February 10, 2011

DEQ Urged to Reject Holland Coal Plant Permit: Health, Ratepayer Costs Too High

february 10, 2011

DEQ Urged to Reject Holland Coal Plant Permit:
Health, Ratepayer Costs Too High

Clean Energy Now – Citizens groups today called on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to reject a permit that would open the door to the unnecessary expansion of a Holland coal plant. Although the permit is back in front of the Department of Environmental Quality because of an Ottawa County Circuit Court decision, the groups point to severe flaws that require it to be denied. The groups said the Holland Board of Public Works coal plant expansion, if approved, will saddle ratepayers with higher costs, endanger public health and put the Great Lakes, land and air at risk.

“The Department of Environmental Quality should reject this dangerous and unnecessary coal plant that Holland BPW’s own studies show would cost its ratepayers $106 million more than other cleaner alternatives over the course of 20 years,” said Nicholas Schroeck,executive director, Great Lakes Environmental Law Center . “Michigan is just beginning to move out of the dark ages and into a new, clean energy future and citizens cannot afford to open the door to more dirty coal plants that can derail our efforts. We must take a stand to protect the future of Holland and all of Michigan from more polluting coal fired power plants.”

"Many Holland and Michigan citizens urge the DEQ to stand up for Michigan’s future and reject this permit, which will put people’s health at risk,” said Sara E. Leeland, PhD,  Holland resident who has been active in opposing the large-sized coal-plant.  "In fact, NEED for a double-sized coal plant is a big issue for many of us.  We expect the world-class 40-year sustainable energy plan now underway to show that Holland's long-term need will be for up to 50% less electricity than now used, not double the amount.   A larger plant would likely be used to make profits by feeding electricity into the grid.  Since the pollution created drifts directly across the population center of the city that would be choosing city profit over health." 

The citizens groups said the DEQ must reject the permit on the following grounds:
  • Cleaner, feasible and more prudent energy alternatives to the coal plant expansion requires the DEQ to reject the permit in light of the risk to air quality that a coal plant expansion will pose. 
  • Citizens have identified many problems related to the coal plant expansion that the Holland BPW must address and comply with by the time a decision is made on the permit.
  • The DEQ must substantially re-draft the terms and conditions of the permit, re-publicize the revised permit draft and give the public an opportunity to comment on it if the DEQ moves forward and issues a permit for the expansion.
 NOTE: Documents submitted to the Michigan DEQ calling for the denial of the Holland Board of Public Works proposed coal plant permit can be found here:

Senate Agriculture Committee Gives Agricultural Polluters “Permission to Pollute”

February 10, 2011 

Senate Agriculture Committee Gives Agricultural Polluters
“Permission to Pollute”

The reality of Pure Michigan was put at risk today by a package of bills that were rushed through the Senate Agriculture Committee. According to their supporters, Senate Bills 122 and 123 will encourage Michigan farmers to participate in a voluntary pollution prevent program. Ironically, the bills provide a ‘Get Out Of Jail FREE’ card for livestock facilities that pollute Michigan’s waters with animal sewage. The bills were just introduced yesterday, leaving no time for clean water and public health advocates to respond with their comments and expertise.

For years the Farm Bureau and agriculture advocates have tried to put their Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) into law, to gain recognition and funding. Yet once again they’ve tarnished an otherwise valuable program with provisions that significantly lower environmental and public health protections, leading to more animal waste in Michigan’s lakes and streams.

There are 53,000 farms in Michigan; 2,200 of those facilities are livestock operations and 200-250 of those are massive and polluting Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) or animal factories. CAFOs are the only segment of Michigan’s agricultural industry which requires any environmental permitting. As such, the “permission to pollute” provision only benefits livestock operations subject to CAFO permitting requirements because of water quality violations, less than ½ of 1% of Michigan’s farming community.

The MAEAP program does have value and may help farmers better manage their environmental risks. However, the cost to become “verified” in the program runs between $25,000 and $100,000. Small farmers simply can’t afford the price tag. If the primary incentive in the legislation is a “free pass to pollute” for CAFOs, it’s hard to see how the Farm Bureau will reach its goal of increasing MAEAP participation by 500% with this package of bills.

Unlike in previous years, the bills don’t attempt to remove the obligation for CAFOs to obtain a permit as required by state and federal law. However, by severely weakening pollution standards, the MAEAP program would increase pollution from CAFOs and reduce penalties and fines for polluters. The bills also potentially put Michigan’s delegated authority to implement the Clean Water Act at risk, which would harm Michigan’s economic recovery. The House Agriculture Committee plans to take up the bills next week.

This package of bills may be the first to test Governor Snyder’s promise not to weaken pollution standards for CAFOs and his campaign promise of a “Pure Michigan.”  Signing these bills into law would certainly violate that pledge.

February 3, 2011

Citizens Urge Snyder Administration to Block Flawed Rogers City Coal Permit

February 3, 2011

Citizens Urge Snyder Administration to Block Flawed Rogers City Coal Permit

Groups Call on Wolverine Power to Protect Ratepayers By
Cancelling Unnecessary $ 2 Billion Coal Plant

LANSING – Citizens groups today called on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment to block Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative’s proposed Rogers City coal plant. The groups said blocking the coal plant will protect Michigan’s environment, public health and ratepayers throughout the northern Lower Peninsula who may be saddled with massive, unneeded electric rate hikes.

The groups noted that the state is declining to stand up for an earlier DNRE decision to deny an air permit to Wolverine.  A recent court decision said the DNRE failed to base its permit denial on specific air quality concerns.  DNRE can and should correct that error in denying the permit again or, if the agency decides to issue a permit for the unnecessary plant, it must apply stringent new limits for greenhouse gases and other pollutants that threaten public health.

“Wolverine Power’s permit application ought to be denied for a long laundry list of reasons,” said Anne Woiwode, Director of the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club. “The DNRE should not act like a rubber stamp for Big Coal. The best way for the DNRE to prove that it puts people ahead of Big Coal profits is to stand by its original decision, deny Wolverine’s permit based on the overwhelming documentation and stop coal plants from proliferating in Michigan.”

While the DNRE has said they will not appeal the decision, it will comply with the court’s remand of the permit to the agency for additional consideration and a decision on whether to issue or deny the permit.  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.

If Wolverine built the unneeded 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. In fact, Wolverine has already spent $22 million of co-op owner members’ money on the proposed coal plant which could be put on the backs of ratepayers.

"Wolverine and it’s member co-ops, Great Lakes Energy, Cherryland Electric, HomeWorks Tri-County Electric and Presque Isle Electric & Gas, have a chance to cut their losses now and move forward," said PIE&G member Wayne Vermilya of Onaway.  "It’s time for Wolverine and it’s co-op members to move on toward lower cost options, like energy efficiency and clean energy, that will create good Michigan jobs and help co-op members keep paying their bills."

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.

“We urge the DNRE to stand up for families in northeast Michigan, who want clean energy jobs and healthy air, not more coal plant pollution” said Shannon Fisk, senior attorney at the Midwest Office of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The Missaukee County court’s ruling allows DNRE to reject unnecessary coal plant pollution due to specific air quality concerns, and we urge the agency to do so here.”