November 29, 2015

Citizens for Michigan’s Energy Future Ad Shows Utilities are Behind Bad Energy Bills

News from Clean Energy Now
September 21, 2015
Contact: Marissa Luna,

Citizens for Michigan’s Energy Future Ad Shows Utilities are Behind Bad Energy Bills
Ad seeks to mislead public to support bills that eliminate Michigan’s renewable energy, energy efficiency standards

MICHIGAN – Citizens for Michigan’s Energy Future (CMEF), a utility front group, released an ad this month calling for public support for legislation introduced in the Michigan House and Senate to eliminate Michigan’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. The misleading ad falsely claims that Michigan will face power shortages unless electric utilities are given carte blanche to build expensive, dirty power plants instead of abiding by state standards for greater energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

“We’ve known from the beginning that this campaign was designed to mislead the public and promote investments in fossil fuels instead of clean energy. This new ad shows that utility companies are the ones behind the legislative effort to protect their bottom line and block expansion of renewable energy and energy efficiency in Michigan,” said Nic Clark, state director for Clean Water Action.

Michigan’s utilities have obstructed efforts to further expand renewable energy and energy efficiency standards in the state since they were implemented in 2008, despite evidence that these measures can protect public health and Michigan’s Great Lakes, bring more jobs to the state, save people money on utility bills, and mitigate climate change.

“Utilities should support legislation that protects public health, saves customers money, and reduces our use of polluting fossil fuels like coal and natural gas,” said Mike Berkowitz, Legislative Director, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “Instead, they’re doing the opposite – funding an astro-turf campaign to support bills that gut Michigan’s clean energy policies and preclude people from producing their own energy through solar panels. In order to hold utilities accountable to making clean energy investments, which they clearly won’t do on their own, we must increase our state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards.”


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 the environment and build prosperity. Follow the campaign at

November 16, 2015

Sierra Club Endorses Gretchen Driskell for Congress

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 16, 2015                                  

CONTACT: Mike Berkowitz


Conservation Group Praises Work to Protect Michigan’s Environment

Saline, MIThe Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club today announced its endorsement of Gretchen Driskell (democrat) in the 2016 election in Michigan’s 7th Congressional District.

"Gretchen Driskell earned Sierra Club’s endorsement because of her commitment to protecting Michigan’s Great Lakes way of life,” said Richard Barron, Political Chair of Michigan Sierra Club. "She understands the importance of clean air, clean water, and public health. We are confident that she will work to protect Michigan’s environment for our families and our future."

As a State Representative, Gretchen Driskell worked tirelessly to protect and preserve the health of Michigan’s water, air and countryside. She introduced legislation to protect the Great Lakes such as House Bill 4514 which strengthens the Michigan’s oil pipeline regulations, increases environmental protection standards, and enhance accountability for pipeline leaks. Last month, Gretchen Driskell sponsored House Bill 5043 which would remove the costly and prohibitive permit system that’s stalled the efforts of several organizations to obtain information about stream flow and water quality in the state. Gretchen Driskell scored a 90 percent on the Sierra Club’s environmental voting scorecard during her time as a State Representative.

Gretchen Driskell is running for the Congressional seat currently held by Tim Walberg (republican). Congressman Walberg performed terribly on the Sierra Club’s environmental voting scorecard with a lifetime score of 5 percent. Walberg cast countless votes against environmental protection such as undermining clean air protections (H.R. 4795) and assaulting the clean water rule (H.R. 5078). In contrast, Gretchen Driskell encourages the expansion of Michigan’s clean energy industry and protection of pristine water.

"I appreciate Gretchen Driskell’s support for renewable energy as a pathway to cleaner air and homegrown jobs. As my Mayor and state Representative, she understood that people cared about creating jobs and protecting the planet,” said Rob Zimmer, a Sierra Club activist from Saline in the 7th Congressional District. “Michigan needs more clean energy champions in Congress and Gretchen Driskell has the skills, values and experience to lead on this important issue.”

Sierra Club’s endorsement means it will lend its volunteer strength to Gretchen Driskell’s campaign from among its 60,000 Michigan members and supporters, including over 11,000 in the 7th Congressional District.

