December 22, 2008

US Forest Service Drops Appeal for Drilling Plan Near Mason Tract World Class Trout Stream Protected

NEWS RELEASE

Contact: Rusty Gates, Anglers of the Au Sable, 989-348-8462 
Marvin Roberson, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, 906-360-0288


In a major victory for anglers, hikers and canoeists, the US Forest Service has dropped its appeal of a Federal Court decision to protect the Mason Tract and nearby Au Sable River from oil and gas drilling. The Au Sable River is one of the world’s premier blue ribbon trout streams.

The agency action follows a decision issued by Michigan Eastern District Federal Court Judge David M. Lawson in July. The decision came in response to concerns raised by the Sierra Club, Anglers of the Au Sable and Tim Mason about the Forest Service plan to allow Savoy Energy Company to clearcut and drill on National Forest land adjacent to the Mason Tract and within earshot of the river.

“Clearly some considered oil and gas drilling more important than the solitude required by hunters, anglers and hikers in this spectacular area,” said Marvin Roberson, Sierra Club Forest Ecologist. “Given the importance of this place to the people of the state of Michigan, we applaud this decision to abandon the appeal.”

The Forest Service failed to adequately consider the environmental impacts and alternatives to address concerns including noise and habitat destruction in its plan. As a result the court enjoined the Forest Service from engaging in any activities. Savoy Energy Company was denied a last minute attempt to intervene in the case on appeal in front of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision by the Forest Service to drop its appeal leaves the lower court decision and injunction in place and protects the Au Sable River from destructive drilling.

"This portion of the Au Sable is the most pristine trout stream in the lower peninsula" said Rusty Gates, President of the Anglers of the Au Sable. "People come here from all over the world to enjoy the beauty and solitude afforded by this river. We're glad to see that it remains protected".

The Mason Tract was established in 1955 when Tim Mason’s grandfather, George Mason, bequeathed a 1,500 acre parcel with eleven miles of frontage on the South Branch of the Au Sable River to the State of Michigan. George Mason’s gift was conditioned on maintaining the pristine condition of the Tract. Today, the Mason Tract covers approximately 4,500 acres, but the oil and gas rights under the Tract were at least in part owned by the federal government and were leased by the Bureau of Land Management.

According to Tim Mason, who represented the living Mason heirs in this suit, "this recent development will allow my Grandfathers vision to carry on and provide people an opportunity to enjoy the quiet solitude he found so therapeutic and relaxing".

"This unique gift that he left to the people of Michigan and this country has provided recreational hikers, skiers, canoeists and dedicated fishermen and sportsmen an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in ways that are rare and hard to find these days. On behalf of our Grandfather and the rest of the Mason family we are grateful for the efforts of the Sierra Club, The Anglers of the Au Sable and all of the volunteers that made this happen."

No drilling is allowed on the Mason Tract itself however oil and gas could potentially be retrieved through Forest Service lands abutting the Mason Tract. Savoy Energy Company proposed to set up a drilling platform in an old growth portion of the South Branch Area of the Huron Manistee National Forest. The drilling platform would be near enough to impact the Mason Tract and the only two track trail that leads to the Mason Chapel within the Tract.

The conservationists were represented by attorney Marianne Dugan of Portand, Oregon, one of the most successful environmental attorneys in the nation.

December 15, 2008

Sierra Club Takes Action to Force Holland Board of Public Works to Use Modern Contols for Soot and Smog


For immediate release

CONTACT: Anne Woiwode, State Director, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter 517-484-2372 or anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org

Grand Rapids, MI – Sierra Club took action today to force the Holland Board of Public Works’ James De Young coal-fired power plant to employ modern controls for soot- and smog-forming pollution that is a leading contributor to asthma and other serious health problems. Over the past decade, the more than 40-year old plant has been repeatedly modified to keep it operating past its retirement date without installing required modern pollution controls.

“Old, dirty coal plants in Michigan like the De Young plant are huge sources of pollutants that contribute to asthma, lung cancer, and other respiratory issues,” said Anne Woiwode, Director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “Nationwide, pollution from coal-fired power plants causes over 21,000 hospitalizations, 38,000 heart attacks and 24,000 deaths each year,” added
W oiwode.

The Holland Board of Public Works undertook major modifications and life-extension projects at the plant over time without notifying state regulators, without obtaining a new permit, and without installing modern pollution controls. These changes not only extended the life of the aging coal plant, but also likely increased harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and fine particulate matter. The violations were uncovered during Sierra Club’s investigation into the Board’s plans to expand the facility and more than double its capacity.

Despite claims by the Board that expanding the De Young plant will improve air emissions, the expansion will do nothing to address the years of excess pollution resulting from the plant’s failure to use adequate pollution controls like those used elsewhere in the country. In addition, the Board’s assertion that the expansion project will actually lower emissions fails to acknowledge that historic emissions were unlawful and attempts to take credit for reductions already required by law.

“Especially in today’s economic climate the Holland Board of Public Works should clean up its existing plant before it sinks hundreds of millions of dollars into another polluting project,” said James Gignac, Midwest Director of the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign. “The Board’s desire to more than double the size of a project that has been polluting illegally for years shows a great disregard for public health and environmental quality,” added Gignac.

In addition to public health, the De Young plant and its proposed expansion should be part of the past when it comes to energy. “We have the opportunity right now to create a clean energy future for Holland, by getting any additional energy needs from clean sources, promoting energy
efficiency, creating clean energy jobs, and reducing global warming pollution,” said Jan O’Connell with the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “Now is the time to repower, refuel, and rebuild America right here in West Michigan,” urged O’Connell.

The Sierra Club suit filed in Federal District Court today charges the City of Holland and the Holland Board of Public Works with violations of the federal Clean Air Act. Sierra Club is seeking enforcement of the Clean Air Act, installation of modern pollution controls, and penalties to hold the De Young plant responsible for its pollution.


Sierra Club is represented in this matter by Madison, WI based attorneys Lester Pines and Kira Loehr of Cullen Weston Pines & Bach LLP and David Bender of Garvey McNeil & McGillivray, S.C.