May 25, 2011

Michigan’s Union Members & Environmentalists Call for Jobs Plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Eric Steen, erics@bluegreenalliance.org, 612-466-4488

Michigan’s Union Members & Environmentalists Call for Jobs Plan 

Environmentalists Call for End to Assault on Workers’ Rights, Hailing Michigan’s Union Workers as “Guardians of the Environment” 

LANSING, MI (May 25, 2011) Members and representatives from the state’s top environmental organizations — the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Clean Water Action — today joined with Michigan labor leaders to call for an end to recent attacks on workers’ rights — declaring that union workers are Michigan’s guardians of the environment. The labor and environmental leaders, led by BlueGreen Alliance Jobs21! Co-Chair and former Michigan Congressman Mark Schauer, called for a statewide plan to preserve and create the jobs of the 21st century economy in Michigan.

“We are proud to stand here alongside our union brothers and sisters to call for an end to the anti-workers attacks in Lansing,” said Anne Woiwode, State Director for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “In this down economy, we should be focusing on how to create good jobs and revitalize Michigan’s economy — and how to ensure a healthy environment for our children and our grandchildren — not how to further deny Michigan’s workers their basic right on the job.”
“Environmentalists and union workers have been working together to make our air, water and land cleaner for over 40 years,” continued Woiwode. “We have a strong bond and a common goal: making Michigan, and America, a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous place to live and work.”

“Attacks on the rights of these public employees make it harder to attract and retain quality workers who can enforce environmental regulations,” said Clean Water Action Policy Director Susan Harley. “Budget cuts to local communities and policies such as the Emergency Financial Manager law put the jobs of front-line workers — those who protect our water and our natural resources — at risk, and make it harder for people at the local level to protect the health and safety of their communities.”

With the state’s unemployment at more than 10 percent — still one of the highest in the nation — Lansing lawmakers this year have introduced legislation that chips away at basic rights on the job, such as requiring state workers pay up to 20 percent of their health care coverage costs, attacks on teacher tenure and the right to strike, and attempts to repeal or limit the prevailing wage. Lawmakers have also proposed limits to workplace safety and environmental regulations.
“Instead of continued efforts to take away basic rights on the job — including workplace safety and environmental regulations — we need to focus on creating good jobs in this state,” said Mark Gaffney, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO. “We need a jobs plan that strengthens and modernizes the industries of today and build the jobs and industries of tomorrow. We need a plan that supports and grows industries that will simultaneously help to protect the environment and secure our energy future — and we need to do that right here in Michigan.”

“Threats to bargaining rights, attacks on public sector workers, attempts to eliminate safety and health regulations, and a lack of focus on clean energy — these things don’t create jobs,” said Mark Schauer, a former Congressman from Michigan’s Seventh District and the Co-Chair of the BlueGreen Alliance’s Jobs21! initiative. “We are calling on Lansing to come up with a real jobs plan that will maintain the jobs we have and create new ones in the industries of the 21st century economy. If we don’t get to work on this now, Michigan and the U.S. will fall further and further behind.”

“It’s time for Lansing to focus on what matters to steelworkers, to union members, to environmentalists and to Michigan families in cities and towns across the state. It’s time for our leaders to focus on good jobs, safe communities, and a healthy environment to live in,” said Michael Bolton, United Steelworkers District 2 Director. “We need to get past the distractions and compete for the jobs and industries of the 21st century. We can and must win them.”

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The BlueGreen Alliance is a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the green economy. Launched in 2006, the strategic partnership now brings together ten major U.S. labor unions and four of America's most influential environmental organizations and unites 14 million members and supporters in pursuit of good jobs, a clean environment and a green economy. Visit www.bluegreenalliance.org.

Groups knock Snyder on job efforts

Groups knock Snyder on job efforts

BY CHRIS CHRISTOFF
DETROIT FREE PRESS LANSING BUREAU CHIEF

11:52 AM, May. 25, 2011|

LANSING – As Gov. Rick Snyder prepared today to sign a landmark tax reform bill, he was sharply criticized by a coalition of labor and environmental groups for not doing enough to promote jobs, and especially clean energy industry jobs.

