December 14, 2011

Groups Call on State of Michigan to Shake Up Agriculture Practices

Groups Call on State of Michigan to Shake Up Agriculture Practices

East Lansing, MI – A diverse group of faith, farming, conservation, community and food organizations today called on the Michigan Agriculture Commission to reassess and revamp some of the state’s most controversial livestock farming practices.  The seventeen organizations called for a complete reassessment of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Generally Accepted Agriculture Management Practices, or GAAMPs regarding use of liquid livestock wastes and concentration of facilities.  The organizations specifically ask the state officials to give “due consideration” of impacts of these practices on agricultural communities and the environment, as well as on individual operations.

Janet Kauffman, spokeswoman for Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michiganpresented a letter from the organizations to the Commission at their meeting today.  Kauffman said "the big picture shows big impact and real harm -- to neighbors, to watersheds, and to the Great Lakes.  To stop pollution downwind and downstream, agricultural practices can't just be for one farm anymore.  We need to add it all up and find practices that protect whole communities, and whole watersheds."

According to the letter, the voluntary GAAMPs for liquid manure and facility concentration have lagged far behind the scientific documentation of the negative impacts of this waste on public health, natural resources and the well-being of communities.   By law the GAAMPs are updated every year, however updates are usually minimal and has not addressed the rapid growth of intensive livestock practices. The introduction of liquid manure systems and the application of the liquid manure onto fields with subsurface tiles, and rapid expansion and the concentration of large facilities has been linked to water pollution downstream, including in the Great Lakes.  Pathogens, including E. coli, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia are commonly found in ditches that drain the farms into streams and lakes.

Lyman Welch, Water Quality Program Manager, Alliance for the Great Lakes, explained the significance of cumulative impacts, “Agricultural runoff threatens our Great Lakes with algal blooms that harm the lakes’ health, and the economy of the region through lost tourism and lost recreational use. Michigan’s agricultural practices must be updated to help prevent nutrient runoff from harming the Great Lakes.”

“Thirty years is a significant length of time, time to reassess practices for effectiveness,” said Rita Chapman, Sierra Club Clean Water Program Manager, “to make sure they still result in clean water and air, and healthy sustainable agricultural communities.  It’s time to look ahead to agricultural practices that all can live with.”

In addition to ECCSCMSierra Club and the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the letter presented to the Commission today was signed by the following organizations:

- Adrian Dominican Sisters, Program for Justice Peace, and Corporate Responsibility
- Clean Water Action
- Clinton River Watershed Council
- Food and Water Watch
- Great Grand Rapids Food Systems Council
- Izaak Walton League of America, Dwight Lydell Chapter
- Lone Tree Council
- Michigan Environmental Council
- Michigan Farmers Union
- Michigan Trout Unlimited
- National Wildlife Federation
- Program of Environmental Studies/Geology, Alma College
- Society for Protecting Environmental Assets
- Western Lake Erie Waterkeepers

Groups Call on Snyder To Embrace Clean Energy


Groups Call on Snyder To Embrace Clean Energy

Consumers Energy's Coal Plant Closings Should Spark Policy Change

LANSING –The decision announced today by Consumers Energy to shutter seven Michigan coal plants and cancel long-standing plans for a new one means the Snyder administration should abandon its support for coal and strongly embrace clean energy policies.

“Governor Snyder can no longer ignore the fact that Michigan’s future is not with coal,”  Sierra Club’s Tiffany Hartung said, reacting to the news today that Consumers Energy is closing coal plants in favor of clean energy alternatives.  “The real question is whether Michigan will be getting the clean energy jobs or some other state or country.  Because of the administration’s support for coal, we’ve wasted more than a year and allowed other states and countries to get ahead of us.  We should be moving boldly ahead with strong clean energy policies.”

Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director for Clean Water Action, said the governor should immediately begin working on a comprehensive economic development plan focused on expanding clean energy jobs in Michigan.

“Every day we delay means we fall further behind other states and countries,” said Roper.  “Michigan can do better, but only if Lansing politicians either get out of the way or stand with us and decide to start looking toward the future.”

Consumers Energy plans to close seven coal facilities in Muskegon, the Bay City area and Luna Pier, south of Monroe.  With plans for new wind farms in Mason and Tuscola counties, Consumers expects to be able to meet its forecasted energy needs without those seven coal plants plus a proposed new one near Bay City that was cancelled by Consumers today.

“It’s great to see Consumers Energy embracing clean energy as a better deal for its customers than coal,” said Roper. “The plants they are closing are old and their pollution has been damaging people’s health.”

The groups also called on Consumers to develop transition plans for communities where coal plants are being closed to provide training and other support for workers.

The coal plant decisions come as Consumers recently announced it was lowering costs to its 1.8 million customers for renewable energy charges, a projected $54 million savings.   A proposed coal plant for the Bay City area that was scuttled today was the 159th proposed plant in the United States to be cancelled in recent years.

 “There is consensus brewing here---Consumers Energy has come to the same conclusion as 158 other companies, that coal just doesn’t make economic sense,” said Shannon Fisk of the Midwest Office of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The $3.5 plus billion that would have gone towards a dirty plant can have a much better impact in Michigan going towards energy efficiency and renewable energy resources that will create jobs, save ratepayer money, and benefit public health.”

According to a 2009 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 coupled with aggressive energy efficiency programs.[1]  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,” http://docs.nrdc.org/energy/ene_09081101.asp 

December 2, 2011

December 2, 2011


Mike Berkowitz interview 
on the Tony Conley Morning Show


Lansing, MI
Mike Berkowitz was interviewed on the Tony Conley Morning Show about the Governor's veto (see previous post) and Fracking. It's also posted on the Chapter's facebook page.

Pollution Modeling Shows Holland at Risk from Toxic Emissions


December 2, 2011

Pollution Modeling Shows Holland at Risk from Toxic Emissions

Sulfur dioxide plume from the coal-fired James DeYoung plant looms over neighborhoods, puts community health at risk

HOLLAND, MICHIGAN – Holland residents are at risk of unsafe exposure to dangerous sulfur dioxide, according to new air pollution modeling released by the Sierra Club today. With news of this model, health professionals and Holland residents rallied to show their concern over the health impacts of the local coal plant.  Sulfur dioxide, which is emitted in large quantities by the coal-fired James DeYoung plant, threatens the Holland community with asthma attacks, severe respiratory problems, lung disease and heart complications

The model can be viewed here
Download the factsheet here.

