April 14, 2011

Clean Energy Now Calls on DEQ to Reject Wolverine Permit

April 14, 2011  
Contact: Leigh Fifelski 517.999.3646

Clean Energy Now Calls on DEQ to Reject Wolverine Permit  

Unneeded Coal Plant Will Be Costly to Customers, State’s Economic Future, and Public Health


Citizen groups representing tens of thousands of Michiganders who support transforming their state’s crippled manufacturing sector into a clean-energy world leader called on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to reject Wolverine Power Supply Co-Operative’s proposed Rogers City coal plant air pollution permit.

Members of the Clean Energy Now Coalition warn that the dirty, unnecessary plant would hike electricity rates by 60 percent in north and central Michigan, where poverty, unemployment, and the cost of living rates are sky high, and saddle small co-ops there with a huge, multi-generation debt.

“Wolverine has already spent well over $22 million to sell this bad, outmoded idea, and still refuses to disclose where that money is going,” said Sue Harley, of Clean Water Action. “The company is throwing away lots of its members’ money on a wasteful dream that will drain pocketbooks and damage our Great Lakes with mercury and other toxics.”

Anne Woiwode, of the Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter, added: “People in northern Michigan cannot afford this coal and pet coke plant. Not only does the company not need it, much cheaper, cleaner alternatives are readily available.”

MDEQ first turned down Wolverine’s proposal last May, saying the co-op had no need for it and warning that it would raise customers’ average monthly bills by $70. This February a state court ruled DEQ could not base its permit denial on need and ordered a prompt reconsideration.

But the court also said that if DEQ’s denial had directly tied Wolverine’s clear opportunity to use other, cleaner options—efficiency, wind and other clean energy options—to better protecting air and water quality, it would have been legal.

“MDEQ’s refusal to use its authority to reject unnecessary degradation of air quality is very unfortunate for the utility’s customers, public health, and efforts to build a clean-energy economy,” said Shannon Fisk, of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “As Consumers Energy recently discovered, new coal power is now more expensive than new wind power, and this decision points us in the wrong direction.”

CEN members are pressing Wolverine to reconsider its five-year-old plan, which has not been revised even  as other American companies have cancelled more than 150 coal plant proposals due to their severe financial risks, which convinced investment firms that new coal is a bad financial bet.

“Wolverine has given no indication that it is seriously considering cheaper, cleaner alternatives,” noted Wayne Vermilya, Allis Township resident. “When is this company going to face reality, and use efficiency and renewables to give its customers and the environment a much better deal?”

April 13, 2011

Comments by Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Director at We ARE the People Rally


Comments by Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Director
April 13, 2011, at the “We ARE the People Rally”, Michigan State Capitol, Lansing, MI

As the manufacturing capital of the world, Michigan was also the world’s best at protecting our air, our water, our natural resources and our public health.

That wasn’t a fluke – it was because union members and conservationists stood shoulder to shoulder to move our state forward.

Workers and environmentalists demanded safe and clean work places and made sure that toxics didn’t get dumped.

Top notch professionals were hired to protect our water and air, and manage our natural resources, because this was an investment in our economy and our children’s future.

It’s time for Michigan to get back on track – which won’t happen if politicians take away collective bargaining rights that give workers a way to demand safe and healthy conditions; it won’t happen by undermining our air and water quality laws while cutting funding for those who are there to protect us.

I am proud today to represent not just Sierra Club but the BlueGreen Alliance – 10 of America’s largest labor unions and four of America’s most influential environmental organizations.

The BlueGreen Alliance has come together because WE KNOW that TOGETHER we can create good jobs that are safe for workers, for communities and for the environment.

Here is how we’ll do it. Investments in the jobs and industries of the 21st Century, including renewable energy, efficiency, and transportation infrastructure; will fix the American economy and create good middle-class jobs in our state, positioning us to compete in the 21st century economy.

Strong clean energy policies and leadership in Michigan brought over $10 billion of investments and created more than 100,000 jobs here in the past few years: we need to do a lot more of that, not less.

We know as well that efforts to reverse progress on clean energy, attempts by politicians in Washington to curb the federal government’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and threats to bargaining rights don’t create jobs.

Our leaders in Lansing and in Washington, DC should focus on our skilled workers, infrastructure and strength of the people of our state by putting Michiganders back to work.

Michigan must make smart investments that will secure our energy future and protect our environment for our children and our grandchildren.

But right now, our state and our country are standing still while China and Europe take the lead—and the jobs that come with it.

