November 28, 2012

Clean Energy Advocates Pan Gov. Snyder’s Special Message on Energy and the Environment

Clean energy proponents are calling on Gov. Snyder to not delay another year, and show leadership on energy efficiency and renewable energy

Contact: Jessica Tramontana, jessica@progressmichigan.org, (517) 974-6302

LANSING – The Clean Energy Now (CEN) coalition is criticizing Gov. Rick Snyder for failing to use his Special Message on Energy and the Environment to propose bold and specific goals for increasing energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy like wind and solar power in Michigan.

Although two-thirds of Michiganders strongly support clean energy, according to a statewide poll taken during the election, the Governor fell far short of becoming a champion on this issue, even though doing so would create thousands of new, long-lasting jobs and build a promising new energy economy for the entire state.

“The Governor is neglecting the growing clean energy industries in Michigan,” said Nic Clark of Clean Water Action. “Stronger clean energy and efficiency standards are common sense solutions to the problem of dirty coal plants across our state. We’re calling on the Governor to listen to the people of Michigan and lead the way in clean energy, which can create thousands of jobs and lower utility costs.”

Clean energy advocates have long touted the countless health benefits of moving away from fossil fuels, especially coal, which harm the public and boost health care costs by polluting the air, water and ground with heavy metals and other dangerous contaminants. Michigan residents also strongly support clean energy development and oppose burning more coal, and in recent years have repeatedly asked state officials, including the Governor, to support stronger renewable energy and energy efficiency standards because of their clear economic and environmental advantages.

Advocates say it’s crucial to act on these issues quickly, and for utilities to understand that they can, like so many other utilities elsewhere have, make a profit while producing energy in a far more sustainable manner.

“Governor Snyder says he wants to be proactive on energy issues, but has fallen short of committing to expand our renewable energy standard.  His leadership is desperately needed at this critical juncture if Michigan is to move ahead,” said Anne Woiwode of the Michigan Sierra Club. “While we welcome his recognition that coal is bad for Michigan and that energy efficiency is critical, the Governor has called for talk and not action. The debate over clean energy has been underway for more than six years in Michigan and it is clear that renewable energy is best for Michigan’s economy because it creates jobs and cleans up our precious natural resources.  We were disappointed the Governor did not say that, but instead criticized clean air standards that will help protect our health and environment.”

The governor today did call for Michigan to have a dialogue and use the legislative process to increase renewable energy development. While clean energy advocates have always welcomed such a dialogue, they also believe that it’s up to the Governor to lead on the issue. That is why they are urging him to propose new renewables and efficiency standards now, not in another year.  

Given that an election day poll showed that 73% of Michigan voters support more renewable energy in Michigan, his proposal would likely get a very warm reception from Michiganders.

“We urge the Governor to make his actions speak louder than his words today,” said Jim Dulzo of The Michigan Land Use Institute. “The governor has a golden opportunity to make Michigan a leader in clean energy, but he’s not yet taken it. By utilizing low cost energy efficiency and wind and solar power, we can create a more prosperous, cleaner and better Michigan. Since he’s invited a statewide conversation on next steps for the state’s energy systems, we will work very hard to convince him those should be bold steps--the kind that strong leaders take.”

Members of Clean Energy Now are asking Michigan residents to sign the petition below, and send a message to Gov. Snyder that he’s taking Michigan in the wrong direction with his energy policies. The petition asks the Governor to take a strong leadership stance on clean energy, and move the state in that direction as quickly as possible.

The petition can be found at: www.cleanenergynowmi.org/take-action/

The audio from a telepresser held this afternoon can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/1ljrmalom24y4ag/CEN%20telepresser.m4a

November 27, 2012

Sierra Club Statement on WE Energies and Wolverine Cooperative Partnership and Presque Isle Coal Plant Retrofit

CONTACT: Emily Rosenwasser, Emily.Rosenwasser@sierraclub.org, 312-251-1680 x119

MARQUETTE, Mich – WE Energies and Wolverine Power Cooperative announced a partnership today to pursue joint ownership and invest between $130 million to $140 million to install emission controls at the Presque Isle coal-fired power plant.

In response to today’s news, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign Representative Tiffany Hartung issued the following statement:“Burning coal at the Presque Isle power plant has affected families in Marquette for almost 50 years. Installing emission controls to protect clean air is an important step for protecting public health in Michigan. However, WE Energies and Wolverine Power Cooperative’s decision to spend millions of dollars on continued dependence on coal is shortsighted. Using that money to instead make investments in clean, renewable energy like wind and solar could provide clean air and a sustainable clean energy economy in the Upper Peninsula.


