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.