We can and must compete for those jobs. We can and must win them. The future of our children and grandchildren depends on us winning.

That’s why union members, environmentalists, community members and private-sector allies, are working together on the Jobs21! Campaign – calling for creating good jobs through investments in industries of the future.

But just creating jobs isn’t enough. We want to them to be good jobs that strengthen our economy and our communities — jobs that improve health and safety in the workplace, protect our air, water and land, safeguard public health, and pay a living wage.

This is a fight for our future and a fight we must win: to make America competitive in the 21st century economy, to ensure the revitalization of America’s middle class, and to invest in solutions that will protect the environment for the next generation.

Join with the BlueGreen Alliance and the Jobs21! Campaign. Together we can create good jobs and to build a stronger and more competitive America.

April 7, 2011

DNR to Propose Closing 23 State Forest Campgrounds

April 7, 2011
Contact: Mary Dettloff, 517-335-3014

DNR to Propose Closing 23 State Forest Campgrounds

The order to close the 23 campgrounds will be submitted as a proposal at today's Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) meeting in Lansing, and will be eligible for action by DNR Director Rodney Stokes at the NRC's May 12 meeting in Flint. If approved at the May meeting, the closures would be effective on May 19, 2011.

The Department of Natural Resources today announced that the state's Forest Recreation Program has seen a 63-percent decrease in funding in the last three years, resulting in the need for the department to close 23 under-performing state forest campgrounds in the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula.

State forest campgrounds are not state parks. State forest campgrounds are rustic sites with fewer amenities than a state park. They are unstaffed and provide a more rustic, tent camping experience. Every state forest campground is located on a river or lake, and more than 60 campgrounds have nearby pathways for non-motorized trail recreation, such as hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature observation. Accommodations range from five to 50 campsites, with group sites available. All campgrounds have vault toilets and potable water from hand pumps.

General Fund support for state forest recreation programs, such as the state forest campgrounds, has been reduced every year since 2009, when $72,200 was cut. In 2010, $24,100 was cut from the program, and in Fiscal Year 2011, the program is targeted for a $314,700 General Fund reduction.

"While revenue has remained even in the last decade, due to camping fee increases in 2002 and in 2007, state forest campground fees are now at the high end of the market at $15 a night per individual site," said Cara Boucher, assistant chief of the DNR's Forest Management Division. "Meanwhile, the number of registrations and campers has steadily dropped over the same period. Given the long-term trend of declining use and the inability to raise camp fee revenues, the only way to absorb the current cut in General Fund support is to close some campgrounds."

To address the reduced camping demand and insufficient funding to maintain all state forest campgrounds, the DNR will close underutilized campgrounds, Boucher said.

"We will preserve the campgrounds that perform well, and provide a diverse selection for the campers," Boucher said. "The campgrounds targeted for closure are under-performing and close to other state forest campgrounds, so we can still provide camping opportunities in those areas."

Currently, the highest-performing state forest campground generates more than $40,000 a year annually in revenue, while the lowest-performing generates just over $300 a year.

The campgrounds targeted for closure are:
  • Beaufort and Big Lake state forest campgrounds - Baraga County
  • Black Lake Trail Camp - Cheboygan County
  • Lime Island State Forest Campground and Cabins and Munuscong River State Forest Campground - Chippewa County
  • Manistee River Bridge State Forest Campground - Crawford County
  • Deer Lake State Forest Campground - Iron County
  • Bray Creek State Forest Campground - Lake County
  • Blind Sucker #1, High Bridge, Holland Lake, Natalie and Reed & Green Bridge state forest campgrounds - Luce County
  • Black River State Forest Campground - Mackinac County
  • Little Wolf Lake State Forest Campground - Montmorency County
  • McCollum Lake State Forest Campground - Oscoda County
  • Pigeon Bridge and Round Lake state forest campgrounds - Otsego County
  • Canoe Lake, Cusino Lake, Mead Creek and South Gemini Lake state forest campgrounds - Schoolcraft County
  • Long Lake State Forest Campground - Wexford County
To read the informational memo on the state forest campground closures provided to the NRC at the April 7 meeting, go to the NRC's website at www.michigan.gov/nrc and click on Agendas and Minutes to find the April 7 agenda. To read the memo, click on the box for the order on page two of the agenda.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

Senate Defeats Multiple Assaults on Clean Air Act

April 7, 2011
Contact: Tiffany Hartung (231) 747-7489

Senate Defeats Multiple Assaults on Clean Air Act

Senators Stabenow and Levin Vote Against Clean Air and Water

Washington, D.C. - Yesterday, the U.S. Senate beat back multiple assaults on the Clean Air Act and attempts to handcuff the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to protect Americans from toxic pollution.