With the cost of coal on the rise and Michigan families shouldering the burden in rates and health costs, we will continue to pressure WE Energies and Wolverine Power Cooperative to make the right decision to invest in clean energy and drop plans to build an unnecessary, expensive and polluting coal plant in Rogers City.”

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November 23, 2012

Sierra Club Hosts Free Screening of The Sky is Pink at Kalamazoo Public Library

Media Contact: Gail Philbin, gail.philbin@sierraclub.org, 312-493-2384

Event Focuses on Environmental Issues in Southwest Michigan

The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter presents a screening of The Sky is Pink, a short film about horizontal hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. “fracking”) by Josh Fox, the Oscar-nominated director of Gasland, Tuesday, Dec. 4, from 7-8 pm at the Kalamazoo Central Library, Van Deusen Room, 315 Rose St., Kalamazoo.

Southwest Michigan residents concerned about the quality of their water, air and natural resources are invited to this free event, which will focus on important regional environmental issues such as fracking and the Kalamazoo River Tar Sands oil spill  and how concerned citizens can get involved. The “25x25” effort – getting utilities to use 25% renewable energy and energy efficiency by 2025 -- to make Michigan a leader in renewable energy and energy efficiency will also be discussed. To RSVP, email William Strong at williamstrong@sbcglobal.net.

The Sky is Pink is an 18-minute documentary about New York state’s urgent crisis of drilling and fracking, a brutal but increasingly popular method of extracting deep-seated natural gas that recently has come to southwest Michigan. Exempt from environmental regulations, fracking blasts 3-7 million gallons of chemical-laced water into rock to release gas.  The result is air pollution and toxic water wells that can produce flaming faucets, as shown in “Gasland,” and even earthquakes.

The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter has been working with legislators on a package of bills to delay its actual practice in order to strengthen regulations to protect people from the fallout of this dangerous process. Learn more at www.michigan.sierraclub.org/issues/greatlakes/Hydrofracking.html

For more information, email williamstrong@sbcglobal.net.

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November 14, 2012

Thousands of Clean Air Act Violations by DTE Spurs Legal Enforcement

Clean Air Advocates Say Michigan’s Aging Coal Plants Pose  Major Public Health Threat to Communities

Contact: Emily Rosenwasser, Emily.Rosenwasser@sierraclub.org, 312-251-1680 x119
 
DETROIT - Yesterday, the Sierra Club filed a notice of intent to sue the Detroit Edison Company and its parent company DTE Energy for at least 1,330 violations of the federal Clean Air Act at DTE’s St. Clair, Belle River, and Trenton Channel coal-fired power plants. Each of the coal-fired power plants listed in the suit threatens the health and safety of Michigan families across the state by emitting toxic pollutants, including mercury, at levels that exceed clean air safeguards.

“DTE operates one of the oldest, dirtiest coal fleets in the country despite public support from Michiganders for clean energy,” said Patrick Geans, Organizing Representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Detroit. “We are determined to protect public health and create jobs in the clean energy field, and that's why we're taking action on behalf of people DTE is hurting with toxic pollution from its coal-fired power.”

As a state, Michigan receives almost 60% of its electricity from coal plants, which are on average 50 years in age. DTE Energy, the largest utility in Michigan, relies on coal-fired power plants for 80% of its energy portfolio. Each of the St. Clair, River Rouge, and Trenton Channel coal-fired power plants is over 50 years old, and lacks modern pollution controls as required by federal law. According to the Clean Air Task Force, the St. Clair/Belle River, River Rouge, and Trenton Channel coal-fired power plants contribute to 267 deaths, 434 heart attacks, and 4,180 asthma attacks each year collectively.

“Michigan families pay $1.5 billion dollars in health costs associated with coal, including asthma attacks, heart disease, and cancer. We can no longer continue to rely on dirty and outdated coal-fired power plants that are only making the health threats we face worse,” said Geans. “It’s time that DTE Energy brought Michigan into the 21st century by eliminating the burden we all face by DTE’s reliance on old, dirty, and expensive coal-fired power plants.”

According to a 2012 Summer Energy Appraisal by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), DTE consumers were the hardest hit by rising energy costs, with their monthly bills rising from $67.81 to $76.97 – a 13.5 percent increase over last year. The rate increase comes as a result of the increased cost of importing coal from other states.

“Just this past summer, DTE customers saw their electric bills rise nearly 15% because of the increasing cost of burning coal in Michigan,” said Rhonda Anderson, Organizing Representative with Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice program in Detroit. “As the costs of coal go up, so too do electricity bills for hard working Michigan families, including those who can’t afford increased rates. By moving beyond dirty coal and onto clean, affordable energy like wind, we can reduce the threats we currently face from DTE’s coal-fired power plants.”

