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.

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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.