Gathered at the Herrick District Library Auditorium, the group unveiled a map of Holland that depicts the modeled pollution cloud threatening Holland’s most treasured areas – from the Macatawa lakeshore to the Historic District to Downtown 8th Street to Freedom Village. Outraged by the threat to air quality, the group called on the Holland Board of Public Works to protect Holland by supporting a sustainable, long-term energy plan that would move Holland beyond coal completely. The Holland Beyond Coal group has gathered over 1,300 signatures in support of this plan.

Guest speakers spotlighted coal’s harmful effects on public health, the environment and Holland community, while demanding clean energy alternatives at this critical time for Holland’s energy future.

“Every day, I work with individuals who are battling respiratory illnesses like asthma. The correlation between excess sulfur dioxide in the air and increased asthma rates is clear,” said Cristina Fugsleth, a respiratory therapist who has worked at Holland Hospital for more than 35 years. “As we can see today in this modeling, our coal plant is making us sick. We must act now to protect our air. Healthy air is essential to living a healthy life.”

Local residents Coley and Lisa Brown shared their concerns after moving to Holland this year to settle down in America’s second happiest city. “I am in that category of ‘high risk’ for heart issues and I get concerned for my health” stated Coley Brown, “Imagine my shock when I recently discovered that there is a plan to expand the coal plant that is currently already making me sick. I thought, not in my town. I breathe this air.”

Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection agency establishes National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for pollutants such as sulfur dioxide that harm public health. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to revisit ambient standards for pollutants such as sulfur dioxide every five years to ensure the levels keep up with the best science regarding the impact of air pollution on public health. In June 2010, EPA finalized a standard for sulfur dioxide setting a ceiling for ambient concentrations of the pollutant on a 1-hour basis to protect against short-term spikes in SO2 pollution, which EPA found can have an adverse effect on at-risk populations such as children and the elderly during spikes in pollution in intervals as short as 5 minutes.

Following EPA’s modeling protocols for this new standard, Sierra Club discovered that the James De Young plant threatens Holland with emissions that are 3.5 times the public-health based ambient standard.

The air quality model was completed by Wingra Engineering, S.C., an independent environmental engineering consultation firm whose clients include manufacturing plants, electrical utilities, and environmental advocacy groups.

December 1, 2011

Governor Snyder Uses First Veto to Protect the Great Lakes

December 1, 2011 

Governor Snyder Uses First Veto to Protect the Great Lakes

Michigan’s leading environmental groups today applauded Governor Rick Snyder on using his first veto since taking office in order to strike down House Bill 4326. This bill would have stripped the authority of Michigan’s governor to protect the Great Lakes and the other natural resources that inspired the Pure Michigan campaign and are so vital to the lives and livelihoods of Michiganders.

"This sends a simple message: Governor Snyder thinks the Great Lakes are worth protecting, and the Michigan legislature does not” said Mike Berkowitz of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “We are extremely encouraged to see Governor Snyder veto this short-sighted folly.”

The State legislature sent HB 4326 to the Governor’s desk right before the Thanksgiving break. The bill would have prohibited the state’s governor from adopting any rule stricter than a federal standard unless authorized by the legislature. 

“Michiganders have always been united in protecting our spectacular lakes,” said Cyndi Roper of Clean Water Action. “It’s mystifying why the majority of our legislators would voluntarily throw out a valuable tool for safeguarding Michigan’s water. We are encouraged to see that in this instance Governor Snyder does not agree with the legislature’s interest in undercutting Great Lakes protections.”

A number of key environmental groups opposed to the bill include Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, Clean Water Action, the Ecology Center, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Michigan Environmental Council, and the BlueGreen Alliance. Many union groups also staunchly opposed HB 4326.

“We are counting on Governor Snyder’s leadership in future efforts to preserve our state's right to protect the Great Lakes and Michigan's other natural resources” said Alexis Blizman of the Ecology Center. “We urge Governor Snyder to continue to uphold the promises he made during his campaign, and not roll back important environmental protections.”

November 1, 2011

Toxic Coal Ash from We Energies Coal Plant Pours into Lake Michigan


For Immediate Release – November 1, 2011
Contacts: Kady McFadden, 630-747-0915
                  Tiffany Hartung, 231-747-7489
                   Sierra Club, Beyond Coal & Clean Energy Solutions                   Facebook: www.facebook.com/BeyondCoalMI
                   Twitter: @BeyondCoalMI

Toxic Coal Ash from We Energies Coal Plant
Pours into Lake Michigan

Disastrous collapse comes just weeks after House votes against
strong coal ash protections – will Senators Stabenow and Levin
vote to protect Michigan Families?

LAKE MICHIGAN – A partial retaining bluff collapse Monday at the We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant in Wisconsin sent toxic coal ash spewing into Lake Michigan. This collapse comes just weeks after the U.S. House voted to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from protecting Americans from coal ash.  The same weak bill is now before the U.S. Senate.

In response, Jean Gramlich, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Chair,  issued the following statement:

“The Environmental Protection Agency has been trying to enact national protections to stop this kind of disastrous spill from happening again, ever since the TVA disaster in 2008, and House Leadership has been blocking them every step of the way. As a result, communities here in Michigan and across the nation remain at risk and unprotected.

“This spill in the Great Lakes is a tragic reminder of why the status quo is not good enough. As long as politicians interfere, spills like this are going to happen, and communities right here in Michigan are at risk. Congress needs to back off and allow the EPA to finalize strong protections. 

“Coal ash is dangerous and toxic.  Though it’s currently treated as if it were household waste, coal ash contains mercury, arsenic, lead and other life-threatening toxins. 

“The Senate should immediately stop work on its bill to block the EPA from protecting Americans from toxic coal ash, and Senators Stabenow and Levin should urge the EPA to finalize its protections against toxic coal ash, which have been in the works since 2009.

 “We are very grateful that no one appears to have been injured in today’s spill, and our hearts go out to the residents of Southeast Wisconsin who have been victims of We Energies negligence for years. The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter also thanks the Wisconsin first responders, cleanup and safety workers for their courage in helping to clean up this mess.