The BlueGreen Alliance said Snyder and Republicans are more interested in undercutting collective bargaining, health care benefits and taxing pensioners than they are in producing more jobs.

“This administration has been ignoring clean energy to death, and has made it clear that energy isn’t on their radar screen right now, and that’s a concern,” said Ann Woiwode, director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “In order to compete, Michigan has to domore, we have to keep on the path we started on.”

Woiwode said former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s efforts to attract alternative energy and advanced battery manufacturers has created jobs and given the state a foothold in the global energy market.

 “It’s a startling thing to see. Statistics show this is an industry should be supporting,” Woiwode said.
 Ari Adler, spokesman for House Republicans, said Granholm’s administration inflated job creation numbers for new clean energy and other industries. He said it’s unfair to measure job growth since Republicans have controlled state government since only January.

Adler said since then, Republicans have done more to make Michigan competitive for job-creating businesses than was accomplished in the decade before through tax reform, reduced state spending and regulation reform.

“It’s not government’s role to create jobs,” Adler said. “We create an environment in which individuals can create jobs.”
AFL-CIO Michigan president Mark Gaffney said government must play a more direct role in job creation. He said the auto, solar panel, and planned high speed rail projects in Michigan are flourishing because of federal government money and intervention. He said the renewable energy industry needs similar government help.

“We think the Republicans in this state are just plan wrong on giving enormous tax breaks to businesses and sitting back and waiting for something to happen,” Gaffney said.

The alliance of 10 unions and four environmental groups is promoting environmental protection as a benefit of union jobs, and green energy as a rich source of new jobs.

Former congressman Mark Schauer of Battle Creek is a national co-chair of the BlueGreen Alliance Jobs21! campaign. Schauer said the campaign promotes policies to address unemployment, renewable energy and what he called an environmental and climate crisis.

Woiwode said environmentalists and labor groups have a long history of supporting one another. She and Gaffney said union and state workers who are trained in workplace safety are more likely to report environmental hazards that could endanger workers or the public. Gaffney said their union contracts protect them for whistle-blowing.

He said Republicans in Lansing have no plan to create jobs. He said Snyder’s $1.8 billion tax cut for businesses is repackaged supply side economics that has failed in the past to create jobs or monetary benefits for the middle class.
“We still have 450,000 Michiganders out of work, and yet we argue whether public employees should pay 10% or 20% of their health care, instead of finding ways to put people back to work,” Gaffney said.

He added, “It was jobs that Republicans ran on, and it’s tax breaks for businesses that they’re delivering. That’s not jobs.”

May 17, 2011

Citizens Groups: Delay Controversial Natural Gas ‘Fracking’ Process until Strong Safety Regulations are in Place

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Contact: Leigh Fifelski, 517-999-3646
                Cyndi Roper, 517-203-0754
                Rita Chapman, 517-484-2372 

Citizens Groups: Delay Controversial Natural Gas ‘Fracking’ Process until Strong Safety Regulations are in Place

LANSING – Citizens groups today urged Michigan to delay a controversial method of extracting natural gas until it adopts strong safety regulations and full accountability measures essential to protecting public health and safeguarding Michigan’s freshwater supplies. The drilling process, called horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is quickly becoming the prevalent method for extracting natural gas.

“If Michigan is going to explore for natural gas, we must do it the right way, with total accountability, comprehensive safety measures and full public participation in order to protect our residents’ health and our drinking water,” said Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director, Clean Water Action. “We must close oil and gas industry loopholes, and make sure we fully protect communities in Michigan from the kind of reckless practices that have led to disastrous consequences elsewhere.. We must make sure that natural gas drilling is done safely and responsibly in Michigan – and that’s why these measures are essential.”

“Michigan citizens have said time and time again: They want more of their energy to come from clean energy sources, such as wind and solar,” said Rita ChapmanSierra Club Clean Water Program Coordinator.  “We must delay all natural gas drilling until we can do it safely and with full transparency. In fact, the natural gas industry should embrace these safety measures and weed out the bad actors who give their industry a bad name. We must not gamble with the health and safety of our water and our citizens.”

The groups called for several important measures to be taken 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 Administration and Legislature must regulate fracking operations to ensure they are safe, including proper disposal of chemical waste and other byproducts of fracking.

