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 We can no longer continue to rely on dirty and outdated coal-fired power plants that are only making the health threats we face worse,” said Geans.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.