“The burning of coal is a public health menace. This incident underscores that as long as we are still mining and burning coal someone somewhere is paying the price.”

October 14, 2011

House Republicans Vote in Favor of Raising Utility Costs

Thursday, Oct. 14, 2011    
Contact:    Mike Berkowitz, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter: 517-484-2372 x13
                  Cyndi RoperClean Water Action: 517-490-1394

House Republicans Vote in Favor of Raising Utility Costs 

LANSING – In a near party line vote, the Michigan House of Representatives today passed House Bill 4815, with an overwhelming majority of Republican legislators voting in favor of the bill. HB 4815, as written, would exempt Michigan-manufactured incandescent light bulbs from the federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 if they are sold in Michigan.  The federal act is set to phase out inefficient light bulbs by 2014 in an effort to increase energy efficiency in the United States. Contrary to these efforts, HB 4815 supports inefficient and outdated technology. Inefficient light bulbs require more energy to operate, and in turn require more energy be created from dirty energy sources, which have a major impact on our water, our air, and the public’s health.

“This vote sends a simple message: House Republicans do not care about consumers,” said Mike Berkowitz, Michigan Chapter Organizer for the Sierra Club. “This vote could collectively cost Michiganders over $350 million each year and increases the energy bill for each Michigan household by $85 annually. The legislature should not encourage our state to be less efficient, create more pollution, and charge ratepayers more.”

Despite claims made to the contrary, the federal Energy Independence and Security Act does not phase out incandescent light bulbs. Instead, the act promotes the use of more efficient versions that comply with these efficiency standards and provide an alternative for consumers who find compact fluorescents objectionable. These more efficient incandescent bulbs are produced by popular brands such as Philips, Sylvania, and GE. Their cost is similar to that of Compact Fluorescent bulbs and they are readily available on the shelves of your local home improvement store. Also, LED options are available for consumers as another lighting alternative.

“Instead of dictating what light blubs Michiganders can and can’t use, why doesn’t the House majority focus on creating jobs?” asked Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director of Clean Water Action. “HB 4815 is simply a misguided attempt to undermine sound energy policy and will do nothing to create jobs in our great state. If the legislature truly wants to support Michigan residents having a full choice of lighting options, they should work with manufacturers to help bring efficient incandescent bulb production and the associated jobs to Michigan.” Roper explained that instead of voting for HB 4815, Michigan lawmakers should use their clout to embrace the emerging national market for efficient incandescent light bulbs. “By creating a niche for the efficient incandescent bulb industry in Michigan, you would help create much-needed jobs while reducing energy waste,” she concluded.

Currently, the state of Michigan is progressing toward energy independence. This bill would damage such progress and create extra costs to consumers, state government and the environment. The bill now moves to the Michigan State Senate.

Natural Resources Defense Council Study: http://www.nrdc.org/energy/files/betterbulbs.pdf

October 11, 2011

Walberg Blasted for Votes Endangering Public Health

Contacts:  Alex Wall, Sierra Club, 202-548-4595
Kate Geller, LCV, 202-454-4573

Walberg Blasted for Votes Endangering Public Health

New television ad campaign highlights public health impacts of pro-polluter votes

View the ad below or click here.

11 October 2011, Lansing, MI:  A new round of television ads begin airing today criticizing Michigan Representative Tim Walberg for his opposition to new clean air standards that would curb air pollution from toxic pollutants like mercury and arsenic, including his vote on the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011 (the TRAIN Act), which recently passed in the House and aims to block clean air protections against life-threatening air pollution.   Walberg has taken $191,920 from Big Oil and other dirty energy interests during his career.

The ads will air in the Lansing market for one week beginning October 11 and are sponsored by Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and the League of Conservation Voters.

“We need Rep. Walberg to stand up for the health of his constituents and Michigan families instead of standing with the polluters,” said Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Director.  “Rep. Walberg’s attacks on pollution protections will not create more jobs or economic growth, but will mean more children in the hospital, harder times for families trying to make ends meet and millions of dollars in health bills for Michigan taxpayers.

“Representative Walberg is putting polluters before people and endangering public health by opposing common sense clean air safeguards that would curb harmful air pollution,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at the League of Conservation Voters. “Our Representatives must be held accountable for votes that would force us to breathe air polluted with toxics like mercury and arsenic. This campaign will inform Representative Walberg’s constituents of the extreme anti-clean air votes Tim Walberg is taking in Washington.”

The ad criticizes Walberg for voting for the TRAIN Act, a bill which would indefinitely delay two critical Clean Air Act standards that limit soot, smog, mercury and other toxic pollutants like arsenic, cadmium, dioxin, lead, and formaldehyde from power plants.  [Roll Call Vote #741, 9/23/11]  The TRAIN Act could result in as many as 139,500 American lives lost to air pollution over the next seven years.

The ad sponsors will continue to closely track and respond to anti-clean air votes. Walberg also voted last week in favor of blocking toxic mercury protections for cement plants (H.R. 2681). These bills, as well as the TRAIN Act, are part of a series of attacks on health protections that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced in August.

View the ad below or click here.

###

About Sierra Club of Michigan: The Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club is the statewide voice for the nation's largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. For 40 years, the Michigan Chapter has organized the bold action of citizens working together to protect and restore our Great Lakes state’s health and heritage.

About the League of Conservation Voters: The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) is a national non-profit organization that works to turn environmental values into national priorities. To secure the environmental future of our planet, LCV advocates for sound environmental policies, informs the public and holds elected officials accountable for their votes through publications such as the National Environmental Scorecard, and provides the state LCVs with the resources and tools to accomplish and sustain their mission.

September 30, 2011

Wolverine Coal Plant Faces New Lawsuit

Friday, Sept. 30, 2011

Wolverine Coal Plant Faces New Lawsuit

Groups challenge Gov. Snyder and stop Wolverine from moving forward 

LANSING - The Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit this week challenging Gov. Rick Snyder’s decision to reverse the permit denial last year of an expensive and unneeded, and dangerous coal fired power plant in Rogers City.