"Getting Gretchen Driskell elected to represent the 7th Congressional District is a priority for us," said Mike Berkowitz, Political Director of the Michigan Sierra Club. "Sierra Club volunteers will conduct outreach to our members and other voters and let them know Gretchen Driskell is committed to protecting Michigan’s environment.”

The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization, with 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide, and over 60,000 of them in Michigan.

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State Representative Gretchen Driskell

Congressman Tim Walberg

November 3, 2015

Sierra Club and Public Justice Warn Oklahoma Fracking Operators of Intent to Sue

 November 2, 2015
Contact:  Steve Ralls
(202) 861-5246 |

Contact: Johnson Bridgwater
(405) 902-2288 |

Environmental Groups Warn Oklahoma Fracking Operators
of Potential Legal Action 

Sierra Club & Public Justice Say Industry is Responsible for Increased Seismic Activity

Oklahoma City, OK – Public Justice and Sierra Club filed a ‘Notice of Intent to Sue’ Friday with four energy companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, in the state of Oklahoma. The groups have notified Sandridge Exploration and Production, New Dominion, Chesapeake Operating and Devon Energy Production Company of new evidence linking production waste from fracking and oil production with increased and ongoing earthquake activity in and around central Oklahoma. They have demanded the companies take immediate action to modify their operations in a way that will substantially reduce seismic activity, or face legal action.

see article
In 2014, seismologists reported more than 5,000 earthquakes in Oklahoma, and geologists predict seismic activity to continue at that level throughout 2015. “Since late 2009,” the groups note in their letter, “the rate of magn­itude-3 or larger earthquakes in north-central Oklahoma has been nearly 300 times higher than in previous decades.” The letter also notes that “Overlaying the locations of Defendants’ wells onto the places where earthquakes above magnitude 3.5 have been felt shows that earthquakes are occurring in the vicinity of the Defendants’ wells or along fault lines that are close to the wells.” The groups have concluded that the large volume of production waste from fracking and oil production operations that is injected into the ground is causing this increased activity and raises the likelihood of “a devastating quake that could kill large numbers of people and cause massive environmental devastation.”

“Oklahoma is literally being shaken to its core by the operations of these oil and gas companies,” said Paul Bland, executive director of Public Justice. “The link between Oklahoma’s dramatic earthquake activity and the industry’s fracking operations has been established by countless experts, including the Oklahoma Geological Survey, the U.S. Geological Survey and the scientists who have assembled the compelling and conclusive evidence referenced in our letter today. Most importantly, the impact of this devastating process is felt, every single day, by the citizens of Oklahoma. There is a clear and present danger posed by these irresponsible operations. If the energy companies do not voluntarily take action to stop it, we will take them to court.”

“I am angry and offended that the oil and gas industry has been so slow to protect Oklahoma and its citizens in the face of this earthquake crisis,” said Barbara Vanhanken, Chair of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Stopping this ever-strengthening earthquake crisis is critical to the health and well-being of all Oklahomans. To ignore the human cost being paid for the earthquake problems tied to oil and gas operations in Oklahoma is cold-blooded and heartless. It reinforces the concept that profits matter more than people.”

The groups have demanded the energy companies take immediate steps to curb further activity and damage, including: Immediately and substantially reducing the amount of Production Waste injected into the ground; reinforcing structures that are most vulnerable to large magnitude earthquakes; and establishing an independent monitoring and prediction center to forecast the amount of Waste that can be safely injected while tracking seismic activity to confirm and modify those predictions.

The letter warns that, “the risk is not only that there are more frequent earthquakes; it is also that those earthquakes have been, and will continue to be, more severe.” Unless the companies take substantial action to reduce this risk, the groups write, “Citizens will sue in federal court to protect themselves and their environment.”
For more information, visit and

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Public Justice pursues high impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice, 
protect the Earth’s sustainability, and challenge predatory corporate conduct and government abuses.
Established in 1972, the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club is the largest environmental group in Oklahoma, f
ighting to protect our great outdoors, with three Groups representing more than 3,000 members across the state.