While the rising cost of coal in Michigan has already directly impacted ratepayers, clean sources of energy like wind have become a more viable and affordable energy choice for Michigan families. A 2012 MPSC report demonstrated that the cost of a new renewable energy project is now cheaper than a new coal fired power plant, and the industry has a $6 billion potential.

“The facts are clear: coal is dirty, outdated and too expensive for our state. DTE needs to make the wise decision that will protect families, create local jobs, and shield our state from the threats of coal by moving beyond coal toward a clean energy in Michigan,” said Anderson.

October 30, 2012

Protect Michigan’s Working Families, Vote Yes on Proposal 2 on November 6th

MEDIA CONTACT: Erin Bzymek, erinb@bluegreenalliance.org, 202-706-6916

Environment Leaders, Local Workers Stand Up for Collective Bargaining Rights and Clean, Safe Workplaces
GRAND RAPIDS, MI --Joining a broad coalition of supporters who are backing better wages and safer working conditions, environmental leaders and local workers today spoke out in support of Proposal 2 in Michigan. On the ballot this November 6th, Proposal 2 ensures that future generations benefit from basic rights that give workers a say when it comes to protecting their health, as well as negotiating and enforcing agreements between themselves and their employers.

“Collective bargaining means safer workers, safer communities and better jobs for all of us. Workers who can collectively bargain not only protect themselves, they also safeguard our neighborhoods, our communities and our environment, and raise up the wages and benefits for all of us,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club.

“It’s important that we pull together to build on that progress and give working families the opportunity to provide better lives for their children, and Prop 2 does just that,” Brune added. 
Proposal 2 protects collective bargaining rights and prevents attempts to weaken these protections in the future.

“Everyone who values clean environments and safe, secure and prosperous communities should support this critical ballot initiative,” said Anne Woiwode, State Director for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “The rights secured by Proposal 2 are essential for strengthening and protecting the hardworking, middle-class families who are the backbone of Michigan communities.”
Event participants spoke specifically to the protections that make the middle class strong by ensuring workers have a voice in their workplace and in the nation’s policies, advocating more equitable wages, humane work conditions, and improved benefits.

“Some Michigan lawmakers are doing everything they can to abolish workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain,” said Mark Schauer, National Co-Chair of the BlueGreen Alliance’s Jobs21! initiative. “But, giving Michigan’s working families a voice to negotiate for fair wages, benefits and working conditions that are good for them and safe for our communities and our environment is as important today as it ever has been.”

“We can and we must protect the rights of working people in Michigan,” said Kevin Riley, a meat cutter at Meijer in Grand Rapids. “Putting these rights in our constitution is something the politicians and corporations cannot take away, and it will benefit future generations of Michiganders, both economically and environmentally. We must stand together to protect the right to negotiate for good jobs with cleaner, safer and healthier workplaces.” 

“We cannot afford to go back to a time when corporations could make up the rules as they go along, regarding working conditions, workplace safety, environmental protection and worker pay,” said Ben Scheid, an AT&T worker. “Michigan’s workers and families can’t afford it, that’s why I support Proposal 2.”

The supporters said that without collective bargaining rights our environment is endangered and workers face more risks on the job.
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Paid for by the BlueGreen Alliance for Michigan Jobs and Energy.
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 major U.S. labor unions and America's most influential environmental organizations and unites more than 15 million members and supporters in pursuit of good jobs, a clean environment and a green economy. Visit www.bluegreenalliance.org.

October 19, 2012

DNR Proposes to Double Daily Limit for Brook Trout Despite Opposition by Fisheries Division and UP Anglers

Sierra Club Calls for Public Input and Proposal Put on Hold
 
Media Contact: Marvin Roberson, marvin.roberson@sierraclub.org, 906-360-0288

The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter today called on Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh to put a hold on a proposed doubling of the limit for brook trout in 10 streams in the Upper Peninsula.  The agency announced a proposal to change designation of the streams to a new category that would allow the taking of 10 brook trout per day per person. The current limit of five per person in the both the Upper and lower peninsula has been in place for more than a decade.

The DNR proposal comes even though its own Fisheries Division repeatedly indicated to the Natural Resources Commission that they were opposed to changing the limit.  In addition, a large majority of the Coldwater Resources Steering Committee voted to support the Fisheries Division position in their August meeting. This committee is comprised of various stakeholder groups and charged with advising the DNR on coldwater fisheries-related matters.

