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February 14, 2020

Michigan’s largest grassroots environmental groups join forces to hold Lansing accountable

For Immediate Release
February 3, 2020 

Michigan’s largest grassroots environmental groups join forces to hold Lansing accountable
Media Contacts:
Sean McBrearty, smcbrearty@cleanwater.og, 616-516-7758
Christy McGillivray, christy.mcgillivray@sierraclub.org, 808-726-5325


Michigan’s two largest grassroots environmental advocacy organizations, Clean Water Action and Sierra Club, have released a joint legislative scorecard to hold legislators in Lansing accountable to their constituents. With a combined membership of well over 350,000 in Michigan, Clean Water Action and Sierra Club will make sure every member and supporter know how their elected officials have acted on key environmental issues like cleaning up toxic contamination from drinking water and protecting the Great Lakes from a Line 5 oil spill. 

In 2018, Michigan voters went to the polls and voted overwhelmingly for candidates who promised to clean up our drinking water, hold corporate polluters accountable, and end the ongoing threat of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline. Unfortunately, in the 100th state legislature, positive steps in that direction have been few and far between. That is why this year the joint scorecard doesn’t focus on the incremental steps that were taken with nearly unanimous approval, but focuses instead on the more aspirational legislation that has been introduced and not acted on. If we want to protect our Great Lakes in an age of rapidly accelerating climate change, small and incremental changes simply will not be enough. Michigan is home to 21% of the world’s fresh surface water, and we need to enact bold policies to address the major water issues facing our state. 

“It’s time to do things differently,” said Sean McBrearty, Clean Water Action’s Michigan Legislative and Policy Director. He continued, “Every lawmaker tells their constituents that they care about safe drinking water. However, some act differently once they get to Lansing. That’s why this year we scored legislators based on whether or not they have championed our issues from the get-go by sponsoring and co-sponsoring good legislation. We also took into account public statements legislators have made in support of shutting down the most imminent threat to the Great Lakes: Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline.”

Sierra Club and Clean Water Action assert that corporate money flowing into Lansing for decades has hampered democratic processes and environmental protections. “There is a direct correlation between corporate attacks on our democracy, and rollbacks of basic drinking water protections. For example, the Enbridge oil company made a direct contribution of $126,650 to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce to fight redistricting reform in Michigan. Enbridge knows that if lawmakers have to answer to constituents instead of corporate lobbyists, then their dangerous Line 5 oil pipeline will be shut down.” said Christy McGillivray, Sierra Club’s Legislative and Political Director. Speaking to the pro-democracy reform measures like same day voter registration and no reason absentee voting that passed in 2018, she concluded, “Sierra Club members overwhelmingly voted to take back our democracy, our voices should matter more than dirty corporate money.” 

The joint scorecard gives only three scores: positive, neutral, and negative. There are a series of bills that are described in the scorecard, and legislators’ positions are outlined for constituents. To lift up the real environmental champions and draw attention to the corporate influence in Lansing, there is also a section describing the environmental heroes and villains in Lansing. The champions are leaders who have consistently introduced strong legislation and fight hard in Lansing and in their districts for the strongest possible environmental protections. They are Representatives Rabhi, Pohutsky, Koleszar, Hammoud, and Hood; and Senators Irwin, Chang, and Bayer. The villains are the leaders who stonewall any movement on basic protections for safe water, renewable energy, and clean air, and they include the monied interests that are sacrificing the health of Michiganders and the Great Lakes in favor of corporate profits.  They are Senate Majority Leader Shirkey, House Majority Leader Chatfield, Enbridge Energy, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and DTE Energy. 

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The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 4 million members and supporters nationwide and over 150,000 in Michigan. 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 www.sierraclub.org/Michigan.

Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table. Clean Water Action is Michigan’s largest grassroots conservation group with over 250,000 members across the state. Through direct advocacy and education we organize Michigan residents to protect the Great Lakes and our water resources. Learn more at www.cleanwateraction.org/mi

Sierra Club Statement on Governor Whitmer's Budget for 2021-2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Rachel Perkins, Byrum & Fisk Advocacy Communications, 517-333-1606 

Gov. Whitmer’s budget makes critical environmental investments

LANSING – The Sierra Club - Michigan Chapter applauds Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget – which includes more than $140 million to improve Michigan’s water, air and land – demonstrates the importance and urgency tackling these issues is to the Great Lakes state. 

“Gov. Whitmer recognizes it will take serious investment to address the legacy of toxic contamination facing our state,” said Tim Minotas, Legislative and Political Coordinator Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “The governor’s budget provides positive steps to ensuring we are cleaning up our environment, addressing the  climate crisis and making important investments in clean energy.”