•    Requiring public participation in the permitting process so all of the facts are known before a permit is issued and all stakeholders—including people who own wells, fish streams and use drinking water—have the right to be heard.   (Get full details here.)

“As a citizen, I want our government to start listening to people and our concerns instead of just listening to the oil and gas companies that have completely shut us out of the process,” said M’Lynn Hartwell of Traverse City. “We also call on suppliers, vendors and distributors of natural gas to call on oil and gas companies to embrace these safeguards. Michigan must take tough action on natural gas now.”

“It is time for policymakers to adopt tough safety measures," said Jim Egged of Dearborn. "A delay on natural gas fracking until stronger protections are in place will protect the health and safety of our communities.”

May 12, 2011

Citizens Groups Sue Michigan for Ignoring Law, Issuing Holland Coal Plant Permit

May 12, 2011
CONTACT:  Jan O’Connell  (616) 956-6646
                      Shannon Fisk (347) 393-5557

Citizens Groups Sue Michigan for Ignoring Law, Issuing Holland Coal Plant Permit

LANSING – Citizens groups today filed a lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for ignoring state regulations when it approved an air pollution permit for a coal plant in Holland.

“The State of Michigan should not be in the business of bending the rules and that’s what this lawsuit is about,” said Jan O’Connell of the Sierra Club. “The Department of Environmental Quality should not have issued a permit when the Holland Board of Public Works has failed to address a range of legally required issues. The people of Michigan deserve to know that their state government puts their health, safety and future before profits.”

The MDEQ issued an air pollution permit on Feb. 11, 2011, paving the way for a proposed expansion of the DeYoung coal fired power plant in Holland. The Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed the lawsuit against the MDEQ in Ingham County Circuit Court today.

“When government sidesteps the law, they must be held accountable, especially when its ill-advised decision threatens people’s health,” said Shannon Fisk of the Midwest Office of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The people of Michigan have said time and time again that they want more clean energy and more energy efficiency, not dirty and expensive coal plants. Give the people -- not big coal companies -- what they want.”

The lawsuit charges the proposed coal plan expansion would emit about 181,440 tons of carbon dioxide every year – emissions that the MDEQ’s permit does not regulate or limit. The lawsuit says MDEQ’s issuance of the permit was arbitrary, capricious, and not authorized by law, in part because the agency ignored the lack of need for the plant, and the existence of cleaner alternatives that Holland acknowledges would be less costly.

Holland residents will not only see an increase in harmful emissions, but we will also see an increase on our electric bills if the coal plant is built,” said Fred Kathi, Holland resident. “I urge Holland to save rate payers’ money and lungs by cancelling the coal plant and pursuing cleaner alternatives.”

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Additional info can be found at:
The NRDC report, Energy Future: A Green Energy Alternative for Michiganhttp://docs.nrdc.org/energy/ene_09081101.asp

May 5, 2011

Senate Republicans Vote to Weaken Protections for the Great Lakes

May 5, 2011
Contact: James Clift, 517-256-0553

Senate Republicans Vote to Weaken Protections for the Great Lakes

Lansing - The Michigan Senate voted along party lines today to limit the authority of the governor to protect theGreat Lakes.  Under the provision, the executive branch is prohibited from issuing any rule that contains a standard more stringent than federal law unless specifically authorized by the legislature.

Flashback to the 1970s - Lake Erie was dying - algae beds were covering the lake - scientists pointed the finger at phosphorus in laundry detergent.  The legislature refused to act.  In 1976, Governor Milliken stepped up and issued an administrative rule limiting phosphorus - and the lakes recovered.  The legislature affirmed that restriction 32 later in 2008.
Under the law passed by the Senate today, the governor would be prohibited from stepping in to protect the lakes as Gov. Milliken did 35 years ago.

"Federal standards to protect water quality are designed to be a minimum standard below which states are not allowed to drop.  They are not written by people who feel a stewardship responsibility over one of the world's most important freshwater resource," said James Clift, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council.

"It seems inconceivable that politicians in the Great Lakes State believe Washington bureaucrats will protect the lakes better than those who live here. But that's what they've said with today's vote."

Senate Democrats tried to amend the bill to exempt rules designed to protect the Great Lakes, but that amendment failed.