In addition, a DNR survey of UP anglers last summer indicated strong support for keeping the limit at five. The department asked anglers to rate their level of support for the existing five brook trout daily possession limit and the proposed 10 fish daily possession limit --  55% of respondents indicated they supported the existing limit, compared to 17% that opposed the five fish limit. By comparison, 28% of anglers supported and 53% opposed the 10 fish daily possession limit.

“There is little biological evidence regarding how many brook trout can be kept without harming sustainable population levels,” says Marvin Roberson, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Forest Ecologist. “There is absolutely no scientific reason that these limits should be different in the UP from the Lower Peninsula.”

For many years, the fishing regulations for keeping brook trout have been simple--five fish per day per person--but recently, a small but vocal minority of UP residents including the two Natural Resource Commissioners began agitating for the limit to be raised to 10 fish per day per person in the UP only.

With no notice to the public, the Coldwater Resources Steering Committee or stakeholders, the DNR announced on Oct. 15 a proposal to designate 10 streams in the UP in a new category allowing 10 brook trout per day per person. The decision is proposed for Nov. 8, a little more than 3 weeks after the announcement, with no opportunity for public comment.

“To make matters worse, the proposal indicates research on the effects of the regulations will commence after the regulations are changed,” said Roberson. “The DNR has no data on current conditions, and consequently will have no ability to assess conditions and effects after the new regulations.”

Sierra Club Michigan Chapter urges DNR Director Keith Creagh to put this proposal on hold until there can be a meaningful public input and dialogue process, and until baseline data for the streams proposed can be collected and success/failure criteria developed.

The Chapter also urges concerned citizens to contact Creagh at DNR-Director@michigan.gov  or 517-373-2329 and DNR Fisheries Chief Jim Dexter at  dexterj1@michigan.gov or 517-373-3375. Tell them to put this proposal on hold until such public input and research needs are met!

October 2, 2012

Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Statement on Statewide Screenings of Last Call at the Oasis

Documentary to Show in Six Cities Across Michigan Oct. 22

Media Contact:  Gail Philbin, gail.philbin@sierraclub.org, 312-493-2384
Last Call at the Oasis, a documentary about the global water crisis featuring the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter’s Lynn Henning, will screen in six theaters across Michigan on Monday, Oct. 22. The film will play at the Quality 16 in Ann Arbor; Saginaw 12 in Saginaw; Bay City 8 in Bay City; Kalamazoo 10 in Kalamazoo; Grand Haven 9 in Grand Haven; and Jackson 10 in Jackson. (Contact individual theaters for showtimes.)

Produced by Participant Media (makers of An Inconvenient Truth, Food, Inc. and Waiting for “Superman”) Last Call at the Oasis spotlights Lynn’s work tracking animal factory pollution in Michigan, which has gained international recognition, earning her the International Goldman Environmental Prize in 2010 and a spread in the November 2011 issue of O Magazine.

For details about the film visit www.lastcallattheoasis.com.

In response to the Oct. 22 screenings, Lynn Henning made this statement:

“I am honored to be a part of Last Call at the Oasis.  For more than a dozen years, the Michigan Chapter has been fighting to stop pollution from animal factories, also known as CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), which are poisoning our water, air and food. The Chapter supports sustainable agricultural practices that are cleaner, healthier, more energy efficient, and produce many environmental and social benefits.  

CAFOs are a huge environmental and public health risk in Michigan. There are 234 in Michigan, and more than 58 have received environmental fines and penalties totaling over $1.6 million to the State of Michigan, yet they continue to receive federal farm bill subsidies.  The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has documented groundwater contamination from animal factories including arsenic, manganese, iron and possibly copper and traced infectious cryptosporidium and giardia in drinking water back to cattle. 

CAFOs reduce our quality of life by causing beach closings, dead zones from algal blooms, fish kills from oxygen depletion, contaminated drinking water, and polluted air.  People living near them are exposed to high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, dust, mold, and poisonous gases, leading to chronic bronchitis, sinusitis, heart attacks, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.  Even urban and suburban residents are at risk—rivers used for recreation and drinking water in cities often originate in agricultural areas affected by CAFOs.

The time has come for Michigan to hold polluting CAFOs accountable under federal and state laws. I hope my appearance in this film helps educate people about what’s really happening to their water because of CAFOs and motivates them to take action.”
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To learn more about a new campaign targeting animal factories the Michigan Chapter will launch in 2013 and how you can get involved, visit www.farmswithoutharm.org  and follow Lynn Twitter @CAFOCrusader.

For more on the Michigan Chapter’s work on the CAFO issue, visit http://www.michigan.sierraclub.org/issues/greatlakes/animalfactorypollution.html

September 20, 2012

Mason Tract and Au Sable River Protected from Oil and Gas Drilling


Sierra Club and Anglers of Au Sable Win Nine-Year Battle

For the first time in nearly a decade, a rare, truly wild stretch of the Au Sable River is free from the threat of a proposed oil and gas drilling project that would have endangered the state’s premier trout stream and one of its most spectacular old growth forests.

