September 29, 2008

Congress Passes Great Lakes Cleanup Bill

Sierra Club Applauds Reauthorization of the Great Lakes Legacy Act


Emily Green, Great Lakes Program Director, (608) 257-4994
Melissa Damaschke, Great Lakes Representative – Michigan, (313) 965-0055

DETROIT, MI – The Sierra Club Great Lakes Program applauds Congress for passing the Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2008. The bill reauthorizes a highly successful program to clean up toxic hotspots in the Great Lakes at the current funding level of $54 million per year for the next two years.

“We applaud all of the cosponsors, especially Reps. James Oberstar (MN) and Vern Ehlers (MI), for their leadership on this legislation,” said Emily Green, Director of the Sierra Club’s Great Lakes Program. “Over the past five years, the Great Lakes Legacy Act has proven to be an effective tool in cleaning up the Great Lakes and restoring this important natural resource. Experience shows we can use modern technologies to safely remove and dispose of contamination, such as with the clean up of the Detroit River Black Lagoon.”

In winter of 2005, the Black Lagoon of the Detroit River became the first project successfully cleaned up with funding from the Great Lakes Legacy Act. The site was contaminated with polluted sediment containing toxins like mercury and PCBs. Funds from the Legacy Act provided for dredging that removed the contaminants and helped restore the health to this area and its shoreline.

“The Great Lakes are home to a $4.5 billion sport fishing industry,” said Melissa Damaschke, Great Lakes representative for the Sierra Club. “We can use funds provided by the Legacy Act to clean up historically contaminated Areas of Concern and provide benefit to this multibillion dollar sport fishing industry.”

A recent Brookings Institution study found that cleaning up contaminated sites and investing in other aspects of Great Lakes restoration would result in over $50 billion of economic benefits, such as increased coastal property values, to the Great Lakes region. (Brookings Institution, “Healthy Waters, Strong Economy”)

Re-authorization of the Legacy Act was recommended by the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration, a comprehensive set of solutions to restore and protect the Great Lakes.

“This is our opportunity to change the legacy we leave our children from toxic contamination to water that is safe to drink and fish that are safe to eat” said Damaschke. “Now is our chance to be responsible stewards of the lakes, cleaning them up for our families and our future.”

September 23, 2008

U.S. House Approves Great Lakes Compact

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 23, 2008

CONTACT: Emily Green, Great Lakes Program Director, (608) 257-4994 
                     Melissa Damaschke, Great Lakes Representative – Michigan, (313) 965-0055

Sierra Club Applauds Congress in 
Protecting a National Treasure

Detroit, MI – Today, the Sierra Club applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for approving the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact.

The Compact is an eight-state water management agreement between Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. It protects the nation’s largest fresh surface water resource from diversions outside of the Great Lakes Basin. It also sets clear limits on who can have access to Great Lakes water, sets standards for those taking water from the Lakes, and calls for water conservation throughout the Great Lakes’ region.

The U.S. Senate approved the Compact in early August. After today’s approval in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Compact will go to President Bush’s desk for his signature. The President has already indicated his support of the agreement.

“Today, we applaud Congress for their commitment in protecting the Great Lakes for the benefit of future generations. Their leadership has given us a rare opportunity to ensure that our Great Lakes, one of the natural wonders of the world, will not be sold to the highest bidder,” said Emily Green, Director of Sierra Club’s Great Lakes Program.

Because the Great Lakes are so intricately tied to the region’s economy and house a diversity of species, ecosystems, and natural resources, protecting the Great Lakes from future water diversions and overuse will ensure the sustainability of this precious resource for future generations.

“Protecting the Great Lakes, one of America’s national treasures, from diversion and unsustainable use will ensure that these waters are available to support and sustain future generations, protecting human communities against the adverse effects of climate change,” said Melissa Damaschke, Representative for Sierra Club’s Great Lakes Program.

For more information on Sierra Club’s Great Lakes Program, go to

September 18, 2008

Michigan Makes Critical Step Toward Cleaner, Cost- Effective Energy


By Gayle Miller, Sierra Club Legislative Director

“Today, Michigan took its first important step toward addressing the most pressing issues of our time; climate change. With strong support in both the House and Senate, the Michigan legislature passed HB 5524 and SB 213, which significantly revamp Michigan’s electric utilities and require them to immediately begin helping their customers reduce the amount of energy they use while investing in renewable energy.”

“Michigan is currently facing an enormous risk from expensive, unneeded, dirty power. Eight new coal-fired power plants have been proposed for the state, along with one new nuclear plant. The package of bills that passed today will require utilities to invest immediately in clean energy, reducing demand for these far more expensive energy options.”

“The package also contains a critical component called Integrated Resource Planning (IRP). The IRP process will help ensure that Michigan gets the best deal for its energy investments by requiring full disclosure of all costs and benefits associated with each energy investment option. For example, using the IRP the Public Service Commission will be able to take into consideration the environmental costs of dirty energy and the job creation benefits of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Given a level playing field, the Sierra Club is convinced that clean, renewable energy from wind, solar and efficiency will compete favorably against polluting sources of power.”

“The package also contains a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), requiring electric providers to generate 10% of their power from renewable sources (like wind) by 2015. While the standard is far weaker than it should be, the RPS is a step in the right direction. Twenty eight other states have RPS policies in place and many of these states have already increased their renewable standard due to the cost-effective energy and good jobs their states have gained as a result. Once renewable energy develops a cost-effective track record in Michigan, Sierra Club is confident that Michigan will quickly want to raise its RPS standard and reap the economic and environmental benefits of making Michigan a powerhouse of renewable technology and jobs.”

“A last minute addition to the package of Net Metering will also help spur the development of renewable energy by requiring utilities to pay independent power producers a fair price for their surplus power. For example, if a farmer installs a wind turbine on his or her land, they’ll be guaranteed a fair, market price for any power they sell back to the utility.”

“The bills do contain the expensive provision of de-skewing, something the Michigan Manufacturers Association, Michigan Chamber of Commerce and many Republicans insisted
upon. De-skewing will raise residential rates by making homeowners pay relatively more for power than industrial customers.”

“On balance, however, this package of bills will help both the environment and ratepayers. Energy efficiency is the cheapest way to generate new electric power, by simply helping people buy more efficient windows, more insulation and more energy efficient appliances. Cheap power from energy efficiency measures will reduce the need for polluting power. And, the IRP will be a critical tool in defeating proposals for expensive, polluting coal and nuclear plants. When compared fairly, clean energy will win, hands-down, over polluting outdated coal and nuclear sources saving residents money for decades.”

“The Sierra Club congratulates all who were involved in the development of this package of bills and looks forward to continuing to work with the legislature to bring Michigan’s energy policies into the 21st Century.”