December 29, 2009

Groups Sharply Criticize Granholm-Cherry Administration Approval of Coal Plant

Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club, 517-974-2112
Cyndi Roper, Clean Water Action, 517-490-1394
Josh Mogerman, Natural Resources Defense Council, 312-651-7909
David Holtz, Progress Michigan, 313-300-4454

Today's DEQ’s decision strikes blow to clean energy jobs

LANSING – Clean energy and environmental groups today criticized a decision today by Governor Granholm’s Department of Environmental Quality approving a controversial permit for a coal plant project in Bay City, a move that strikes a blow to clean energy investments and jobs in Michigan. The DEQ is expected to put off a decision on a pending permit application for a smaller coal plant in Rogers City.

We are disappointed by the failure of Governor Granholm to keep her promise to move Michigan toward a clean energy economy. Thousands committed to Michigan’s future are rallying to fight this badly flawed decision at every step to get Michigan back on track toward a clean energy economy,” Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Director Anne Woiwode said.. “Governor Granholm’s DEQ had an important decision to make today and it failed the test of leadership. Building a coal plant Michigan doesn’t need near Bay City will saddle ratepayers with terrible costs and waste investors’ money. By approving the Bay City plant, the Granholm Administration will set back Michigan’s efforts to build a clean energy economy that can create good-paying jobs.”

The DEQ’s decision comes despite the Michigan Public Service Commission staff conclusion that Consumers Energy does not need a new baseload power plant until at least 2022, and that any electricity needs could be met through available cleaner sources, including efficiency and renewables. The MPSC staff also concluded that the proposed coal plant in Rogers City, requested by Wolverine Power, was not needed at all. 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 not dirty coal – could meet future needs.

The Clean Air Act permit for a new Consumers' Bay City coal plant is expected to include language involving the decommissioning of older coal plants by Consumers, but environmental groups say the permit decision does nothing to push Consumers toward clean energy alternatives.

Michigan is heading in the wrong direction with this unfortunate decision,” Clean Water Action Michigan Director Cyndi Roper said. “The federal government has declared coal pollutants a threat to human health. Every other state is investing in clean energy, creating jobs and turning away from coal. Michigan, on the other hand, is looking to the past and this decision threatens to keep us in the energy Dark Ages."

The citizens of Michigan and the Bay City area will pay a steep price for this ill-advised decision,” Roper said. “The citizens of Michigan have said they don’t want any more coal plants and they will not accept half-measures. We will continue our fight. Michigan wants more jobs, not more coal plants that will empty our pockets and put our economic future at risk.”

Thousands of citizens had voiced opposition to the development of new dirty coal plants in Michigan, including the ones in Rogers City and Bay City. Citizens groups have repeatedly called on the government to reject permits to build new plants and invest instead in clean energy.

According to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Michigan can meet its energy needs through a combination of wind power, solar and other renewable energy sources coupled with aggressive energy efficiency programs. 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. 

December 20, 2009

Conservationists and Anglers Honor the Life of Legendary Michigan River Keeper Rusty Gates

GRAYLING, MICHIGAN -- Celebrated conservationist and fly-fisherman Calvin "Rusty" Gates Jr. died on December 19, 2009 at his home on the banks of the Au Sable River in Grayling, Michigan after a lengthy battle with lung cancer. He was 54 years old. Gates served as president of the Anglers of the Au Sable from its inception in 1987 until 2009. During this time he and his organization won several landmark legal cases in coldwater conservation.

“Rusty was a true treasure,” said Rebecca Humphries, Director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “He loved the Holy Waters of the Au Sable and shared that love with countless individuals. He taught us that it is our duty to respect the resource and to protect it. His love of the river lives on in all of us. I have been truly blessed to know Rusty.”

Gates was the proprietor of Gates Au Sable Lodge, and an iconic fly-fishing personality. Rusty's father Cal Gates Sr. moved his family to Grayling in 1970 and, along with his wife Mary, purchased the lodge on the banks of the Au Sable River. Cal Sr. had taught high school music, and Rusty played trombone in high school. But soon his passion for fly-fishing occupied most of his time. He began tying flies professionally at the age of 17, as well as guiding. At first Gates' flies were sold in the corner of the restaurant at the lodge, but soon demand was great enough that the Gates family added a full-service fly-shop to the lodge. Eventually Rusty bought the lodge and operated it with his wife Julie, who ran the restaurant.