In 2003, a Traverse City oil and gas exploration company sought a permit to place a drilling pad in an old growth area of Huron-Manistee National Forest next to the Mason Tract, a wild piece of land hugging the Au Sable River. This week that company, Savoy Energy, told the US Forest Service (USFS) that it is abandoning its nine-year effort to drill in the so-called South Branch area. 

“This is a victory for everyone— the environment, Michigan and the people who enjoy and appreciate the beauty of the Au Sable River,” said Anne Woiwode, Michigan Chapter director.  “It’s also a victory for the Sierra Club and Anglers of the Au Sable which remained vigilant about this ill-advised proposal and the federal approval process all these years.”

The Mason Tract was designated “Forever Wild” by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources fifty years ago and boasts spectacular fishing, hunting, canoeing, cross-country skiing and hiking.  The drilling pad would have been located near the Mason Chapel, an open-air, non-denominational space beloved by fisherman and other river users.

The reason for Savoy Energy’s application withdrawal isn’t clear, but the involvement of the Sierra Club and the Anglers of the Au Sable in opposing the proposal no doubt played a significant role, said Woiwode.

Nine years ago, Nancy Shiffler, a long-time Sierra Club member and volunteer, first noticed that the proposed well was on national forest land designated as old growth in 1986, and adjacent to the Mason Tract.  She alerted the Michigan Chapter’s forest policy specialist, Marvin Roberson, who tracked the project to determine if correct procedures for approval of an application to the USFS were followed.

They weren’t, and the Sierra Club with the Anglers of the Au Sable actively fought the proposal, using tactics that included a successful lawsuit against the Huron-Manistee National Forest after the USFS failed to adequately assess all viable alternatives to the proposed siting of the well pad.  The Sierra Club had submitted a suggestion for another location to the USFS that would have kept the Mason Tract safe from the impacts of drilling, according to Roberson, but that alternative was rejected.

Ultimately, a federal judge agreed with the conservation groups and remanded the case to the USFS, requiring a full Environmental Impact Statement be conducted, a year-long process the agency was finishing up when it received the withdrawal letter from Savoy earlier this week.

“This is a perfect example of why the Sierra Club has been around for 45 years in Michigan and 120 years in the nation,” said Roberson.  “We have a vast network of dedicated, vigilant volunteers and knowledgeable staff who know what to do and have the willingness to stay in the fight until it’s won.”

Woiwode agrees. “The Sierra Club is the only organization in Michigan with the policy expertise in matters like this to have made this happen. Marvin is among the very few people who understands how the sometimes complicated federal and state approval process works,” she said.

Parts of the Mason Tract were originally owned by Bill Durant, the founder of General Motors, who built a grand home dubbed Durant’s Castle in the 1930s that burned down before he could live in it. Soon after, George Mason, the president of American Motors, purchased the rest of the properties on either side of the south section of the Au Sable River.  He willed the piece to the state when he died, and it became the largest wild stretch of river in Michigan’s lower peninsula.

“The combination of Sierra Club’s policy expertise coupled with the extensive on-the-ground knowledge of Anglers of the Au Sable made for a terrific partnership,” Roberson said. “The Mason Tract is safe for now but we have to stay vigilant and hope that this sets a precedent so other companies won’t try to drill foolishly near our few remaining precious pieces of wilderness.”

For an in-depth look at the story behind the protection of the Mason Tract and Au Sable River, click here.

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September 19, 2012

Clean Energy Advocates Pan DEQ Awards To 3 Coal Plants

Contact: Tiffany Hartung, 231.747.7489, tiffany.hartung@sierraclub.org

Push for DEQ to protect Michiganders’ health, stop phony awards

LANSING – Clean energy advocates are speaking out after DTE Energy, Consumers Energy and Holland Board of Public Works coal plants today received “Neighborhood Environmental Partners Awards” from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The advocates want to know why the DEQ is patting bad actors and notorious polluters on the back and letting its mission to protect the health and safety of Michigan residents fall to the wayside.

“If these were trophies for dangerous and poisonous polluters, then these companies should win hands down,” said Tiffany Hartung with Sierra Club, “but they should not be honored for being neighborhood environmental partners. There is evidence that these coal plants are pouring toxins into nearby waterways, harming Michigan residents. The DEQ should be giving out awards to clean energy leaders, instead. Clean energy is cheaper to produce, creates good jobs in Michigan, and, most importantly, does not endanger our health. Families should be the winners here, not polluters."