Senator Stabenow sponsored and voted in support of the Stabenow/Brown amendment block EPA's permitting authority for the largest polluters for two years.  This amendment would allow EPA to issue standards for power plants and refineries but would delay the legal effectiveness of these regulations for two years.

Senator Levin voted in support of the Baucus amendment which needlessly limits the facilities regulated under the EPA's permitting authority for global warming pollution.  This bill allows EPA to proceed with power plant and refinery regulations.
The most egregious of the attacks, offered by Senator McConnell, would permanently remove EPA authority over GHG emissions and weaken fuel economy standards, failed 50 to 50. Other bills which would needlessly delay, block or narrow EPA's commonsense public health protections received limited support. 

Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Director Anne Woiwode released the following statement in response to today's vote:
"The Senate's defeat of four bills aimed at gutting the Clean Air Act demonstrates a short-term victory for Americans who want clean air and safe drinking water.

"Had this attack on the CAA been successful, it would have put the health of millions of Americans at risk. Senators Levin and Stabenow and other legislators who voted in favor of any of these bills owe an explanation to their constituents about why they have voted for the interests of corporate polluters over the health and well-being of their communities. The message is clear: Sen. Levin and Stabenow believe oil and coal companies' profits are more important than clean air and water.

"Unfortunately, the battle for Americans' health, air and water, is not over. Corporate polluters and their friends in Congress are pushing a dangerous agenda to gut the Clean Air Act, and are holding EPA health protections hostage in the must-pass federal budget negotiations this week.

"Even more outrageous, this polluter-funded effort to hijack the budget will include generous government handouts to Big Oil and other corporate interests.  Polluters' grab for taxpayer dollars will do nothing to create jobs and will put our health at risk.

"We urge Congress to reject this political gambit that endangers millions of Americans and jeopardizes our economy, and we urge President Obama to veto any legislation aimed at gutting the Clean Air Act."

McConnell Amendment #183:Total Supporting - 50
Republicans Supporting: Scott Brown, Kirk, Snowe,
Democrats Opposing: Manchin, Ben Nelson, Pryor, Landrieu,
Republicans Opposing: Collins voted against


Rockefeller Amendment  #215:Total Supporting - 12
Scott Brown, Collins, Johnson, Conrad, Landrieu, Manchin, McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Pryor, Rockefeller, Webb, Graham

Stabenow-Brown  #277:Total Supporting - 7
Sherrod Brown, Casey, Johnson, Pryor, Stabenow, Conrad, Klobuchar


Baucus #236:Total Supporting - 7
Baucus, Hagan, Conrad, Klobuchar, Begich, Johnson, Levin

Senator Stabenow and Senator Levin Side With Polluters Over Michiganders’ Health

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Nicole Lowen, (734)662-9797, nlowen@environmentmichigan.org

Ann Arbor — Today, Senator Stabenow and Senator Levin voted for a dangerous attack on Michiganders’ health that would block the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to clean up dangerous carbon dioxide pollution. Four proposals—dubbed “The Filthy Four”—that would have prevented the clean-up of carbon dioxide pollution were considered and blocked in the U.S. Senate.

“Today Michigan’s U.S. Senators had a choice: stand up for the health of our children, elderly citizens and other vulnerable populations, or do the bidding of America’s biggest polluters,” said Nicole Lowen, State Associate with Environment Michigan. “Unfortunately, Senator Stabenow and Senator Levin sided with polluters at the expense of Michiganders’ health and our environment.”

Public health groups urged Congress to reject The Filthy Four. The American Lung Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Thoracic Society, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and others in the public health community sent letters to Congress in recent weeks opposing all of these proposals and other attacks on the Clean Air Act. And last week, 155 Representatives—including Representatives Clarke, Conyers, Dingell, Kildee, Levin, and Peters—and 34 Senators signed onto a letter and a resolution, respectively, each pointing to the success of the Clean Air Act and calling for it to be protected.

“Global warming presents serious threats to Michigander’s health, our economy, and our future. The year 2010 tied as the hottest year on record globally, and if left unchecked, global warming will lead to more deadly heat waves, more asthma attacks, the spread of infectious disease, and more frequent and intense storms,” said Lowen.

“Rather than heeding the science and letting the EPA do its job to protect public health and our environment, these proposals’ supporters want to give the biggest polluters a free pass to keep polluting and threatening our health,” concluded Lowen.