The lawsuit, filed in Ingham County, argues that the state's permit would allow excessive emissions of mercury, acid rain precursors, particulate matter (soot) and other pollutants, as well as would fail to comply with federal requirements to use the best available technology for pollution controls. Last year, the State of Michigan rejected the same permit, saying Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative failed to show need for another coal plant. Additionally, the permit was denied because it was not shown that any new demand for power could not be met through clean energy sources, including energy efficiency, solar and wind power.

”Wolverine’s proposed coal plant would emit toxic mercury pollution into the air that will end up in our streams, lakes and eventually our bodies,” said Jean Veselenak, a resident of Presque Isle County. “We can’t afford the risk of mercury poisoning, which would put citizens and children at risk. It’s time for Governor Snyder and Wolverine to move past polluting technologies of the past.”

Citizen groups involved in the lawsuit cited extensive flaws in the air pollution permit issued by Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in June 2011, and note that because the plant's power is unnecessary, the enormous amount of pollution it would emit is unjustified. These groups argue that overturning the state's newly issued permit would prevent over 6 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year from the proposed plant and protect the public health of Michigan residents.

 “Wolverine’s proposed coal plant is, as the Michigan Public Service Commission staff found, an unnecessary and costly mistake,” said Shannon Fisk, Senior Attorney at the Midwest Office of NRDC. “Wolverine should stop wasting its ratepayers’ money, cancel this multi-billion dollar pipe dream, and instead pursue cleaner energy sources that will create jobs and protect public health.”

Wolverine officials have continued to pursue the plant despite growing opposition from members of the retail electric cooperatives that comprise their customer base. Projections by state officials say that if built, a new coal plant would raise electric rates for cooperative members by 60 percent or more, an estimated $77 monthly increase for residential ratepayers. The same projections state that 26 percent of Wolverine's cooperative members currently live below the poverty level.

The lawsuit filed was on September 26th and assigned to Ingham County judge Rosemarie Aquilina.  The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center (GLELC) of Detroit and Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) of Chicago are assisting the Sierra Club and NRDC in the litigation.

September 22, 2011

Environmental Groups Call for Public Comment on Dangers of Fracking

Environmental Groups Call for Public Comment on Dangers of Fracking

House Subcommittee has not allowed citizens to give input during hearings

Lansing, MI (22 September 2011) – While the Michigan House Natural Gas Subcommittee held a third public hearing today to discuss a dangerous natural-gas extraction process known as fracking, one thing was once again missing from the agenda: public comment. Although the subcommittee has conducted three hearings this month, no time has been dedicated on the agenda to allow the public to address concerns over fracking.

“Of the nearly six hours the subcommittee has met over the past three weeks, only minutes have been given to address the dangers of fracking,” said Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director for Clean Water Action. “At each of these meetings, the committee has met with natural gas industry lobbyists. When do the citizens of Michigan get the opportunity speak? This committee is short-changing the public by only listening to industry lobbyists instead of doing the kind of fact-finding that will result in strong protections for Michigan’s water, air and the places we live.”

At today’s hearing, over 15 citizens from around the state submitted request cards to the subcommittee chair, Representative Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton), seeking to speak during public comment. However, none of them were allowed to speak. Today’s meeting is the last hearing currently scheduled by the subcommittee.

“It is very disappointing that citizens are not allowed to address their concerns about a dangerous process such as fracking at a public hearing with our elected officials,” said Jo Anne Beemon of the Friends of the Jordan River Watershed, who traveled from Charlevoix to Lansing to highlight the risks associated with the extraction process. “Michigan’s economy depends on our natural resources, including our Great Lakes and waters. We can’t afford the risks that fracking poses to these invaluable resources.”

After the subcommittee meeting, several environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) and Friends of the Jordan River Watershed, held a press conference continuing to call for a fourth public hearing to address fracking concerns.

Their initial call for an additional hearing came last week after Representative Nesbitt repeatedly denied a specific agenda topic at subcommittee hearings, which would have focused on allowing testimony from citizens and groups concerned about the fracking process.

“The Natural Gas subcommittee and Representative Nesbitt should hold a fourth additional public hearing that specifically addresses the dangers that fracking poses to our state,” said Mike Berkowitz of the Sierra Club. “Protecting public health and Michigan’s waters should be a top priority for all of our elected officials. We need to make sure the citizens and their concerns are heard in a public forum.”

Fracking is common extraction process used by the natural gas industry. The process involves blasting a mixture of water and dangerous chemicals deep underground to free deposits of natural gas. However, natural gas companies refuse to publically disclose all of the specific fracking chemicals they use, even though they could be poisoning our water and polluting the air.  

“Michigan legislators should pass legislation immediately that requires companies to publicly disclose upfront the chemicals they are using in the fracking process,” said Nick Occhipinti of WMEAC. “Stronger water and air protections would help protect Michigan’s natural resources and reduce the risk fracking poses to the health and safety of our families.”

September 15, 2011

New Poll Reveals Michigan Residents Support Strong Lighting and Appliance Efficiency Standards

New Poll Reveals Michigan Residents Support
Strong Lighting and Appliance Efficiency Standards

Nearly 80% of Voters Back the Use and Expansion of Energy Efficiency Technologies

CHICAGO, IL (September 15, 2011) – New polling shows that even as the state legislature considers a bill promoting outmoded and inefficient lighting technology, Michigan residents solidly support energy efficiency technologies and would like the government to play a leading role in setting higher standards for appliances, light bulbs, and other household products. The opinion data comes from a new Public Policy Polling survey released today by public interest groups.

“Supporting energy efficiency standards means more jobs, lower electricity bills and more product choices for consumers,” said Natural Resources Defense Council energy advocate Becky Stanfield. “You simply cannot get any of those benefits by clutching the status quo in a century-old technology of an incandescent bulb. It’s just plain common sense – and that’s why the people of Michigan support the expansion of efficiency standards with all the benefits that come with them.”
Some of the poll’s notable findings include:
  • 77 percent of voters in Michigan support expanded use of energy efficiency technologies to help meet our energy needs and reduce energy costs.
  • 85 percent of Michigan voters say they have already installed energy efficient products in their own homes or businesses.
  • 62 percent of voters agree that switching to more efficient lighting is an effective way to reduce energy waste.
  • There’s a strong bipartisan consensus on the issue with 84 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of independents, and 69 percent of Republicans supporting energy efficiency standards.
  • Voters strongly support the federal government setting minimum energy efficiency standards for various household products with 62 percent in favor for appliances to only 27 percent opposed; and 64 percent in favor for light bulbs to only 27 percent against.
  • In addition to federal action, 58 percent of voters would like the state government to require electric utilities like Detroit Edison and Consumers Energy to help their customers become more energy efficient. 
The survey also found that elected officials who attempt to weaken or delay energy efficiency standards could pay a price at the polls. Forty-eight percent of voters said they would oppose such efforts by their members of Congress at the polls to only 25 percent who would react favorably to those efforts.