“Of all the strong conservationists in our world, Rusty was one of the toughest. He was tireless, and he was like a missile in his precision and deadly accuracy. Yet he never, ever, wanted credit for anything—just for the various groups he worked with, especially the Anglers of the Au Sable,” said Tom Rosenbauer, winner of the 2001 National Outdoor Book Award, and Marketing Director for the Orvis Company.

Gates Lodge is a place where thousands of anglers gather annually during fly fishing season from April through autumn. Rusty and Julie could be found there at all hours, tending to the smallest details of fly tying and gourmet cooking. With classical music playing in the background, the fly shop buzzed with patrons’ latest stories from the nearby woods and waters. Coffee flowed freely as anglers bent over the dozens of boxes of flies, hoping to pick correctly for the day ahead. Rusty Gates presided over the daily scene with eagle eyes, a wry grin, and measured words. Fishing tips from this master were earned, not purchased. This tradition, while changed forever by Rusty’s passing, will continue in 2010 as Gates Lodge remains in business under the leadership of fly shop manager Josh Greenberg, who has worked for Rusty for the last 15 years.

“Rusty proved that people don't fill their gas tank to fill their fry pan. They put on their waders to nourish their soul. Rusty did that for all of us, and our great-great-great grandkids. Sure, they won't know it, but when one of them flips an Adams, or a Trico, over a rising brown in 2109 it will have Rusty’s name etched on it,” said Glen Sheppard, author/editor of the conservation newspaper The North Woods Call.

The quiet, unassuming Gates' soon gained recognition for his expertise in fly-fishing, as well as his honesty and willingness to defend the resource. He developed a number of fly-patterns that became standard Au Sable fly patterns, introduced scores of people to the world of fly-fishing, and began to combine angling and conservation in such a way as to involve himself in some of the most influential coldwater issues in Michigan . In 1995 he was awarded the coveted Fly Rod and Reel Magazine “Angler of the Year” award for his conservation and cultural contributions to the sport of fly-fishing.

"Rusty Gates was a brave, smart, tireless champion of wild trout and beautiful, magic places they abide. He lead by example; and he has touched and inspired us all," said Ted Williams, noted Conservation Editor for Fly Rod and Reel.

In a legal case that would define his commitment to the Au Sable River, in 2003 Gates, as President of the Anglers of the Au Sable, challenged a US Forest Service lease that would allow exploratory drilling for gas below the famed Mason Tract section of the South Branch of the Au Sable. With the odds stacked against them, the Anglers prevailed in their case against the Forest Service, forever altering how the business of gas and oil exploration would be conducted in the fragile areas of Michigan.

"While Rusty will mainly be remembered for his role in protecting the Au Sable, he changed forever the way we look at and work to protect our water resources and wildlife. We owe it to Rusty to carry on his work and make sure children in every generation to come will be able to share the wonder and joy in Michigan’s wild places that are his legacy," said Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Director Anne Woiwode.

Calvin "Rusty" Gates, Jr. will be missed by the many who knew him. He was an intensely private man who could, when needed, organize hundreds of people around a cause. Considered by many as one of the most talented fundraisers and recruiters they'd ever met, Rusty will be remembered for his uninhibited love for the river and the river valley, and his steadfastness in doing what he and many others considered right and necessary for the resource. He is survived by his wife Julie, their children, and a large extended family. 

December 19, 2009

In Memorium: Calvin "Rusty" Gates, 1955 - 2009


Still shadows start to lengthen,
Beneath the setting sun.
The hungry trout are risin’,
Down on Rusty’s Run.

The River flows with magic

Of spinner, nymph and dun.
Hatches fill the evening skies,
Down on Rusty’s Run.

The River calls to anglers

While paddlers have their fun.
Browns hide under cedar bows,
Down on Rusty’s Run.

The River has her history

Of battles fought and won.
Brookies flash their gratitude,
Down on Rusty’s Run.

The Au Sable has touched many

And loves her favorite son.
We’ll fish with him forever,
Down on Rusty’s Run.

I dream about the River
And miss her favorite son.
He’ll guide us through rough waters,
Down on Rusty’s Run.

  by Lorne Beatty, December 2009