October 29, 2015

Representatives Irwin and Roberts Issue Call for Line 5 Closure

Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015
                          Contact: Rep. Jeff Irwin or Rep. Roberts

Irwin, Roberts Issue Call for Line 5 Closure

Urge governor and attorney general to shut down dangerous pipeline

LANSING — State Representatives Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores) held a press conference today calling for Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette to close Enbridge Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. The US Coast Guard, citizens, legislators and environmental groups alike have raised concerns over the dangers of the 62-year-old pipeline, which carries 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas under the Straits of Mackinac every day.
“Bills to increases pipeline safety in Michigan have been waiting for action in Lansing for over a year. Meanwhile this 62 year old pipeline continues to operate in the worst possible place for a spill and we’re supposed to trust that a company with a sketchy track record has it under control,” said Rep. Irwin. “We’ve called for inspections and anchoring of the pipelines, but the legislature and the Governor have ignored those calls. Now, with winter approaching and no action plan in place, we are calling for the pipeline crossing the Straits of Mackinac to be shut down and for our Governor and Attorney General to stop sanctioning this threat to our greatest natural resource.”
In 2014, a study done by the University of Michigan’s Water Center concluded that due to the massive, fluctuating flows of the Straits, it would be the worst location in the Great Lakes for an oil spill to happen. Prompting a greater sense of urgency was the recent release of a report by the U.S. Coast Guard, stating they are not adequately equipped to respond to an oil spill in the Lakes. The Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has indicated that the line has at least 2,400 known defects as of 2011, and also show that Enbridge, who operates the pipeline, has inspected less than 12 percent of them.
Enbridge was responsible for the Kalamazoo River oil spill in 2010, the largest and most expensive in-land oil spill in U.S. history. Enbridge has a history of failure and their pipelines routinely leak. There have been 15 documented failures over 17 years leaking about 260,000 gallons of oil, sometimes near the Straits, just on Line 5. The consequences of a Line 5 rupture would be much further reaching, endangering countless plant and wildlife species, as well as threatening Michigan’s $22.4 billion tourism industry.
David Holtz of the Michigan Sierra Club joined Reps. Irwin and Roberts in calling for action on the resolution. “While Michigan businesses and citizens are clamoring for action, the Governor and the Attorney General keep talking about doing more talking,” said Holtz. “At some point, Michigan needs action, not endless task forces and advisory boards that push the obvious solutions further away.”
            "In July, our own Attorney General Bill Schuette stated that “Line 5’s days are numbered,” but the task force he created to investigate the issue did not call for the line’s closure and he has taken no action,” said Rep. Roberts. “Despite the known and inevitable risks, this pipeline continues to be operated by a company with a tarnished safety record that offers little transparency about its inspection process. We cannot wait for an emergency to force us to act. Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac must be shut down.”


October 28, 2015

Gov. Snyder Should Remove Oil Industry from State Panel

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Media Contact:   David Holtz 313-300-4454/

LANSING—Sierra Club told a new state pipeline board that met for the first time today that oil industry executives who are participating as public officials weighing the future of Enbridge’s Line 5 through the Straits of Mackinac are compromising its work. 

The 15-member state Pipeline Safety Board, appointed in September by Gov. Snyder, includes Brad Shamla, an Enbridge Energy Co. Vice President, and Brad Pierson, representing Marathon Petroleum.  The Board will be making recommendations to Gov. Snyder on the future of controversial Enbridge Line 5, which carries 23 million gallons of oil a day in two pipelines through the turbulent Straits and supplies oil to Marathon’s Detroit refinery. The risky pipeline has been the subject of public scrutiny since 2014 when when researchers documented the potential catastrophic impact on the Great Lakes of a spill in the Straits. 

“Enbridge and Marathon don’t belong on a public body helping to decide the fate of pipelines that threaten the Great Lakes but earn millions of dollars in profits for Enbridge and Marathon executives and investors,” said David Holtz, Chair of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Executive Committee.  “The public is entitled to the best unbiased judgment from its officials on Line 5 pipelines and there’s no chance this will happen with the oil industry."  

Holtz said the Sierra Club would write Gov. Snyder and ask that he remove Enbridge and Marathon from the pipeline board and to also reject any potential funding from the oil industry of the pipeline board’s work.  Holtz said the oil industry’s conflict of interest on the pipeline board may be in violation of state ethics laws that prohibit members of public bodies with financial conflicts from making recommendations on public policy. 

“The state already has the authority to get whatever information it needs from the oil industry without giving them more leverage and influence than they already have,” said Holtz.  “Until this conflict of interest is eliminated, the pipeline board’s credibility will be in question.”   