In the first year of utility efficiency programs in Michigan, the reduction in demand totaled 375,000 mwh, enough to power more than 37,000 homes. The projection for this year is that the programs will reduce demand by twice that amount or about 750,000 mwh.

“The numbers show that we take energy efficiency seriously in Michigan---as we should, since it has created jobs and saved ratepayers a ton of cash,” said Michigan Sierra Club Director Anne Woiwode. “It’s time for the state legislature to catch up because we’ve only gotten to the low-hanging fruit. Silliness like the ‘dumb light bulb bill’ - which has the potential to cost Michiganders over $357 million every year - threatens to undo a lot of the good work that has been done.”

“Consumer Reports recently tested a variety of energy efficient light bulbs newly available in stores. We found that these models use over 75% less energy, last nearly 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, and can save consumers hundreds of dollars over the life of the bulb,” said Ellen Bloom, Director of Federal Policy and the Washington, DC Office of Consumers Union. “Expanding energy standards means promoting energy efficiency, enhancing the lighting options available on the market, and helping American consumers save billions of dollars in electric bills.”

The survey had a sample size of 900 voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent. It was conducted via telephone from August 25 to 28 by Public Policy Polling.

###

Consumers Union of United States, Inc., publisher of Consumer Reports®, is a nonprofit membership organization chartered in 1936 to provide consumers with information, education, and counsel about goods, services, health and personal finance. 
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org 
Founded in 1892, the Sierra Club is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. There are more than 1,400,000 members and supporters in 50 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. For 44 years the Michigan Chapter has represented Sierra Club members and supporters throughout the Great Lakes State.   

September 1, 2011

Commission on Agriculture & Rural Development Seeks Public Input on Agricultural Management Practices

(Press release from Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development)

Commission on Agriculture & Rural Development
Seeks Public Input on Agricultural Management Practices

Deadline to provide comment: September 28, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) today announced a Public Input Meeting and review period has been scheduled for September 28, 2011 in order to gather comments on the 2012 drafts of the state’s Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs). 
Public comment will be taken on the following GAAMPs: Manure Management and Utilization, Cranberry Production, Site Selection and Odor Control for New and Expanding Livestock Production Facilities, Farm Market, and Irrigation Water Use.  The GAAMPs regarding Nutrient Utilization, Care of Farm Animals and Pesticide Utilization and Pest Control have no proposed changes for 2012.
The GAAMPs Public Input Meeting will be held at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday,
September 28, 2011, in the Lake Superior Conference Room at the State of Michigan Library & History Center located at 702 West Kalamazoo Street, Lansing, MI.
Written comments may be submitted to MDARD’s Environmental Stewardship Division,
P.O. Box 30017, Lansing, MI 48909 and postmarked no later than September 28, 2011, or sent via e-mail to casteelh@michigan.gov by 5 p.m. on September 28.  MDARD will forward all comments received by the due date to the respective GAAMPs Task Force chairpersons for consideration prior to final review and adoption.
The Michigan Right to Farm Act provides nuisance protection for farms and farm operations.  In order to have this protection, the farm or farm operation must conform to GAAMPs, which are set by the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development.  These GAAMPs are reviewed annually by scientific committees of various experts, and revised and updated as necessary.  Public comment is accepted and considered before final versions of the GAAMPs are approved. 
For a copy of any of these GAAMPs including the proposed revisions, please visit www.michigan.gov/gaamps, or contact the MDARD’s Environmental Stewardship Division at
(517) 373-9797, or toll free at (877) 632-1783.

August 22, 2011

Michigan Environmental Groups Caution Touting Only Economic Impact of Natural Gas Drilling

August 22, 2011

Michigan Environmental Groups Caution Touting
Only Economic Impact of Natural Gas Drilling

LANSING – Michigan citizens groups cautioned focusing solely on the economics of natural gas use following the release today of an analysis touting potential economic impact of additional electricity from natural gas in Michigan.
The report, entitled "The Economic Impact of Replacing Coal with Natural Gas for Electricity Production," was undertaken by Professor Bill Knudson, a marketing economist with the Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University. The report did not focus on environmental impacts concerning hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," which is a natural gas extraction process that uses dangerous chemicals for exploration. Indeed, thousands of contamination incidents from natural gas operations using fracking have been reported nationwide, highlighting the negative consequences the extraction method has on the environment.

"The potential economic benefits of natural gas use could easily be overshadowed and dashed entirely by the negative effects the dangerous fracking process could have on Michigan’s waters," said Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director for Clean Water Action. "We must ensure that we protect our Great Lakes and other water resources. Our waters provide a steady stream of revenue from tourism and support hundreds of thousands of jobs for Michiganders."
Clean Water Action, Sierra Club and other groups are calling for a delay in new fracking operations in Michigan until strong regulations are in place, including implementing public accountability measures and requiring companies to fully disclose all chemicals they plan to use in the process.

"By refusing to disclose the unknown chemicals they inject into our environment, the natural gas industry is recklessly threatening our state’s air, water and public health," said Rita Chapman of the Sierra Club. "The public has a right to know what is in our water and we must hold the industry accountable by establishing safeguards for fracking and preventing further contamination."

Chapman also pointed out that the MSU study failed to factor in any analysis that included clean energy sources such as wind and solar or energy efficiency as a replacement for energy produced now by coal.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced proposed rules covering air pollution caused by fracking, including significant reductions of emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, and air toxins known or suspected of causing cancer and other serious health effects. Michigan’s natural resources are vulnerable to gas drilling activities, and implementing these safeguards will alter the economics of natural gas as an alternative to coal.