Addressing climate change is a priority in the administration’s budget, as Whitmer included $40 million for local infrastructure grants that will help plan for and prevent the negative impacts of Michigan’s changing climate conditions like high water levels. In addition, the budget provides $10 million for energy efficiency and clean energy projects.

Remediating pollution of the environment was also outlined in the budget with $20 million set aside for rapid response to environmental contamination, as well as $10 million for the Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund.

The budget prioritizes the health of our students by spending $40 million on air and water filter replacements, lead and asbestos abatement, and more. 

While the Sierra Club is encouraged by the Governor’s leadership, the state must further prioritize and plan for long term investment that is required to truly tackle the environmental and climate issues our state is facing. They look forward to working with the Governor to assure these budget priorities are supported by the legislature and to strengthen them as they move ahead.


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January 29, 2020

State of the Great Lakes: Sierra Club encourages bold action from Governor Whitmer

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

State of the Great Lakes: Sierra Club encourages bold action from Governor Whitmer
Media Contact:   
Christy McGillivray: 808-726-5325, christy.mcgillivray@sierraclub.org 

Sierra Club applauds Governor Whitmer’s efforts to hold polluters financially accountable for their toxic waste, remove PFAS from our drinking water, appoint an Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and elevate climate concerns across her administration. 

However, Sierra Club was disappointed that the Governor passed on the opportunity during her State of the State to urge action on the many pressing environmental issues plaguing our Great Lakes State. They look forward to working with her on her commitment to elevate climate change and water issues in the coming weeks. The 150,000 Sierra Club members and supporters in Michigan stand ready to partner with the governor and anyone else who prioritizes the health of our communities and protecting the Great Lakes.   

“We are pleased that the Governor has taken some concrete steps to restore Great Lakes protections,” said Christy McGillivray, Sierra Club Political and Legislative Director. “Our members--all Michiganders--want a governor who prioritizes the Great Lakes, and we look forward to seeing Gov. Whitmer establish herself as the Great Lakes protector that we know she plans to be.” 

McGillivray said one of the biggest environmental challenges Michigan faces is opposition from Republican leaders in Lansing. “Senator Shirkey and Representative Chatfield are stonewalling efforts to clean up our drinking water,” she said. “The financial backing their caucus receives from polluters stands in the way of any real movement to address chronic impairment of our air, water, and communities. Michiganders deserve better from state government.” 

The Governor’s State of the State address was mostly silent on the Great Lakes and climate change, with Whitmer promising action at some point in the near future. Justin Onwenu, Sierra Club's Environmental Justice Organizer based in Detroit, was hoping to hear more from the Governor’s State of the State on issues of climate justice: 

“The heavy public health burden placed on communities in Detroit, where Michigan’s only oil refinery operates, is one of the most visible impacts on pollution from oil, coal and other fossil fuels that impact vulnerable communities throughout Michigan,” said Onwenu. “It’s time for Governor Whitmer to use her executive authority to decommission Enbridge Line 5. Enbridge is responsible for the worst inland oil spill in our nation’s history, and they consistently shirk responsibility for their terrible safety record. Line 5 is a clear and present danger to environmental justice communities throughout the state, it poses an imminent threat to the Great Lakes and to the workers and communities in northern Michigan and the UP who depend on the Great Lakes for their jobs, their drinking water and their blue economy.” 



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The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 4 million members and supporters nationwide and over 150,000 in Michigan. 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 www.sierraclub.org/Michigan.








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*Due to an extremely high volume of email--please text or call me at 808-726-5325 if you have not received a timely response. 


Christy McGillivray
Political and Legislative Director
Michigan Chapter
She/Her
Cell: 808-726-5325
Facebook: @SierraClubMichigan
Twitter: @MichiganSierra
Instagram: @SierraClubMichigan

January 23, 2020

I&M Rate Case Settlement Marks Blow to Coal and Gains for Clean Energy

January 23, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:
  • Hilary Lewis, Communications Director, Vote Solar, hilary@votesolar.org, 202-455-0361
  • Paul Dailing, Media Relations Specialist, Environmental Law & Policy Center, pdailing@elpc.org, 312-771-1979
  • Jen Bristol, Director of Communications, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), jbristol@seia.org, 202-556-2886
  • Mike Berkowitz, Michigan Beyond Coal Campaign Representative, Sierra Club, mike.berkowitz@sierraclub.org, 248-345-9808

