March 10, 2011

Michigan Citizens, Families Urge Congress: Don't Cut Vital U.S. Heating Assistance Plan

March 10, 2011
Contact: Michelle Martinez:  313-443-1046

Michigan Citizens, Families Urge Congress:
Don't Cut Vital U.S. Heating Assistance Plan

LANSING - As utilities continue to raise energy rates, Michigan citizens and families today called on Congress to protect a federal heating relief assistance program that lawmakers are considering slashing.

The program, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), assists low-income households and families in need meet their immediate home energy needs. Generally, qualifying families are those who pay the highest proportion of their household incomes on home energy bills.

"Families across Michigan are struggling in this tough economy, and cutting this essential relief program will be devastating," said Ann Grimmett of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. "Costs are going up every day, for everything from food to fuel to heating costs. While utilities raise rates, federal support for LIHEAP is more important now more than ever."

Comments from citizens at the hearing will be passed along to Congress, which is considering slashing LIHEAP funding by as much as 30 percent. The hearing was hosted by the Michigan Public Services Commission.

"The reason Michigan families are paying more and more for energy is because of our dependence on coal, which is a reminder to the Snyder Administration that it must invest in more homegrown, affordable renewable energy," said Michelle Martinez of the Sierra Club. "We need to slam the brakes on rising energy costs and energy efficiency is the cheapest form of energy available. Michigan can help our fellow citizens by creating clean energy jobs that can't be outsourced, invest in our homes, and keep Michigan families warm."

"Michigan households spent almost double on energy in 2010 than in 2000 - and we keep paying higher and higher prices when we burn coal," said Robin Douglas, a DTE energy consumer activist. "Gov. Rick Snyder has an opportunity to send a clear signal that he supports all families, by investing taxpayers' hard earned money on wind and solar energy and more energy efficiency programs. These are investments that create jobs, protect ratepayers from price spikes and help build a stronger future."

"Michigan families need LIHEAP energy assistance because our most vulnerable populations are paying for energy twice: once on their electric bill, and then again at the hospital when they get asthma from the pollution as a result of living around coal plants," said Michelle Ali Danar, an energy specialist. "These vulnerable citizens are paying unfair taxes and not seeing any of the benefits."

"As energy costs go up, Gov. Rick Snyder has a golden opportunity to break Michigan's unhealthy dependence on coal and keep our dollars here in Michigan, by investing in clean energy and energy efficiency," said Susan Harley of Clean Water Action. "Michigan has an opportunity to build a clean energy future that strengthens our economy while protecting ratepayers and our most vulnerable citizens. High energy costs that hit consumers is a warning that Michigan must grow our clean energy economy now." 

March 9, 2011

More than 160 Michigan Scientists Tell Congress: Let EPA do its Job, Stop Attacks

March 9, 2011
Contact: Azlan Ibrahim, (517) 333-1606 

More than 160 Michigan Scientists Tell Congress: Let EPA do its Job, Stop Attacks

MI scientists: Assault on EPA threatens public health, economy

LANSING - More than 160 scientists from universities across Michigan today called on Michigan's congressional delegation to oppose further attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency's authority, calling the EPA essential to protecting the public health.

"For more than 40 years, the EPA has protected public health and safety by holding polluters accountable - and it should be allowed to continue doing its job," said Knute Nadelhoffer, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan. "Scientists across Michigan stand united with scientists at the EPA and across the nation. Science, not politics, must drive our fight against dangerous pollution."
Nadelhoffer testified before Congress on Tuesday about the importance of allowing the EPA to set greenhouse gas emission standards under the Clean Air Act.

The scientists' letter states: "We strongly urge you to reject any measure that would block or delay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from protecting the people of Michigan from air pollution and human caused climate change, both of which put our health, agriculture, environment and economy at risk." [The letter is attached below.]
The scientists are continuing to circulate the letter to more researchers and scientists across the state, with the goal of building momentum and raising their voices to Congress.

"Michigan scientists urge Congress to defend Michigan citizens, not polluters," said David Karowe, professor of biological sciences at Western Michigan University. "By taking away or weakening the EPA's authority to fight greenhouse gas pollution, Congress is endangering the public health by increasing the likelihood of deadly heat waves, floods, and droughts."

"In the long run, climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions is going to be extremely costly to Michigan's economy, so we need to consider the long-term risk against the short-term costs," said Stephen Hamilton, professor of ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry at W.K. Kellogg Biological Station of Michigan State University. "And each year that we delay action commits us to more severe climate change well into the future, because greenhouse gas effects will persist for a very long time."