"Natural gas drilling is yet another dangerous fossil fuel distraction," said Roper. "Michigan is already creating jobs in the clean energy sector through wind, solar and energy efficiency. Michigan lawmakers should stop clinging to our dirty fuel past and embrace the future or, once again, we’ll be left behind."

August 11, 2011

U.S. Report Today Triggers Call For Michigan Action Recommendations on Controversial Natural Gas Fracking

Thursday, August 11, 2011

MORE INFO:  Cyndi Roper, 517-490-1394
                         Mike Berkowitz, 248-345-9808

U.S. Report Today Triggers Call For Michigan Action
Recommendations on Controversial Natural Gas Fracking

LANSING, MI--Citizens groups today called on Michigan lawmakers and federal officials to take action on proposals to protect Michigan’s waters following the release today of recommendations from the federal government to reduce public health and environmental impacts of natural gas drilling using fracking.

“It’s great that the federal government is identifying problems with fracking and offering some solutions,” said Mike Berkowitz of Michigan Sierra Club. “But Great Lakes state lawmakers must step up and not leave it just to Washington to protect our waters. We must establish oversight of the natural gas industry here in Michigan.”

A federal Department of Energy advisory panel report released today includes a series of recommendations to develop ‘strong’ regulations on gas drilling. Those regulations include extensive air pollution controls, full tracking of drilling wastewater, disclosure of all air and water pollution as well as chemicals used, and rules that take into account the cumulative impact of the drilling of thousands of wells in certain regions or watersheds. The report release by DOE follows recent disclosure of a federal Environmental Protection Agency report documenting groundwater contamination during the 1980s linked to fracking.  The gas industry has insisted fracking poses nothreat to groundwater, an assertion now challenged by the EPA disclosures.

“While the Obama Administration can take action right now on some of these proposals, the Michigan Legislature and Congress must act immediately as well,” said Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director of Clean Water Action. “The public cannot be adequately protected until Congress and theMichigan Legislature eliminate loopholes for the oil and gas industry in environmental laws.”

As part of the Obama Administration’s national energy plan, DOE established a Natural Gas Subcommittee under their Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) to make recommendations concerning environmental and public health impacts of natural gas drilling in the U.S.

This report is the first of two expected to be issued by the Natural Gas Subcommittee; the second report will be issued 90 days from now. The full report and more information on SEAB is available at:
Clean Water Action, Sierra Club and other citizens groups have called for a delay in fracking in Michigan until the state has adopted protections for Michigan’s Great Lakes water system, including groundwater.  The groups have called for the state to take important measures before new natural gas drilling can resume, including the following:
  • Protect Michigan’s water supply by eliminating a special interest exemption from state water use laws so natural gas companies are treated the same as all other large water users in Michigan.  Standards for fracking must be adopted that ensure there are no adverse impacts on our water resources as a result of water withdrawals.
  • Protect water quality by requiring public disclosure of specific fracking chemicals used by natural gas companies when they apply for a permit to extract.  The public’s right to know what is in our water outweighs any corporate claims of confidentiality involving the use of chemicals.  The Michigan Legislature must regulate fracking operations to ensure they are safe, including proper disposal of chemical waste and other byproducts of fracking.
  • Require public participation in the permitting process so all of the facts are known before a permit is issued and all stakeholders—including citizens who own wells, fish streams and use drinking water—have the right to be heard.

July 26, 2011

Year After Oil Spill, Green Groups Urge Upton, Walberg to Put Residents First, End Attacks on EPA

Year After Oil Spill, Green Groups Urge Upton, Walberg
to Put Residents First, End Attacks on EPA

EPA is critical to protecting air, water and must be allowed to do its job

GALESBURG 26 July 2011 – Michigan’s top environmental groups today recognized the one-year mark of the massive oil spill in the Kalamazoo River by calling on Congressmen Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) and Tim Walberg (R-Tipton) to do everything in their power to prevent future spills and support the Environmental Protection Agency in its mission to protect and clean up our water, air and land. Representatives of Clean Water Action, the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation held a media event today at River Oaks County Park alongside a closed section of the Kalamazoo River that is still undergoing clean-up efforts.

"The fact of the matter is that Congressmen Upton and Walberg should know better than anyone in Congress that the EPA is critical to protecting the water we drink and the air that we breathe," said Cyndi Roper, Michigan director of Clean Water Action. "Instead, they are working to weaken the EPA at the expense of the public health. The oil spill last year left people ill, destroyed property values and damaged our natural resources in ways that will be felt for years to come. It is a devastating reminder that the EPA plays a critical role in protecting our land, air and water."

The oil spill spewed nearly 850,000 gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo Watershed. Clean up is still going on, with the river remaining closed to the public. The pipeline owned by Enbridge Inc. was transporting raw tar sands oil when it ruptured a year ago. Tar sands oil is also known as diluted bitumen, which is a highly corrosive, toxic and unstable blend of crude from Alberta, Canada. In a press call last held last week, the EPA revealed that heavy metals have been found in the Kalamazoo River, and that clean-up may take much longer than first anticipated.

Upton and Walberg voted on July 13 for H.R. 2018, legislation that threatens the water quality in our lakes and rivers and the safety of our drinking water sources. The legislation would roll back key enforcement provisions of the Clean Water Act, provisions that allow the EPA to act to protect our waters and our public health. H.R. 2018 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 239 to 184. In addition to voting for the bill, Upton and Walberg voted against an amendment that would have ensured continued protection of municipal drinking water sources. In short, the bill would threaten the progress the nation has made since the 1972 Clean Water Act gave the federal government the primary role in cleaning up the nation’s waters.

"It’s difficult to imagine how the oil spill would have been managed without the EPA overseeing the cleanup," said Rita Chapman, the clean water program director for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. "As incomplete as the cleanup still is today, it would have been far worse without the EPA. People want our lakes and rivers to be safe for swimming, fishing and boating, and certainly we all expect to have clean sources of drinking water. It’s outrageous that Representatives Walberg and Upton would limit clean water protections, especially with the effects of last year’s oil spill still being felt so acutely by the very people they represent in Congress."