I&M Rate Case Settlement Marks Blow to Coal and Gains for Clean Energy
Utility’s original plan would have bolstered super polluting Rockport coal plant and “essentially killed” solar market in Michiana
Lansing, MI - The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on Thursday approved an all-party settlement in a rate case for the Indiana Michigan Power Company, which serves more than 129,000 customers in southwestern Michigan and the Michiana area.
I&M, a subsidiary of utility giant AEP, filed its request for a rate increase in June. The Environmental Law & Policy Center, Vote Solar, the Ecology Center, the Sierra Club and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) intervened.
The groups negotiated a settlement that cut the utility’s original annual revenue increase request by $22.1 million dollars, from $58.5 million to $36.4 million, saving money for I&M customers across southwestern Michigan.
The utility’s original plan would have greatly reduced the credit paid to customers who sell electricity from solar panels or wind turbines back to the grid, which would have “essentially killed” the solar market in southwest Michigan, said Environmental Law & Policy Center Staff Attorney Nikhil Vijaykar.
Over three months of negotiations, the environmental groups fought off those changes to the distributed generation tariff. They also successfully countered several of the utilities’ rate design proposals that would have hiked fixed charges on customers’ bills, hurting customers’ ability to implement and benefit from energy efficiency and renewable energy. They also secured a requirement that I&M seek approval from the Michigan Public Service Commission before extending their lease at Rockport coal-burning unit 2, which is one of 22 super polluters in the United States.
“This settlement is a victory on two fronts,” Vijaykar said. “First, we won a reasonable interim rate for distributed generation customers, and kept Michigan moving towards a fair, value-based rate for solar. Second, we kept Indiana Michigan Power’s original regressive rate design proposals out of the picture.”
"Sierra Club applauds the Public Service Commission's approval of this settlement which requires I&M to get permission before extending its money-losing lease with the super polluter Rockport coal-burning plant in Indiana. This decreases the likelihood that I&M will extend its commitment to the massive Rockport unit 2, and instead create an opportunity for Michiganders to demand cleaner and less expensive energy." said Mike Berkowitz, Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign Representative for Michigan.
This is about fair rates and the freedom to choose where your energy comes from. Providing fair value for the local, clean energy hardworking Michigan families and businesses produce is essential to achieving our clean energy goals and ensuring customers can go solar if they so choose,” said Will Kenworthy, Midwest Regulatory Director for Vote Solar.
“We’re grateful that the Michigan Public Service Commission saw the I&M proposal for what it was, a backwards attempt to distort energy prices and lowball the value of solar in Indiana and Michigan.This decision is a win for energy consumers and will help to improve customer choice, grow local solar markets and create jobs that can’t be outsourced,” said Nakhia Morrissette, central region director and counsel at SEIA.
The new rates will go into effect Feb. 1. They will not affect I&M customers in Indiana.
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The Environmental Law & Policy Center is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy organization. We develop strategic campaigns to protect natural resources and improve environmental quality across the region. Our multidisciplinary staff employs teamwork approaches using legal, economic, and public policy tools to produce successes that improve our environment and economy. For more information, visit elpc.org.
Vote Solar’s mission is to make solar a mainstream energy resource across the U.S. Since 2002, Vote Solar has been working to lower solar costs and expand solar access. A 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Vote Solar advocates for state policies and programs needed to repower our electric grid with clean energy. Vote Solar works to remove regulatory barriers and implement key policies needed to bring solar to scale. For more information, visit​VoteSolar.org.
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters nationwide. 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.
Celebrating its 46th anniversary in 2020, the Solar Energy Industries Association® is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry, which now employs more than 242,000 Americans. Through advocacy and education, SEIA® is building a strong solar industry to power America. SEIA works with its 1,000 member companies to build jobs and diversity, champion the use of cost-competitive solar in America, remove market barriers and educate the public on the benefits of solar energy. Visit SEIA online at www.seia.org.

January 9, 2020

Detroit’s most vulnerable residents face inequalities like toxic air, lead poisoning, and water shutoffs. Now they’re fighting back

The blackest city in the US is facing an environmental justice nightmare

Detroit’s most vulnerable residents face inequalities like toxic air, lead poisoning, and water shutoffs. Now they’re fighting back.

Read more ...

January 8, 2020

Struggling to breathe in 48217, Michigan’s most toxic ZIP code







This is the first in a series of stories exploring environmental racism in Michigan.

Carmen Garrison avoids the outdoors because she's certain the air is poisoning her.

As a kid, she often threw up and had a headache after walking to school in southwest Detroit. More than three decades later, her eyes burn, her throat hurts, and her nose runs if she takes even a short stroll down the road.