The three DEQ honorees are Consumers Energy’s J.R. Whiting coal plant, DTE Energy’s Monroe coal plant, and the Holland Board of Public Works’ James DeYoung plant. According to the DEQ, the Neighborhood Environmental Partners program was developed to recognize facilities for “work on local projects that benefit their communities and the environment.”

Topping the award list is one of the state’s biggest polluters, the DTE Monroe coal plant. The plant is the largest emitter of toxic mercury pollution in Michigan; in 2010 the US Environmental Protection Agency took DTE to court for failing to install modern pollution controls.  

Holland’s DeYoung power station sulfur dioxide pollution threatens Holland residents with emissions that are 3.5 times the public-health based ambient standard; while Consumers’ Whiting facility is one of the coal ash sites in the state that already has been shown to cause damage to the environment.

“DEQ should stop handing out shoddy awards to big polluters and prioritize creating a healthy Michigan by protecting communities and our natural resources,” said Susan Harley with Clean Water Action. ”Dirty energy extracts a price too high for Michiganders to shoulder. These dirty coal plants are hurting our families, our children and, most importantly, our future.”

The Michigan Environmental Council recently reported that Michigan’s coal plants cost a family of four an average of more than $500 a year in health expenses and damages, including hospital admissions, premature death, asthma treatments, respiratory problems, cardiovascular problems and more. The total price tag, MEC research revealed, is about $1.5 billion annually in health care costs.



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About Clean Energy Now: CEN is a coalition of groups that supports policies that will move Michigan beyond coal power toward greater use of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency as a way to protect the environment and build prosperity.  Follow the campaign at www.cleanenergynowmi.org.

September 11, 2012

Sierra Club's Environmental Justice Program Makes a Difference in Detroit

By Ryan Stock, Environmental Justice Intern

As a graduate student pursuing a degree in Environmental Justice at the University of Michigan, I grew increasingly enraged by the disproportionate burden of toxic substances that low-income and ethnic/racial minority communities in Detroit must endure. When Sierra Club’s Rhonda Anderson shared her work with downriver communities to my school, I instantly approached her for an internship!

Since May, we’ve:
  • compiled data for each specific community we work in, combining toxic release data from industrial facilities with public health data;
  • pressed the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency to establish cumulative impact consideration for these communities;
  • drafted a blueprint for clean energy downriver;
  • worked with Blue-Green Alliance to leverage cleaner operations for US Steel and Severstal Steel;
  • begun the process of drafting new Environmental Justice legislation for Michigan;
  • wrote a State of the Environment Report for Detroit that details industry contributions to pollution, climate change, poverty and negative public health outcomes.

The list goes on and on. However, what I am most proud of is working side-by-side with Rhonda. Never in my life have I had a supervisor who respected me as an equal, with such a precise moral compass and clairvoyant vision. Now I’m scared I will never find a job this rewarding!

For more information about the Sierra Club's  Environmental Justice program in Detroit, visit http://www.sierraclub.org/ej/programs/mi.aspx.

September 6, 2012

Clean Energy Advocates Applaud Public Comments Extension


News from Clean Energy Now

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Holland Residents Can Now Address Study’s Shortcomings,
As Their Energy Future is Determined


HOLLAND, MI - After two days of hearings and nearly three dozen local voices highlighting severe deficiencies in Holland Board of Public Works (HBPW) commissioned study, Holland residents were encouraged to see that the Board extended the public comment period on future electric generation options. Most of the residents who testified at the hearings raised extensive concerns about the Board's failure to seriously consider clean energy options like efficiency and renewable sources. Clean air and clean energy advocates still question whether HBPW will provide substantive responses to the comments submitted, including directing the consulting firm to run additional scenarios that reflect the goals of the Community Energy Planning process that thousands of Holland residents participated in and what was expected to help guide future decisions by HBPW.


“The Holland Board of Public Works has the clean energy future of Holland in their hands, and all Holland residents deserve a seat at the table. We applaud the Board for finally allowing the public to comment, but their work isn’t done,” said Jan O’Connell with Sierra Club. “Transitioning Holland to clean, renewable energy sources is a common sense solution that will create jobs and save families money.  Renewable energy and energy efficiency haven’t been seriously examined, and there has been an unnecessary push for a large gas-fired power plant. Holland families deserve a serious discussion over the possibilities of renewable energy."