Upton, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also is working to accelerate the construction of another tar sands pipeline that will run from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast – a span of more than 2,000 miles. TransCanada, a Canadian pipeline company, has proposed a pipeline called Keystone XL, which would carry up to 900,000 barrels per day of tar sands oil right through the Ogallala Aquifer and six American heartland states, including Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

"Before any pipeline project gains approval, like the Keystone XL, we need to fully understand what happened with the Enbridge tar sands pipeline and the dozens of other pipeline spills that have happened in the last year," said Beth Wallace, Community Outreach Regional Coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. "Congress needs to focus on increased pipeline safety to ensure that our communities, natural resources and wildlife will never face another oil spill disaster like the one in the Kalamazoo River. We call on Congressman Upton and Congressman Walberg to put the health and safety of Michigan residents first, rather than Big Oil special interests."

July 21, 2011

Bloomberg Philanthropies commits $50 million to Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign to move America toward cleaner energy

July 21, 2011

Bloomberg Philanthropies commits $50 million
to Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign
to move America toward cleaner energy

Grant a 'game changer' that will effectively retire one-third of the nation's aging coal fleet by 2020 

Alexandria, VA. Today the Sierra Club announced a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies that will effectively retire one-third of the nation's aging coal fleet by 2020, replacing it with clean energy. The partnership includes a $50 million commitment over four years to the Beyond Coal Campaign that will fuel the Sierra Club's effort to clean the air, end the coal era, and accelerate the transition to cleaner, cost-effective energy sources.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune was joined for today’s announcement by Michael R. Bloomberg. They appeared outside a coal-fired plant in Alexandria, Virginia.

In the U.S., coal is the leading cause of greenhouse-gas emissions, and coal’s pollution contributes to four out of the five leading causes of mortality -- heart disease, cancer, stroke, and respiratory illness. Coal emits almost half of all U.S. mercury pollution, which causes developmental problems in babies and young children, as well as being a major contributor to asthma attacks. Coal pollution causes $100 billion in health costs annually.

"If we are going to get serious about reducing our carbon footprint in the United States, we have to get serious about coal. Ending coal power production is the right thing to do, because, while it may seem to be an inexpensive energy source, the impact on our environment and the impact on public health is significant," said Bloomberg. "Coal is a self-inflicted public health risk, polluting the air we breathe, adding mercury to our water, and the leading cause of climate disruption."

Bloomberg added: "The Beyond Coal Campaign has had great success in stopping more than 150 new coal-fired power plants over the past few years and is empowering local communities to lead from the front while Congress continues to watch from the back. That is why I'm pleased to support the Sierra Club and its allies, and I encourage others to do the same."

The $50 million grant will fill a significant portion of the campaign's projected $150 million four-year budget and will have a significant impact in advancing the efforts of the Beyond Coal campaign.

The partnership will play a key role in helping the Sierra Club achieve their impact goals of:
  • Cutting 30% of coal production by 2020
  • Reducing mercury pollution from coal by 90% by 2020
  • Replacing a majority of coal with clean energy
From an organizational perspective it will:
  • Increase the number of Sierra Club campaign states from 15 to 45
  • Increase the active member and supporter base from 1.4 million to 2.4 million people
  • Double the size of full-time Sierra Club staff working on the campaign from 100 to 200
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune thanked Bloomberg for the grant, calling it a "game changer" in the fight against coal. He also praised Bloomber's farsighted vision and understanding of how protecting public health, developing innovative energy sources, and addressing climate change are all inextricably linked. He also welcomed his business savvy and track record for success to the campaign.

"This partnership will help the Sierra Club to work with communities nationwide as they tell one coal plant after another that inflicting asthma and other diseases on their children is unacceptable and that they will not accept coal pollution in their neighborhoods.

"Coal relentlessly dirties our water, air, and lungs and fixing the problem cannot be left to Washington," said Brune. "Nor can coal's contributions to climate disruption be left to international bodies. Mike Bloomberg's strong clean air agenda as Mayor of New York, and his Chairmanship of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, shows that he understands that actions are being taken, and that the most significant ongoing successes will be won city by city, by dedicated people across America."

Beyond Coal campaign successes to date include:
  • The campaign has stopped 153 new coal-fired power plants from being built, preserving market space for clean energy.
  • Nearly 10% of the current coal fleet is now slated for retirement.
  • New mountaintop removal mining permits have slowed to a trickle.
  • Victories at 16 colleges and universities, where Sierra Student Coalition members have won fights to shut down coal plants on their campuses.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people mobilized in support of strong clean air and water protections
  • The biggest clean air agreement in the history of the Southeast with the TVA settlement.
Studies show that replacing coal's pollution with clean energy is possible and as coal prices are going up, wind and solar are coming down. Iowa already gets more than 15% of its energy from wind power, and San Antonio recently decided to shut down one of its dirty coal plants and install over 400 MW of solar power, what will be one of the largest solar installations in the world. Meanwhile, the green job sector is growing -- the wind industry already provides more jobs in the U.S. than the coal industry.

The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign started as a three-person campaign in 2002 and has quickly grown into a powerhouse effort that is changing the way America produces energy. In 2001, the Administration at the time met with coal industry representatives as part of a closed-door energy task force, to craft plans for a new "coal rush" -- the construction of 150 new coal-fired power plants. Had the industry prevailed in building these plants, the nation would have been locked into the use of 19th-century dirty fuels for the foreseeable future. The potential for entrepreneurs to develop wind, solar and other clean technologies would have been crippled. Working with local people in neighborhoods across the country, Sierra Club organizers began fighting Big Coal’s efforts to push through these plants. Together, they achieved one victory after another.

Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Beyond Coal Campaign, called coal "an outdated fuel that is making our kids sick and has no place in a modern energy economy."

"We're already winning in cities across the country. Community by community, people are standing up and saying no to coal, saying that they are ready for the clean energy economy. Now we’re ready to take this campaign to a whole new level."

This is the second major climate initiative by Bloomberg Philanthropies following the recent involvement and investment in the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40). Bloomberg Philanthropies is focused on climate action, taking a realistic view that progress will come not from national governments and international bodies, but instead by driving action at the city and local level. 
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Note: The press conference took place today on the Potomac River in front of the GenOn coal-fired power plant in Alexandria, Virginia. The Alexandria community has rallied around the need to end the plant’s burning of coal and is one of many localities across the country that are active partners in the Beyond Coal Campaign.