"Greenhouse gas pollution is a threat to our families' health and safety, and it endangers important industries from agriculture to tourism," said Steve Bertman, WMU chemistry professor and an expert on atmospheric chemistry. "The science is clear: Greenhouse gas pollution harms our air, land and water.  Ultimately, it will be the growing industries of alternative energy that will bring innovation and jobs back to Michigan. We should be doing everything we can to support these jobs of the future rather than upholding outdated technologies of the past."

"I am proud to stand with my fellow scientists in sending this message to Congress: Let science, not politics, determine how we set standards on greenhouse gas emissions," said Sarah Green, chair of the chemistry department at Michigan Technological University.  "As Congress begins the debate on the Clean Air Act, it is vital that they hear from scientists - and more than 160 of us in Michigan are ready to make our voices heard."

"The EPA does important life-saving work to protect public health," said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center and an adjunct environmental law professor at the University of Michigan. "These Michigan scientists fully support the EPA's setting sensible clean air standards to reduce greenhouse gases and other pollution that harm our health. Congress should work to reduce pollution, not open the floodgates to more toxic pollution that puts Michigan's future and our health at risk."

Among the facts the Michigan scientists highlighted in their letter:

  • The Clean Air Act requires that EPA work to reduce smog and soot pollution, air toxics, and global warming pollution that together cost the people of Michigan and America billions of dollars in health care and other costs.
  • Clean air rules can create more than 62,300 construction, installation and professional jobs in Michigan in the next five years.
  • Michigan's Big Three have already publicly supported EPA rules to reduce emissions in new vehicles.Clean air regulations save consumers millions of dollars in gas costs, reduce oil consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 960 million metric tons.
  • Signatories of the letter included scientists and researchers from the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University, Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Michigan Technological University, Grand Valley State University, Ferris State University, and Hope College, Kalamazoo College and Calvin College, as well as scientists with other institutions doing research in Michigan.
  • A recent statewide poll showed Michigan voters overwhelmingly support the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from large industrial sources. According to the poll of 500 Michigan voters by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, 68 percent of voters support the EPA's authority, compared with only 27 percent.
  • Last week, the EPA released a report showing that the Clean Air Act will have saved $2 trillion by 2020 and prevented at least 230,000 deaths annually. By 2020, complying with the amendments would prevent 200,000 heart attacks, 17 million lost work days and 2.4 million asthma attacks, according to the report.

March 8, 2011

First 2 Snyder Laws Weaken Protections for Michigan's Water

March 8, 2011
Cyndi Roper 517-999-3646
Anne Woiwode 517-484-2372
David Holtz 313-300-4454

First 2 Snyder Laws Weaken Protections for Michigan's Water

LANSING - Citizens groups criticized Gov. Rick Snyder for weakening federal water standards when he signed legislation today affecting the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program - the first bills he is signing into law as governor.

"The Snyder Administration is opening the door to more threats against Michigan's water supply, and closing the door to more accountability," said Anne Woiwode, Director of the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club. "This new law is reversing course in our state after eight years of bringing dangerous pollution from livestock operations under better control. This is a recipe for disaster and we will ask the Environmental Protection Agency to review the law to determine whether it violates federal statues."

Snyder signed into law House Bill 4212 and Senate Bill 122,  allow agricultural operations under the voluntary Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) to meet lower water quality standards than any other water users.  Discharges of livestock wastes and other agricultural contaminants from these unpermitted facilities can cause sickness, fish kills and other damage to the environment.  Permits and regulations for the largest concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) will remain unchanged, but operations just one cow or one pig fewer would not have to meet the same requirements to prevent pollution and pay fines.

"Gov. Snyder's first significant act as governor is to sign into law loopholes in water protection regulations - and that's extremely disappointing for Michigan families and small businesses that depend on healthy lakes and natural resources," said Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director of Clean Water Action. "Michigan citizens have said time and time again that they want more protections for our Great Lakes and water, not less. Unfortunately, Gov. Snyder is turning a deaf ear to the people of Michigan and putting our most precious natural resource at risk."

"The governor's decision to weaken Michigan's effort to protect our water sends the wrong signal to Michigan industries, from tourism and fishing to manufacturing," said David Holtz, executive director of Progress Michigan. "Michigan's lakes, rivers and streams are the engine of our economy, and we must do everything in our power to protect it. Instead, this new law sends Michigan backwards and endangers local economies and our families' quality of life."