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club announced its endorsement of Paul Clements in the election for Michigan’s 6th Congressional District.

Paul Clements is challenging Congressman Fred Upton, who currently chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“The Sierra Club supports Paul Clements because he is a climate champion, and that’s the kind of leader we need representing Michigan’s 6th District,” said Mike Berkowitz, Political and Legislative Director for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “From extreme flooding to extreme droughts, dealing with the effects of climate disruption costs our nation billions of dollars every year. Paul Clements is ready to take climate action now, while Fred Upton sits on his hands, gives big breaks to polluters and takes big campaign handouts from oil and gas companies.”

Southwest Michigan has benefited from clean energy growth and expansion in the state. But the southwest corridor of the state has also endured one of the worst and most costly oil spills in U.S. history at the hands of Enbridge Energy, which gushed more than one million gallons of heavy crude oil into the Kalamazoo River in 2010, putting local drinking water at risk. Federal and state agencies are still cleaning up the Kalamazoo River from the Enbridge crude oil spill four years later.

“Paul Clements knows that clean water and clean air are great resources that shouldn't be sacrificed for polluter profits,” said Richard Barron, Political Chair of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “We are still cleaning up from Enbridge’s crude oil spill, but meanwhile in DC, Fred Upton has been fast tracking legislation to approve the dangerous Keystone XL crude oil pipeline, putting even more people at risk of water contamination from catastrophes.”

Paul Clements has been an outspoken activist on the need to mitigate climate disruption, co-chairing Western Michigan University’s faculty work group on Climate Change and authoring a chapter on “The Ethics and Politics of Climate Change” in his book Rawlsian Political Analysis: Rethinking the Microfoundations of Social Science.

“Climate disruption will affect every aspect of our economy and our lives,” said Charlie Stefanac, a Sierra Club activist from Kalamazoo in the 6th Congressional District. “Paul Clements understands the importance and urgency of taking climate action now by supporting vital carbon standards on coal-burning power plants and expanding clean energy in Michigan and across the United States.”

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 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 http://www.sierraclub.org.


Paid for by the Sierra Club Political Committee, www.sierraclub.org, and authorized by Paul Clements for Congress.

March 4, 2014

Sierra Club Endorses Pam Byrnes for U.S. Congress

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASETuesday, March 4, 2014

CONTACT:

Emily Rosenwasser, Emily.Rosenwasser@sierraclub.org312-251-2680 x119

Sierra Club Endorses Pam Byrnes for U.S. Congress
Nation’s Largest Grassroots Conservation Organization Praises Pam Byrnes’ Commitment to Protecting Michigan’s Clean Energy Economy

DEXTER, MI - Today, the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club announced its endorsement of Pam Byrnes in the election for Michigan’s 7th Congressional District.

“Pam Byrnes is the right choice for Michigan’s 7th Congressional District because she’s fought tirelessly to bolster clean energy jobs right here in Michigan during her time in the state legislature,” said Mike Berkowitz, Political and Legislative Director for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “As our nation embraces moving away from dependence on dirty fossil fuels, we need a leader like Pam Byrnes representing Michigan as a clean energy champion in Washington.”

During her tenure in the Michigan state legislature, Pam Byrnes fought for Michigan clean energy jobs through her sponsorship of House Bill 5907, a bill that upped renewable energy goals for Michigan’s fossil fuel-dependent utility companies. She also worked to ban the dumping of toxic mercury into landfills, and to protect the Great Lakes from polluters.

Pam Byrnes’ main challenger, Tea Party Republican Tim Walberg, voted to give oil companies billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, and allowed them to drill in the Great Lakes.

“The Great Lakes are one of Michigan’s greatest resources, and Tim Walberg has put our drinking water and our livelihoods at risk by making them open for business to big polluters,” said Richard Barron, Political Chair of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “Pam Byrnes recognizes the importance of the Great Lakes, and will protect our fresh water from oil drilling and pollution.”

As a former Road Commissioner and Chair of the House Transportation Committee, Byrnes prioritized improving mass transit through legislation that focused on the maintenance of roads and made them accessible for all forms of transportation.

“The most important way that we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels is by making mass transit more accessible to all Michiganders,” said Mark Muhich, a Sierra Club activist from Jackson in the 7th Congressional District. “Pam Byrnes understands that our future lies in smart energy decisions like expanding public transit and investing in our infrastructure.”

Pam Byrnes will meet with local Sierra Club Jackson and Huron Valley groups in upcoming weeks to hear from members on Michigan clean energy goals and protecting the Great Lakes. 

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 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 http://www.sierraclub.org.

Paid for by Michigan Sierra PAC (109 E. Grand River Ave. Lansing, MI 48906) and authorized by Pam Byrnes for Congress.

February 27, 2014

Sierra Club Endorses Mark Schauer for Governor of Michigan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, February 27, 2014


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



Sierra Club Endorses Mark Schauer for Governor of Michigan


Detroit, M.I. -- Today, the Sierra Club announced its endorsement of Mark Schauer as the clear choice in Michigan’s gubernatorial race in 2014.

“Mark Schauer’s Michigan values mean support for policies that protect our Great Lakes system and strong, renewable energy standards that will transition us from older energy sources toward cleaner energy that is better for our families and our future,” said David Holtz, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Chair. "Michigan was once a leader in preserving and protecting our Great Lakes and natural resources, but Gov. Snyder has failed to embrace the Milliken-era values that protected and preserved one of our state's strongest economic engines.  He has been a huge disappointment.”

Mark Schauer has supported comprehensive plans to create new clean energy jobs in Michigan while taking action to protect our communities from the consequences of climate disruption. As Governor, Schauer has made it clear that he would support a strong renewable energy standard for Michigan and energy efficiencies that would significantly reduce pollution while putting tens of thousands of Michiganders back to work. That is a stark contrast to the record of Schauer’s opponent.

“Governor Snyder has had nearly four years to deliver clean energy jobs and put in place strong protections against the ever-increasing expansion of new deep well gas drilling in Michigan,” said Mike Berkowitz, Political Director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “Instead, he’s given Michiganders false promises and said we must wait for the next governor to do something on clean energy while the oil and gas industry continues deep well fracking without protections for our water or our citizens’ health.  On these and a range of issues involving Michigan’s land, air and water, the governor has failed to deliver for everyone who cares about our health and natural resources.”

Schauer has consistently voted to protect Michigan’s lakes, rivers, and streams while taking action to curb climate disruption by cracking down on unregulated carbon pollution. In the state Senate, he authored legislation to protect the Great Lakes and has opposed efforts to endanger them with unregulated drilling while championing bills to expand Michigan’s rapidly growing clean energy economy. Snyder, on the other hand, has approved new dirty coal facilities, unnecessary mines, and dangerous deep injection wells.

“I voted for Rick Snyder in 2010 because he advertised himself as a moderate who would protect our Great Lakes, but now I regret that decision" said James D'Amour, Vice Chair of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter's Political Committee. "Governor Snyder has been a disappointment to Republicans like me who care about clean water and air. We need Mark Schauer to be Michigan's next Governor so he can stand up for clean energy, take action to curb the climate crisis, and protect our Great Lakes.”


###
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 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 http://www.sierraclub.org.


Paid for by Michigan Sierra PAC (109 E. Grand River Ave. Lansing, MI 48906) and authorized by Mark Schauer for Governor.