The pipeline board's next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 14 in Lansing where it will consider how to evaluate risks posed by Line 5 through the Straits and begin examining alternatives.  One of the decisions the board will make is whether or not to consider recommending shutting down the flow of oil through Line 5 in the Straits. 

October 22, 2015

Citizens Groups Back EPA Probe of Flint Drinking Water Crisis

Thursday, October 23, 2015

Media Contacts:
     David Holtz, 313-300-4454/

In a letter to the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today, the Ecology Center and Sierra Club today asked the EPA for a formal investigation into how the EPA and a state agency charged with drinking water safety handled Flint’s drinking water crisis. 

Today’s letter, citing a communication Wednesday to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy from U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint), asked McCarthy to conduct a full investigation into the causes of the water problem in Flint. Flint’s water crisis was triggered by lead contamination that documents appear to show went unaddressed since the city switched to the Flint River for drinking water in April, 2014.  The groups also joined Kildee is requesting a full review of EPA oversight of federal drinking water programs it delegated to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

“This is about accountability,” said David Holtz, Michigan Chapter Chair of Sierra Club.  “We need to know what the EPA knew about lead contamination in Flint and when it knew it and why the state agency charged with keeping drinking water safe failed to do that in Flint when it appears that it knew for months there was dangerous lead levels threatening public health.”

In their letter, Sierra Club and Ecology Center also asked the EPA to investigate why the wrong water treatment guidelines were used in Flint and what actions, if any, were taken by EPA to require proper corrosion controls.   The groups also asked if EPA has conducted any reviews of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s handling of safe drinking water programs in Flint.

“Confidence in the safety of Michigan’s drinking water needs to be restored,” said Mike Garfield, Director of the Ecology Center. “That can only come after we know exactly what happened in Flint, why it happened and what measures need to be taken to assure us it won’t happen again.”

Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club Michigan Conservation Director, pointed to a track record at MDEQ of failing to protect the public health and environment that suggests only an outside investigation will result in getting the answers the public needs.

“We’ve seen too many times, whether it’s allowing dangerous levels of air pollution in Detroit, or permitting the import of radioactive fracking wastes into Michigan, where the MDEQ is failing in its central mission of protecting the public health and environment,”  said Woiwode.  “What  happened to Flint’s drinking water is one of the most serious public health disasters we’ve seen in Michigan.  Children’s health will be impacted for the rest of their lives because of what happened and the public deserves to know why.”

text of letter follows

October 22, 2015

Ms Gina McCarthy
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue. NW
Washington, DC   20460

Administrator McCarthy:

We are writing to endorse the October 21 request by U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conduct a thorough investigation into the causes of the government failure that resulted in unacceptable lead levels in Flint’s drinking water. 

We believe that only a full review will hold those accountable for decisions regarding proper enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR).  This review should encompass the EPA’s oversight of state programs delegated to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and MDEQ’s enforcement of the SDWA, LCR and other safe drinking water programs.

Moreover, we ask that an EPA review answer the following questions:
  • Was the EPA aware that the MDEQ was using the wrong guidelines under the LCR for a city of Flint’s population?
  • Did the EPA notify MDEQ that the city of Flint should add a corrosion control treatment to their drinking water following the switch to the Flint River? 
  • When did the EPA become aware that the city of Flint was using a lime softening agent as a CCT?
  • What actions di the EPA take once they learned MDEQ was not requiring the city of Flint to use a proper CCT?
  • Did EPA evaluate the testing guidelines that MDEQ was using in the city of Flint?
  • When did the EPA first become aware of the potential elevated lead levels in Flint’s water?
  • After becoming aware of the potential elevated levels of lea, was the EPA required to notify anyone?  If the EPA is not required to notify anyone, why not?
  • Since switching to the Flint River, as EPA verified the city of Flint’s compliance with the LCR themselves?
  • Has EPA reviewed MDEQ’s performance in regards to its delegated authority to enforce the LCR and other Safe Drinking Water Act regulations?  If not, why hasn’t this occurred?
We look forward to hearing from you on this important request.


David Holtz, Executive Committee Chair                Mike Garfield, Director                    
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter                                 Ecology Center

Anne Woiwode, Conservation Director
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter