September 30, 2009

Lawmakers Applauded For Rejecting DEQ Budget Cuts

Democrats, Lone Republican Showed Courage In Opposing Leader’s Spending Plan

LANSING, MI--Michigan Democratic lawmakers—including those who bucked their party’s leaders and rejected deep funding cuts to water, air and land protection programs—were hailed today as heroes by leading environmental groups. Also singled out for praise was state Sen. Valde Garcia, a Livingston County Republican who was the lone GOP vote against the environmental funding cuts.

“The 40 state representatives and 16 senators who voted against the worst modern-day attack on Michigan environmental programs showed wisdom, courage and reflected the best of Michigan’s values Tuesday,” said Anne Woiwode, Michigan Director of Sierra Club. “All of us owe them our gratitude and respect.”

Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director of Clean Water Action, said the majority of House Democrats who rejected the all-cuts budget for the Department of Environmental Quality especially deserve the thanks of Michigan residents who care about the quality of their water, air and land. Those 40 representatives stood in opposition to Speaker Andy Dillon’s proposed budget.

“To quote one of my favorite characters from Harry Potter, ‘It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends,’ “said Roper. “Elected officials like Rep. Sarah Roberts and Rep. Rebekah Warren showed what real leadership is all about—doing what’s best for Michigan even if it’s not popular with their party’s leadership.”

Sierra Club and Clean Water Action have called on the governor to veto the joint DEQ and Department of Natural Resources budget and said that if state government fails to fund critical air and water programs in the days ahead, the federal Environmental Protection Agency should take over all water and air quality enforcement and permitting activities. More than $196 million was cut from the joint state Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Natural Resources budget.

Fifteen Senate Democrats, led by Minority Leader Mike Prussi, voted against the environmental budget cuts. In the House, a majority of Democrats opposed the cuts. They were:

Rep. Kathy Angerer, Rep. Douglas Geiss, Rep. Burton Leland, Rep. Roy Schmidt, Rep.Vicki Barnett, Rep. Vincent Gregory, Rep. LaMar Lemmons Jr., Rep. Bettie Cook Scott, Rep. Joan Bauer, Rep. Jennifer Haase, Rep. Ellen Lipton, Rep. Dan Scripps, Rep. Timothy Bledsoe, Rep. Harold Haugh, Rep. Lesia Liss, Rep. Kate Segal, Rep. Lisa Brown, Rep. Mike Huckleberry, Rep. Mark Meadows, Rep. Dian Slavens, Rep. Pam Byrnes, Rep. Shanelle Jackson, Rep. Tim Melton, Rep. Alma Smith, Rep. Barb Byrum, Rep. Bert Johnson, Rep. Fred Miller, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Rep. Andy Coulouris, Rep. Robert Jones, Rep. David Nathan, Rep. Mary Valentine, Rep. Marie Donigan, Rep. Andrew Kandrevas, Rep. Andy Neumann, Rep. Rebkah Warren, Rep. Fred Durhal Jr., Rep. Deb Kennedy, Rep. Sarah Roberts, Rep. Coleman Young II 

September 29, 2009

Water, Air and Land At Risk With Deep Budget Cuts

Cyndi Roper 517-490-1394

Anne Woiwode 517-974-2112

Wednesday, September 29, 2009 

Groups Call For Veto, Say Pure Michigan Ads Should Be Dropped
Feds Brought In To Take Over Enforcement

LANSING, MI--Michigan’s two largest environmental groups said today that the elimination of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), along with deep cuts in environmental funding by the Legislature, means the state has effectively turned over Michigan’s natural resources to polluters.

Sierra Club and Clean Water Action called on the governor to veto the joint DEQ and Department of Natural Resources budget and said that if state government fails to fund critical air and water programs in the days ahead, the federal Environmental Protection Agency should take over all water and air quality enforcement and permitting activities.
“It’s open season on Michigan’s water, air and land, and from a budget standpoint entirely unnecessary. There were other choices,” said Cyndi Roper of Clean Water Action. “It is not an exaggeration to say the Legislature has completely bent to the will of corporate polluters who saw an opportunity in this budget crisis to destroy environmental protection in this state. It’s a complete failure of leadership from both political parties.”

Since 1996 the DEQ has seen funding adjusted for inflation decrease by $156.9 million, reflecting a disproportionate drop in budgets compared to other parts of state government.
“With the Legislature’s cuts this week we will now see even more polluted rivers and beaches, dirtier air, less wildlife and more toxic waste,” said Anne Woiwode, Michigan Director of Sierra Club. “Michigan’s tourism economy will suffer and residents will get sicker. It’s time to pull the Pure Michigan ads off TV or else someone’s going to file a complaint charging the state with deceptive advertising.”

With Tuesday’s action by the House, the Legislature, with Governor Granholm’s support, has now voted to eliminate the Department of Environmental Quality and transfer all of its programs to the Department of Natural Resources, while cutting funding for 2010 by $195.6 million.

Lawmakers yesterday took a budget axe to water, air and other environmental programs. Dozens of environmental and natural resource enforcement officers will be cut from an already barebones enforcement staff. Moreover, the new DNR will not only take on what’s left of environmental programs. It is also now shouldered with managing museums, art and library programs as part of the elimination of another state agency in the 2010 budget.
“Somehow the Legislature found $6 million to fund the state fair, but Michigan’s Great Lakes legacy is flushed down the drain,” said David Holtz of Progress Michigan. “That’s not Pure Michigan. That’s pure B.S.”

Said Woiwode: “Michigan residents have to wonder the next time a stash of barrels containing toxic chemicals are found in their neighborhood, will there be anyone to respond to the call for help? That’s the DEQ’s job. What will happen the next time toxic yellow fumes begin billowing out of a nearby factory? It’s DEQ’s job to respond to these emergencies. Already, funding cuts have prevented the DEQ from stopping disasters like the destruction of 12 miles of the Black River from an animal factory sewage discharge. What will happen with more cuts?”

September 8, 2009

State Agency Deals a Death Blow to Coal Plants

MPSC staff says no need for new coal plants in Michigan until at least 2022

LANSING – Concerned citizens declared a major victory today after the Michigan Public Service Commission staff dealt a death blow to two controversial dirty coal plant projects, rejecting in a filing today the construction of one in Rogers City and delaying a decision on a second one in Bay City until 2022.

“These critical decisions mean Michigan is ready to open the door to clean energy jobs and walk away from dirty coal,” Sierra Club-Michigan Executive Director Anne Woiwode said. “For years, the people of Michigan spoke loud and clear: No more dirty coal and yes to clean renewable energy. And dirty coal and yes to clean renewable energy. And today, the citizens of Michigan have a much- deserved victory in the fight to build a strong, clean energy future.”

Environmental leaders credited a portion of today’s victory to Governor Granholm’s decision last year to submit the coal decision to a rigorous review by Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) staff and the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

After receiving over 8,000 comments and technical filings, the MPSC staff advised the DEQ in a filing today that there is no need for the power from a proposed coal plant in Rogers City, requested by Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative. The agency staff also advised that the proposed expansion of Consumers Energy’s Karn Weadock plant in Essexville was not needed until at least 2022, five years after Consumers’ original proposed start date. The recommendations stemmed from the failure of the utilities to show that Michigan needs more energy in coming years. The utilities also failed to counter growing evidence that renewable energy and energy efficiency – and not dirty coal – could meet future needs.

“Now that we have beaten back the threat of dirty coal, Michigan can begin the work of building a full- fledged 21>st century energy future driven by clean renewable energy, and create good-paying jobs in the process,” Clean Water Action-Michigan Director Cyndi Roper said. “By 2020, Michigan will be a leader in clean energy technology, our nation will have tough new clean energy laws and stronger pollution standards will be in place. Michigan now has a tremendous opportunity to fully invest in clean energy, not dirty coal, to attract new jobs and move Michigan forward.”

“This report shows that clean energy can power Michigan’s future,” said Faith Bugel, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “We’ve been sending our money down a mineshaft for too long. Moving away from outdated coal power will build our economy and protect our environment. The citizens of Michigan deserve applause for standing up for a clean energy future.”

Thousands of comments were submitted in opposition to the development of the Rogers City and Bay City new dirty coal plants in Michigan. Citizens groups have repeatedly called on the government to reject permits to build new plants and invest instead in clean energy. A final decision on whether to grant Clean Air Act permits to Wolverine and Consumers Energy rests with the state Department of Environmental Quality, which promises a ruling by the end of the year.

According to a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Michigan can meet its energy needs through a combination of wind power, biomass, and other renewable energy sources biomass, and other renewable energy sources coupled with aggressive energy efficiency programs. [1] The report was issued as the Michigan Public Service Commission prepares to make recommendations to the Department of Environmental Quality on the need for power and availability of cleaner alternative to coal, following the end of a public comments period. Among the NRDC’s findings:

  • Energy efficiency program alone could save Michigan $3 billion in electricity costs over the next 20 years. Michigan’s previous energy plan, written in 2007, is out of date, with unrealistic projections of future electrical demand, limited implementation of energy efficiency and renewable energy, and reliance on outdated 20th century coal technologies. 
  • Clean renewable energy is less expensive, cleaner, faster, more economically robust, and creates more jobs in Michigan than a 20th century plan based on new but obsolete large power plants driven by fossil fuels.

[1] Natural Resources Defense Council, “A Green Energy Alternative for Michigan