August 7, 2012

DTE Admits Substantial Liability from Coal

DTE releases report tallying true cost of coal’s impact on public health, environment

DETROIT – DTE Energy filed a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission recently exposing and acknowledging the increasing costs for shareholders and ratepayers and the looming environmental impact associated with coal. For decades, the costs of coal-operated plants in Michigan have negatively impacted air quality and public health. DTE's plants continue to rely on coal, and create a looming risk for Michigan families and ratepayers as DTE estimates spending as much as $2 billion by 2021 to reduce air pollution from old coal plants and potentially another $55 million to reduce impacts on our Great Lakes and waterways. Citizens groups are calling on DTE to embrace renewable energy in order to curb costs and reduce a negative public health and environmental impact.  

“The days of shrugging off the negative impacts of coal are over,” said Tiffany Hartung with Sierra Club. “DTE Energy admitted that the costs of coal will only continue to rise. We can no longer stick our heads in the sand and pretend this ongoing issue isn’t impacting our community’s health. Protecting Michigan families means transitioning away from aging coal plants towards clean, renewable energy sources, because you can’t put a price tag on a healthy future.”

In July 2009, DTE Energy received a Notice of Violation/Finding of Violation (NOV/FOV) from the EPA alleging that five Detroit Edison power plants violated New Source Performance standards, Prevention of Significant Deterioration requirements, and operating permit requirements under the Clean Air Act. An additional NOV/FOV was received in June 2010 related to a recent project and outage at Unit 2 of the Monroe Power Plant.

It's time for DTE to stop ignoring common-sense protections that are intended to keep the public safe from harmful coal pollution," said Susan Harley, Policy Director of Clean Water Action. "We're calling on DTE to embrace clean, renewable energy to save ratepayers money, and to protect the health and well-being of middle class Michigan families.

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About Clean Energy Now: CEN is a coalition of groups that supports policies that will move Michigan beyond coal power toward greater use of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency as a way to protect the environment and build prosperity.
Follow the campaign at www.cleanenergynowmi.org.

July 25, 2012

Michigan Wilderness Celebration Series Concludes at Horseshoe Bay Aug 18


The Michigan Wilderness Act Celebration concludes at Horseshoe Bay Wilderness on Saturday, Aug. 18, from 10 am-Noon with a program at St. Ignace Township Hall, N4298 Gorman Rd, St, Ignace, MI 49781. The event will feature reminiscences by key players in the political drama who successfully fought to protect 10 wilderness areas in Michigan in 1987 and will include a light brunch buffet.

In order to attend, please RSVP by Aug. 13. Email gail.philbin@sierraclub.org or call 517-484-2372, ext. 10.

Program speakers will include Chapter Director Anne Woiwode, who was a young environmentalist at the time, and Jo Reyer, USFS Hiawatha National Forest Supervisor, as well as past and current local activists involved in protecting the area.

Twenty-five years ago, a bruising 10-year battle over the wilderness designation of less than one percent of Michigan’s three million acres of national forest lands split the state’s conservation community and challenged lawmakers to take a stand on a political hot potato issue.

Despite the difficulty, in 1987 Congress passed the Michigan Wilderness Act, protecting 90,000 acres of spectacular old growth forests, lakes and dunes around the state that became these beloved wilderness areas: Big Island Lake, Delirium, Horseshoe Bay, Mackinac, McCormick, Nordhouse Dunes, Rock River Canyon, Round Island, Sturgeon River Gorge, and Sylvania.

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Act, Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter has been hosting several events to tell the story behind this legislation. The series kicked off at Nordhouse Dunes on May 19 and continued July 15 at Sylvania Wilderness. Congressman Dale Kildee was also honored for his leadership in getting the Act passed at a special event in Flint on June 13.

The Michigan Wilderness Act has its roots in the USFS’s Roadless Area Review and Evaluation 2 (RARE 2), a national process it started in 1977 to identify and propose qualifying areas in national forests for potential wilderness designation. In Michigan, teams of Sierra Club volunteers got involved and visited all areas under consideration, recording their observations on a comprehensive checklist used to rate them.

“In an era of typewriters and the exotic new technology of photocopiers, Jane and dozens of volunteers were the point people on organizing the information and the activists to push for passage of the areas identified,” says Woiwode. “But politics got complicated early on, and it became an enormous battle.”

By 1980, Congressman Bob Carr and Senator Donald Riegle had sponsored Michigan wilderness bills in the U.S. House and Senate respectively, but Representative Carr lost his seat in 1982, and Senator Riegle reversed his support for some areas under pressure from wilderness opponents, delaying enactment for another Congress. Fortunately, Congressman Dale Kildee took up the banner in the House and stewarded it through to passage, along with Senator Carl Levin’s able help.

“The beauty of the wilderness law is that nothing man had done has changed the lands; they are managed much as they came from the hand of God,” said Kildee. “I know not everyone is going to visit a wilderness area, but it is nice to know in today’s high-tech society, there will always be areas where people can ski, snowshoe or paddle a canoe in an absolutely motorless area.