Michael Brune - Executive Director, Sierra Club
415-977-5662    Follow on Facebook and Twitter 

June 29, 2011

Citizens Criticize Snyder for Allowing Controversial Rogers City Coal Plant to Move Forward

Citizens Criticize Snyder for Allowing Controversial Rogers City Coal Plant to Move Forward

June 29, ROGERS CITY – Citizens groups today criticized the Snyder Administration for giving the green light for the construction of a highly controversial coal plant in Rogers City, saying the decision will raise costs for ratepayers who are already struggling financially and hurt public health.

In 2010, the State of Michigan said Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, which wants to build the plant, failed to show Michigan needed another coal plant to meet energy demand.
"Gov. Rick Snyder is blindly approving a dirty coal plant without considering the high cost to ratepayers and its impact on people’s health and safety," said Wayne Vermilya, from Onaway, MI "The people of Michigan have said time and time again that they do not want another coal plant. By refusing to listen to Michigan citizens, Gov. Snyder is showing that he puts Big Coal profits ahead of people’s well-being."

"This decision not only showcases the shortcomings of our permitting process and poor understanding of ‘air-quality,’ but also the Snyder Administration’s ignorance on Michigan's energy issues and job creation," said Ric Evans, a candidate for director on the Great Lakes Energy Co-op board, which is a member of the Wolverine cooperative. "There is considerably more job growth potential in energy efficiency, weatherization and clean energy technologies than any antiquated coal plant could ever produce, and for a fraction of the cost. While this decision is not all that surprising, it is still incredibly unfortunate for the people of Michigan, and especially for the folks downwind of this plant – and ultimately, we are ALL downwind of this plant."

Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative wants to build a new $2-billion dirty coal plant that will financially burden Wolverine’s 200,000 co-op members, 26 percent of whom live below the poverty line.

In 2010, the State of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources and Energy rejected a permit for Wolverine to build a coal plant in Rogers City. The DNRE said Wolverine failed to show Michigan needed another coal plant and found that any new demand for energy could be met by clean energy sources. If Wolverine built the coal plant in Rogers City, ratepayers’ bills would go up an estimated $76 a month to pay for the coal plant that wouldn’t be needed. Today’s decision by the Department of Environmental Quality effectively allows Wolverine to move forward anyway and build the coal plant.

"More coal will only send us backwards on clean energy and energy efficiency, which are the real engines of job growth across the nation and globally – not more coal," Anne Woiode, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter director said. "The citizens of Rogers City and across Michigan are united in calling on large utilities to stop building coal plants and start investing more clean energy and energy efficiency. Gov. Rick Snyder is moving Michigan backwards, not forward, with this reckless decision."

Thousands of Michigan citizens have voiced opposition to new coal plants such as the one in Rogers City. Building new coal plants would saddle ratepayers with the cost of those new facilities, even though there is no need for new coal plants in Michigan and future energy demands can be met with renewable energy sources and increased energy efficiency.
A new coal plant will also worsen air pollution, increase dangerous emissions such as mercury and carbon dioxide, and harm public health. The Rogers City coal project could also open the door to a landfill quarry for coal ash, an additional danger to public health.

June 21, 2011

CEN to Snyder: Stop Wolverine’s Pricey Coal Plant

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CONTACT: Anne Woiwode (517) 484-2372
                     Tiffany Hartung  (231)747-7489  www.sierraclub.org/coal/mi
                     Facebook: Clean Energy Now     Twitter: @BeyondCoalMI

CEN to Snyder: Stop Wolverine’s Pricey Coal Plant

State has legal duty to steer utility toward cleaner sources of power

LANSING—With a decision on permitting Wolverine Power’s proposed, unneeded Rogers City coal plant just days away, Clean Energy Now (CEN), which represents more than 250,000 Michiganders, has sent a letter to Governor Rick Snyder urging him to stop the project because it will needlessly harm air quality and significantly boost customers’ electric bills.
CEN rejects the Snyder administration’s claim that a recent court decision eliminated its power to deny a plant because it is unneeded, or when, as in Wolverine’s case, cleaner and more affordable alternatives to its proposed $2 billion-plus coal-burner are readily available. The coalition is also inviting residents to sign an online petition urging the governor to stop the plant.

 “In fact, the Snyder administration does have the legal power to point Wolverine toward a cleaner alternatives to service its customers,” according to Susan Harley of Clean Water Action, a member of CEN. “They are wrong to abandon that legal power and let the company stick its 220,000 customers with much bigger power bills—and stick Michigan’s environment with dirtier air and more greenhouse gases.”

The state originally issued a denial letter for Wolverine’s permit last year because the proposed plant was unneeded. But a state court threw out the letter because it cited only “need” as the basis for its decision.

Snyder’s Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) declined to appeal and said it would only consider recent revisions to federal clean air standards when it reevaluated Wolverine’s permit, as the court had ordered.

But MDEQ and Snyder are ignoring another part of the ruling, which allows for denying a permit if, in fact, the decision directly links lack of “need” and availability of “alternatives” to better protecting air quality.

“The law is clear that MDEQ is not required to authorize unnecessary air pollution,” according to Shannon Fisk of the Natural Resources Defense Council, also a CEN member. “The governor should ensure that MDEQ uses this authority so that we can finally be done with this dirty, unnecessary, and very expensive plant. It’s still not too late to do that, and the court that overturned the original denial says it would work.”

If the plant is built, according to the Michigan Public Service Commission, it will likely raise utility bills in many rural areas of northern, central, and western Lower Michigan by about 60 percent.

“Now is not the time for allowing a new, expensive coal plant into Michigan,” said Tiffany Hartung of Sierra Club.. “The state must tell Wolverine to do the right thing—use efficiency, renewables, and other, cleaner sources of fuel to serve its customers. If that doesn’t happen, we will all pay in many different ways, including a slowdown in the steady growth of the state’s clean energy manufacturing economy.”

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Clean Energy Now is a coalition of 11 groups that supports policies that will move Michigan beyond coal power toward greater use of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency as a way to protect the environment and build prosperity.