July 27, 2009

House Agriculture Passes Meaningless Animal Welfare Bills

Sierra Club Press Statement by Gayle Miller, Legislative Director

Today the House Agriculture Committee passed a package of so-called Animal Welfare bills over the strong objections of the environmental community, the Michigan Farmers Union representing small, non-industrialized farms, the State Bar of Michigan, faith groups, animal welfare organizations and more. Four of the six democrats on the committee opposed the bills or passed when the vote was taken.
The bills set up an expensive and unnecessary regulatory process requiring all farms in the state – from animal factories on down to hobby farmers – to hire auditors to oversee the way they care for their animals. The farm audit system established in the bills specifies that the auditor work for the farm, and not the people of Michigan, creating an immediate conflict of interest. What’s worse, all information collected by the auditor stays on the farm, guaranteeing that the public can learn nothing about the food they eat.

After four hours of vigorous debate in the committee, and vocal opposition by Rep. Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills), even the Department of Agriculture agreed that the state already has the authority to require better standards for animal welfare. The bills, however, actually put implementation of existing animal welfare standards on hold until 2020, delaying compliance with care standards that should already be in place – meaning the bills are a stall tactic.

Representatives Barnett and Valentine (D-Muskegon) urged Chairman Simpson (D-Jackson) to postpone a vote on the bills so that a workgroup could be established that would include a broader section of the public and farming community. However, the bills as passed by the Committee today were negotiated behind closed doors between the Chairman, the Farm Bureau and industrial producer groups. Other groups were not invited.

The Sierra Club is particularly concerned with the self-regulatory audit program. Similar programs suggesting how animal factories operate have for years enabled CAFOs to cause severe air and water pollution in rural communities while preventing rural residents and communities from protecting their public health.

Fundamentally the package of bills is designed to keep the public from knowing how their food is produced. The horrific conditions often found within animal factories will not be solved by this package, but will instead allow business to continue as usual. The public will have less, not more, information and confidence in the quality of their food if these bills pass.

People who have first-hand knowledge of CAFO-style food production are seeking alternatives – thus the boom in farm markets and direct, farm-to-consumer marketing. Unfortunately, the small producers feeding these hungry markets will be unfairly burdened by these new regulations.

The Farm Bureau and industrial agriculture have fought meaningful regulation for years. The fact that these groups are now asking for additional regulation should raise a red flag. 

July 17, 2009

Sierra Club is OPPOSED to these bills

Position Statement

SBs 13, 431, 434 – 436 and 438 – 439: MDEQ “Reform”

Votes pertaining to these bills may be included on the Sierra Club’s legislative scorecard.

Issue Background
These bills purport to “reform” the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) as follows:
  • SB 13 – Requires State Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules (SOAHR) to analyze each new rule proposed by a regulatory agency to see if it exceeds federal standards, etc.
  • SB 431 – Requires SOAHR to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of each new proposed rule and deny rulemaking that exceeds federal standards
  • SB 434 – Prohibits Michigan from enacting environmental protections stronger than federal law and limits regulatory actions and rulemaking
  • SB 435 – requires regular review of rules to assess impact on small businesses, etc.
  • SB 436 – Shifts permitting activities to private contractors working for the permit
    applicant and requires MDEQ to rush permitting activities.
  • SB 438 requires the MDEQ to use stratified random sampling for inspections of
    permitted facilities.
  • SB 439 – Requires a benchmark analysis of MDEQ regulatory programs administered
    by a newly created review board

Sierra Club Perspective
For years there have been attempts by certain lawmakers and some factions of the regulated community to undermine the MDEQ’s ability to do its job of protecting of Michigan’s valuable natural resources and the health of the public. This package of bills is no different.

Despite the fact that the MDEQ continues to face crushing budget shortfalls, recent surveys indicate that the majority of the regulated community is very satisfied with the service they obtain from the agency.

These bills would have devastating impacts on environmental protections in Michigan, putting both public health and the environment at risk. They would tie the MDEQ in knots, with mountains of regulatory red tape, and put industry in charge of regulating itself.

These bills will do nothing to improve the MDEQ’s ability to do its job. On the contrary, they are designed to cripple the agency. They also constitute a huge waste of the state’s scarce financial resources.

Michigan must not abdicate its authority over environmental protection to the federal government. Our state must maintain both the authority and the funding to protect citizens, our air quality, the Great Lakes, and Michigan’s other natural resources. If we do otherwise, the theme of “Pure Michigan” will become nothing more than a joke.