“This is all possible because 25 years ago we had the foresight and wisdom to understand that some parts of a forest are too precious to develop.”

In Michigan, opposition to the bill was strong among UP legislators, and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs refused to support the wilderness designation. The arguments given back then sound familiar today: wilderness and old growth have no value; you can’t manage wildlife (i.e. cut timber for deer or grouse habitat) in protected areas; we need to harvest valuable timber, and we have a right to use our motorized vehicles on public land.

“These are common themes of opposition today,” says Woiwode. “It demonstrates the battle to protect Michigan’s natural heritage will never be over—we have to remain vigilant.”

“A decade-long campaign was an incredible undertaking, but none of us involved will ever question whether or not it was worth it when we look at the splendid shores and wild heart of Michigan that are this heroic effort’s living legacy,” says Jane Elder, a passionate advocate who walked the halls of Congress and hiked wilderness trails to help win the fight.

“Even though this was, at times, a divisive and emotionally charged issue, over the years we found common ground across rural and urban areas, in both parties, and in both houses of Congress,” she adds. “This momentum carried us to a presidential signature in 1987.”

To view essays and reminiscences by Elder, Woiwode and others written about Michigan wilderness and the historic act that protected it, visit www.michiganwilderness.blogspot.com.

In addition to the Aug. 18, program, Sierra Club is offering a Horseshoe Bay Wilderness Camp-Out from Aug. 17-19. For details and to RSVP, email Carol Ward at saltpt@lighthouse.net. For questions, contact 517-484-2372, ext. 10.

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Directions:

To get to St. Ignace Township Hall, take I75 north of the Mackinac Bridge and St. Ignace about 9 miles to exit M123. Exit right and drive .3 mile  until you come to a stop sign, turn left onto the Mackinac Trail.  Go 2.6 miles north until you come to Gorman Road and turn right. The township hall is about 1.8 miles down on the left at N4298 Gorman Rd. Mapquest directions are here: http://mapq.st/Q6Ap6j



June 15, 2012

Another Bad Air Quality Day makes it “Unbearable” for West Michigan Asthmatic Children

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
News from Clean Energy Now

Friday, June 8th, 2012
Contact: Monica Bakker, Monica.bakker@sierraclub.org  
              Shane Levy, 415.977.5724, shane.levy@sierraclub.org

Bad Air Quality Days on the rise with warmer weather forcing West Michigan Families to stay indoors

HOLLAND, MI – The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality declared Saturday an “orange” air quality day in West Michigan, meaning unhealthy air for children and those with respiratory problems to breathe.  “Orange” air days and other poor and dangerous air quality days are determined by the level of ozone pollution, known as smog, and other dangerous pollutants in the air. Ozone pollution from coal-fired power plants combines with warm weather to exacerbate respiratory problems for certain groups, making it harder to breathe. Four coal-fired power plants from Holland to Muskegon contribute to the pollution, along with automobiles and pollution blown in from across Lake Michigan. 

“Michigan’s most vulnerable are being exposed to unhealthy air from local coal plants like the James De Young, BC Cobb, JH Campbell and JB Sims and are struggling with something as simple as breathing,” said Monica Bakker, a new mother with Sierra Club in Holland. “We all deserve the right to enjoy summer out of doors. Our kids should only have to remember to pack their swimsuits this summer, not their inhalers.”

Smog is a dangerous pollutant, which causes the lungs and airways to become inflamed and swollen. Even at low levels smog can cause asthma attacks, aggravate lung function or cause permanent lung damage. Children, seniors and people with chronic respiratory and heart disease are especially high risk.

"Air quality alert days like today make it unbearable for children with
existing asthma and elderly with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to breathe," said Christina Fuglseth, Respiratory Therapist and Chair of the Holland Better Breather’s Club. "Investing in clean, renewable energy projects instead of coal will translate into healthier
children being able to play outside without fearing consequences and the elderly being able to enjoy the outdoors.”

In the Grand Rapids/Muskegon/Holland metro area 24,055 children and 86,359 adults suffer from asthma. For those individuals and others with respiratory condition, air alert day represents an especially dangerous threat to their health.

As summer heats up, warmer weather will increase levels of dangerous smog pollution.   Coal-fired power plants are estimated to cause more than 12,000 visits to the emergency room and more than $100 billion in health costs each year.  Holland Board of Public Works JD Young coal plant, Grand Haven Board of Power and Light JB Sims, Consumers Energy's Cobb plant in Muskegon and West Olive plant are all major contributors to the pollution in West Michigan. 

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Air Now Index: michigan.gov/air

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