BACKGROUND

Just as EPA is poised to finally clean up the largest sources of pollution through the Clean Air Act, polluting industries and some in Congress are trying to block EPA from doing its job. This assault on public health came to a climax today when the Senate voted on proposals that would have blocked or weakened the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to clean up carbon dioxide pollution.
In the Senate, four proposals—dubbed The Filthy Four—were considered as amendments to an unrelated small business bill (S. 493), though none of these amendments received the necessary 60 votes to move forward:
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered an amendment that mirrored Sen. Inhofe’s bill (S. 482) to block EPA from cleaning up dangerous carbon dioxide pollution, overturn scientific findings regarding the threats posed by global warming, and block EPA and the states from cutting carbon dioxide pollution and saving oil through clean car standards.
    • Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) offered an
      amendment that would block the implementation of standards to cut carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other industrial sources for at least two years, while exempting the agricultural sector from limits on carbon dioxide pollution.
    • Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) offered an amendment that would block the EPA’s ability to set standards—or even do research and gather stakeholder input to develop standards—to cut carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other industrial sources for at least two years.
    • Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) offered an amendment that would block the clean-up of global warming pollution from biomass facilities, and would permanently exempt even the very largest sources of global warming pollution from having to clean up their global warming pollution unless the source is also a very large source of other pollutants. Senator Levin voted for this amendment.

    In the House of Representatives, Representative Fred Upton’s (D-MI) bill H.R. 910, dubbed the Dirty Air Act, is expected to be voted on today in the full House.

    • Representative Upton’s Dirty Air Act mirrors Sen. McConnell’s amendment described above, and would do at least three dangerous things:
      • Block EPA from cutting carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants from coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other industrial sources. Coal- fired power plants are the largest single source of global warming pollution in the United States.
      • Overturn EPA’s “endangerment finding” regarding global warming pollution— the determination by EPA scientists that global warming pollution poses threats to public health and welfare—essentially saying that Congress knows climate science better than the climate scientists themselves.
      • Block EPA—and states—from issuing new standards for cleaner vehicles after 2017, and open up the 2012-2016 federal clean car standards to serious legal challenges. These standards are regarded as one of the easiest ways to cut our reliance on oil and save consumers money at the gas pump.

    ______________________________________________________________________
    
    Environment Michigan is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization committed to clean air, clean water and open spaces www.environmentmichigan.org 

    April 6, 2011

    Michigan US Representatives Upton, Rogers, Amash, Benishek, Camp, Huizenga, Miller, McCotter, Walberg, and Others in U.S. Congress Shill for Polluters, Endangering Americans’ Health

    April 6, 2011
    Contact: Tiffany Hartung, (O) 231-747-7489, (C) 248-933-2451

    Michigan US Representatives Upton, Rogers, Amash, Benishek, Camp, Huizenga, Miller, McCotter, Walberg, and Others in U.S. Congress Shill for Polluters, Endangering Americans’ Health

    Upton Bill Passes 254-172
     

    (Lansing, MI) – Today Michigan US Representatives Upton, Rogers, Amash, Benishek, Camp, Huizenga, Miller, McCotter, Walberg and other members of Congress approved legislation that strips the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to protect the public health of millions of Americans from big polluters. The bill, introduced by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), prohibits the EPA from enforcing safeguards against dangerous carbon pollution, guts the Clean Air Act and threatens the health and well-being of American families.

    In response, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Director Anne Woiwode released the following statement:

    “Today, at the expense of millions of Michigan residents who suffer from asthma, respiratory illness and other pollution-related disease, Representative Upton moved his bill in the US House and he and Representatives Rogers, Amash, Benishek, Camp, Huizenga, Miller, McCotter, Walberg and others voted for it, voting for higher profits for greedy corporate polluters, and dirtier air and water, more health problems, and more jobs shipped overseas, for the rest of us.

    “Yesterday’s narrow defeat of 4 bills aimed at gutting the Clean Air Act in the Senate demonstrates a short-term victory for clean air, safe drinking water, and health.  Shameful pro-polluter votes like Representatives Upton, Rogers, Amash, Benishek, Camp, Huizenga, Miller, McCotter, Walberg today continue to put the health of millions of Americans at risk.
    “Since day one of the 112th Congress, members of the Republican leadership like Fred Upton have been tasked by their polluter campaign contributors with gutting essential health protections like the Clean Air Act and abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to protect us from life-threatening pollution.

    “We urge the Senate to stand its ground for our health, our economy and our environment by rejecting this damaging and dangerous legislation.”