Please contact the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter office at (517) 484-2372 for more information. June 17, 2009 

July 9, 2009

100 Coal Plants Prevented or Abandoned, Including 3 in Michigan

Movement Sparks Shift to Cleaner Energy
and Over 400 Million Fewer Tons of CO2

Anne Woiwode, Lansing 517-484-2372
Tiffany Hartung, SE Michigan and Bay City 248-549-6213
Lee Sprague, Northern and Western Michigan 616-570-1281
Jan O’Connell, Holland and Grand Rapids 616-956-6646

Washington, DC: As of today 100 coal plants have been defeated or abandoned since the beginning of the coal rush this century, including the Tondu Northern Lights Plant proposal in Manistee, the LS Power MidMichigan Energy plant proposal, and Northern Michigan University’s proposed heating plant in Marquette. In their place, a smart mix of clean energy solutions like energy efficiency, wind, solar and geothermal has stepped up to meet America’s energy needs. Last year 42 percent of all new power producing capacity came from wind, and for the first time the wind industry created more jobs than mining coal. Despite Michigan’s difficult economic situation, wind and solar energy manufacturing has been one of the bright spots for job creation in the state.

Coming just a week after Los Angeles, CA, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the city would end coal use by 2020, and announced the same day as a decision by Basin Electric Power in South Dakota to pull plans for a new coal-fired power plant, the Intermountain Power coal plant in Utah became the 100th prevented coal plant. The decision marks a significant milestone in the shift to clean energy.

“The shift has clearly started toward a cleaner, healthier, more secure future,” said Tiffany Hartung, Associate Regional Representative for the Sierra Club in Royal Oak. “The decisions not to pursue three plants in Michigan already have opened the path for our state to be a vital part of a new economy powered by clean energy. But that path could be blocked if Consumers Energy, Wolverine Power Supply and Holland Board of Public Works are allowed to build their proposed plants.”

For the past six years the Sierra Club and its allies have been running a hard-hitting campaign to expose the dirty truth about coal. Tremendous grassroots pressure, rising costs, and upcoming federal carbon regulations all contributed to the demise of the 100 plants. In Michigan the Clean Energy Now coalition has turned out hundreds of volunteers to public hearings, held rallies and met with officials to push for cleaner alternatives to the eight proposed coal plants proposed during the past two years. Governor Granholm has responded to these concerns by requiring that these plants show whether alternatives to coal, including energy efficiency, would meet Michigan’s needs better than building expensive, dirty new coal plants.

The proposed Consumers Energy Karn Weadock Plant expansion, the Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative proposed Rogers City plant and the Holland Board of Public Works proposed plant expansion would add more than 8,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year, more than 100 pounds of mercury, and more than 1,500 tons of lung damaging soot. These plants would not only damage the Great Lakes, Michigan’s fisheries and the health of young and old living nearby, they would take away funds for investment in energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy sources with job creation in Michigan.

"The growing opposition to the remaining six coal plant proposals* in Michigan is just one part of a growing nationwide movement,” said Lee Sprague, Sierra Club Michigan Clean Energy Campaign Manager. “It’s clear that the American people are ready for a switch to the clean energy technologies that can help repower our economy.”

That movement has kept well over 400 million tons of harmful global warming pollution out of the air annually, making significant progress in the fight against global warming. Stopping 100 new coal plants has also kept thousands of tons of asthma causing soot and smog pollution, as well as toxins like mercury out of our air and water.

As the new coal rush ends in many states the Sierra Club is working to replace existing dirty and unreliable coal plants that are large contributors to health harming soot, smog and mercury pollution with cleaner energy options that create more jobs.

“The coal industry right here in Michigan is still pushing forward with plans for a half dozen new plants and pouring money into slick advertising campaigns and lobbying efforts in Lansing and statewide,” said Jan O’Connell, Sierra Club Energy Issues Organizer in Grand Rapids. “So while the coal rush may be entering a new phase in some parts of the country, it is far from over here.”

For more, visit .
For more about what’s happening in Michigan visit Clean Energy Now and Stop the MichiganCoal Rush

* In addition to Consumers Energy Karn Weadock, Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative and Holland Board of Public Works, three other plant proposals have yet to be cancelled: Lansing Board of Water and Light, Alma M&M Energy, and Tondu’s Filer Township plant expansion proposal.
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