February 24, 2009

AG tortures law in opinion aiming to block Michigan’s progress toward clean energy jobs

Press Statement

James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council: 517-256-0553 
Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club: 517-974-2112 
Hugh McDiarmid Jr., Michigan Environmental Council: 248-660-4300

Cox opposes legislature’s intent to provide “feasible and prudent” analysis of state’s energy options

A new era of clean energy jobs and economic development in Michigan has been needlessly delayed by Attorney General Mike Cox’s tortured interpretation of state laws regarding public health and the environment, according to the Michigan Environmental Council and the Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter.

In an opinion released last week, Cox echoes the position of the state’s coal lobby. They, and Cox, contend that it is illegal for Gov. Jennifer Granholm to require the most “feasible and prudent” energy technologies power Michigan’s future. The opinion attempts to block a transition from expensive, dirty coal-fired power to cheaper energy efficiency and cleaner renewable energy.

The losers, if Cox and the coal interests prevail, will be Michigan families who will continue to pay billions each year for out-of-state coal imports rather than creating Michigan jobs for manufacturers and installers of energy efficiency products and renewable energy components like wind turbines.

“The governor’s recent executive directive requires that proposed coal plants compete – on cost and on protection of public health and the environment – against other alternatives like efficiency programs and renewable power,” said Anne Woiwode of the Sierra Club. “Since coal plants won’t win in a competitive marketplace, their backers are desperate to maintain the near- monopoly they’ve enjoyed for more than a century.”

Cox’s opinion takes the position that Granholm overstepped her authority by requiring coal power plant developers to consider other methods to meet electricity demand.

But the plain language of energy laws passed by the state legislature last fall makes clear the intent of the state’s energy policy to require thorough analysis of alternatives to coal by public utilities. Granholm’s directive applies the same standard to all electric providers.

“We believe the governor’s directive is entirely consistent with both the legislation passed last fall, and all environmental laws,” said James Clift of the Michigan Environmental Council. “As
a state, we need to move forward toward considering renewable energy and efficiency programs, not stand still with century old coal technology.” 

February 20, 2009

Flawed coal plant permit sent back to drawing board, must consider CO2

Contact: Anne Woiwode 517-484-2372

EPA Rejects NMU Coal Plant, Protects Upper Peninsula Jobs and Future

LANSING – In a decision released yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rejected Northern Michigan University’s air permit for its proposed coal plant in Marquette, a decision that shifts Michigan’s priorities away from coal and toward renewable energy and 21st century jobs.

Along with identifying several deficiencies, the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board ruling ordered Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality to consider regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

“This is a yet another clear signal that pollution from coal plants, especially global warming pollution, can no longer be ignored. The increased costs that will come from impending carbon regulations will make coal much more expensive than cleaner energy alternatives, like wind and efficiency,” said Anne Woiwode, Michigan Sierra Club State Director. “The writing is on the wall; Michigan needs to start moving away from coal if we want to be a player in the 21st century clean energy economy.”

NMU’s proposal was the first of an overwhelming eight proposed coal plants in the state and the first coal plant to receive an air permit from Michigan regulators in more than 20 years. Permits for other coal plants— many of them containing the same air quality flaws as the NMU permit— have been put on hold as a result of Governor Granholm’s clean energy executive directive released earlier this month. The directive pauses the coal rush to allow time for the state to take a hard look at cleaner energy technologies available.

“This decision makes it clear that following business-as-usual approaches like new coal plants is no longer an option,” according to Lee Sprague, Sierra Club’s Clean Energy Campaign Manager. “Thanks to Governor Granholm’s actions our state is already poised to move beyond dirty coal to newer, cleaner, more efficient energy technologies that can help both our economy and our climate recover.”

EPA’s decision to reject the NMU plant is consistent with its decision last fall to deny a proposed coal plant in Utah that also failed to consider carbon dioxide limits. It comes on the heels of Lisa Jackson, President Obama’s EPA Administrator, announcing earlier this week the agency will reconsider a memorandum issued in the final days of the Bush Administration which sought to prohibit global warming pollution controls.

“Yesterday’s rejection of the NMU coal plant is further evidence that change has come, science is back, and greenhouse gas regulations are coming very soon,” said James Gignac, Midwest
Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

The Environmental Appeals Board decision is at:
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February 3, 2009

Granholm Slams Brakes on Michigan Coal Rush

Governor positions Michigan to lead on clean, alternative energy

February 3, 2009 (LANSING) – Citizens today applauded Gov. Jennifer Granholm's far-reaching announcement to fundamentally change how Michigan fuels its energy needs. The new plan, which prioritizes clean energy has put Michigan's coal rush on hold, requiring all new and expanded coal plant developers to go back to the drawing board and consider cleaner energy alternatives to the coal plants. The plan also calls for slashing Michigan's use of all fossil fuels in power plants by 45 percent within 12 years. Granholm also announced sweeping new policies to make Michigan a leader in the development and production of renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, both of which are engines of job growth in a 21st century economy.

"Today, Gov. Jennifer Granholm laid out a bold vision for our energy future," Anne Woiwode of the Sierra Club said. "Michigan is ready and able to build a strong future based on clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency, not outdated, 1950s-era polluting coal plants. Today's action sends a clear message that we will put our families, public health and the ability to compete for 21st century jobs before devotion to the failing status-quo."

In her State of the State address today, Granholm said Michigan will more stringently apply section 165 of the federal Clean Air Act to crack down on new coal projects by requiring them to follow tough anti- pollution standards. Energy projects must consider clean alternatives before they can proceed with permitting.

Granholm's sweeping announcement positions Michigan to become a leader in 21st century energy policy. In addition to the crackdown on coal, she challenged Michigan to become a leader in renewable energy technology and investments, including in areas such as solar, wind and new battery technology.

Granholm also called for Michigan to weatherize more than 100,000 homes and 1,000 schools, which will create jobs and save consumers money.

"Michigan took a crucial step today toward breaking away from the past and moving toward the future of clean, renewable energy," Cyndi Roper of Clean Water Action said. "Michigan is opening the door to repower, refuel and rebuild America by investing in clean energy technologies that will create jobs, protect our health and safeguard our quality of life."

While other states are rapidly moving away from coal, Michigan was facing up to eight new coal plant proposals, threatening to hold the state back from its clean energy economic potential. Federal rulings and policy have also veered in recent months away from coal, indicating a strong shift toward cracking down on greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide pollution and increasing investments in alternative energy.

"Governor Granholm's bold vision for promoting clean energy and stopping dirty energy sources could have significant positive, preventative impacts on the health of Michigan residents for years to come," said Dr. Kenneth Rosenman, Chief of MSU's Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. "Michigan's children, in particular, will be able to breathe a little easier once Michigan's energy future takes this dramatic turn toward cleaner sources outlined by the Governor."

Economic studies have indicated that investing in energy efficiency and alternative energy production would create many more Michigan jobs as building all of the eight coal plants currently proposed.

According to studies by the Renewable Energy Policy Project and the American Council for an Energy- Efficient Economy, Michigan could create 46,000 new jobs by investing in renewable energy and efficiency.


Thanks to Progress Michigan for their assistance with this press update