December 19, 2013

Holland to Cease Burning Coal at James De Young Power Plant

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 18, 2013
Contact:
Alison Flowers, Sierra Club, 303-246-6297, alison.flowers@sierraclub.org
Tiffany Hartung, Sierra Club, 231-747-7489, tiffany.hartung@sierraclub.org

Holland to Cease Burning Coal at James De Young Power Plant

Holland residents to benefit from improved environmental quality, affordable energy

HOLLAND, Mich. – Today the City of Holland and the Holland Board of Public Works have announced an agreement with the Sierra Club to cease burning coal at the three remaining coal-burning units at the nearly 75-year-old James De Young power plant. This settlement resolves all pending litigation between Sierra Club and the City of Holland.

The city, which owns the plant, had originally obtained an air permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to expand the plant’s coal-burning capabilities. A multi-year review, however, showed a rapidly changing economic outlook and prompted the city to move toward a cleaner, more affordable energy future. Holland also negotiated an agreement with the Sierra Club, the largest and oldest grassroots environmental organization in the country, to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations at the James De Young facility.

“This is a critical move toward Holland’s energy future,” said Jan O’Connell, energy issues organizer for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “We applaud the city’s decision to protect public health and the environment.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Holland’s biggest coal-fired electric generating unit will cease burning coal in 2016. The two remaining smaller units will gradually reduce their coal use beginning in 2020 and will completely cease burning coal by 2024.

Air pollution modeling conducted by the Sierra Club in 2011 showed the James De Young power plant was emitting pollution at 3.5 times the limit that the EPA says is required to protect public health. Thanks to the actions Holland is taking, the community can expect to experience fewer asthma attacks and ER visits, as well as heart- and lung-related ailments.

Independent of the agreement with the Sierra Club, Holland has taken several steps on its own to move beyond coal, most notably signing two power purchase agreements for wind energy, including one with a wind facility under construction in Gratiot County, Michigan. The Sierra Club applauded Holland for its wind energy purchases.

“I am relieved that the coal plant issue is settled,” said Larry Spitzley, Holland resident and Sierra Club member. “It should now be easier to focus on the Holland Community Energy Plan. I’m especially excited about part of the plan that may make energy audits and affordable improvements available to people here. We’re on the way to becoming a world-leading, energy efficient city.”

The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign aims to replace coal with clean energy like wind, solar and energy efficiency.

###

Thanks!
Jan
Jan O'Connell
Development Director and
MI Beyond Coal ~ Clean Energy Campaign
  
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter
Phone: (616) 956-6646

Support the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter!  Go to http://tiny.cc/MISierraClubSupport to make your donation and join the EVERGREEN
sustaining program that allows you to give throughout the year with monthly, quarterly or other gift options. 

-- 

September 12, 2013

Milking the System: Polluting Factory Farms Flourish in Gratiot and Midland Counties Courtesy of Taxpayers

Sep. 12, 2013                                                           Media Contact: Gail Philbin
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                              312-493-2384, gail.philbin@sierraclub.org

Milking the System: Polluting Factory Farms Flourish
in Gratiot and Midland Counties Courtesy of Taxpayers

Alma, Mich.—Factory farms in Michigan are “milking the system,” receiving taxpayer-funded subsidies even when violating environmental laws and unfairly competing against sustainable livestock operations, according to an updated report from the Less=More Coalition released in Alma today. 

Two of the nation’s most respected experts on factory farms or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) -- Joe Maxwell, a Missouri hog farmer and an official with the Humane Society of the United States, and 2010 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Lynn Henning, a Lenawee County farmer who works with Sierra Club -- also gave an overview of the environmental, health and economic problems these facilities pose. A driving tour of some of the factory farms which exemplify the concerns in Midland and Gratiot Counties immediately followed the press conference. 

Less=More, a coalition of farmers, food safety, environmental and animal welfare organizations, is calling on federal and state officials, in particular the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Michigan State Conservationist, to fix the unfair bias in farming subsidies toward factory farms. 

“We released our report seven months ago, and nothing has changed, especially in Gratiot and Midland Counties, home to 24 CAFOs,” said Henning. “Together, factory farms in these two counties raked in $11,243,026 in subsidies from 1995-2012.”

Since 1996, 14 of these Gratiot and Midland County facilities have been cited for environmental violations, with one of those receiving fines and penalties of $45,344. Yet from 1995 to 2011, owners and operators of these facilities in violation received $4,793,488 in taxpayer-funded subsidies.

Restoring the Balance to Michigan’s Farming Landscape, released by Less=More in February this year, was updated today with an in-depth case study examining the Mibelloon Dairy, LLC, and four affiliated businesses in Gratiot and Midland Counties. From 2001 to 2012, they received $744,941 in federal farm subsidies and tax-subsidized loans of $5,000,000.  During that same time period, Mibelloon Dairy, LLC, was cited by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for environmental violations in 2004, and in a 2008 administrative consent order with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), it was assessed fines and fees of $45,344 related to five separate incidents. 

“The Mibelloon operations are another example of the unfair advantage our tax dollars are giving to CAFOs,” said Anne Woiwode, director of the Michigan Sierra Club, a Less=More Coalition member. “Michigan’s sustainable livestock producers shouldn’t have to compete against massive animal factories like these that receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax payer subsidies and subsidized loans, even while Mibelloon Dairy was polluting the water in violation of the law.”

Incidents for which Mibelloon Dairy, LLC, was cited that resulted in fines and costs of $45,344 included discharge of wastes into county drains, improper storage of wastes and stockpiling of wastes near a road.

“A single factory farm generates millions of gallons of waste annually, the equivalent of 16,000 people, but unlike a city with as many residents, these facilities aren’t required to treat the waste,” said Tia Lebherz, Michigan organizer for Food & Water Watch, a Less=More Coalition member.

“This is not your garden-variety animal manure—factory farm waste contains antibiotics, chemicals, pathogens, and other contaminants. This waste inevitably runs off in to our local rivers and streams, polluting our water.Taxpayer dollars should not be used to prop-up these polluting factory farms.”

Restoring the Balance explores how federal tax dollars create an uneven playing field for sustainable livestock operations in Michigan by overwhelmingly favoring grants of subsidies to polluting CAFOs. In particular, it examines how one Farm Bill program, the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), encourages unsustainable agricultural practices that threaten public health and the environment, while putting Michigan’s independent and local producers at a severe competitive disadvantage.

The report highlights opportunities to reverse this inequity through NRCS Michigan State Conservationist Garry Lee’s authority to change priorities set for EQIP in Michigan. It also recommends measures of accountability in the application process to ensure funds are awarded to environmentally responsible farmers. The Less=More Coalition presented the report and its concerns and recommendations to Lee on Feb. 14, 2013.

“With the release of this update to Restoring the Balance, we call upon Mr. Lee once again to take action on our recommendations,” said Woiwode. “The time to act is now. Factory farms are a huge threat to the clean water, air and land every Michigander depends on for our food, our families and our future.”
More than 2,300 concerned Michigan consumers have signed petitions and postcards urging Mr. Lee to take action on inequitable subsidies. The online petition to Mr. Lee is found at http://tinyurl.com/CAFOpetition
The update to Restoring the Balance as well as the original report can be downloaded at: http://tinyurl.com/L-Mreport


For questions about the report, contact Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club, anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org or 517-484-2372, ext. 11, or Lynn Henning, lynn.henning@sierraclub.org or 517-605-7740.

The Less=More Coalition is a group of organizations engaged in various aspects of our food system who seek to level the playing field for sustainable farmers in Michigan. They include: Beery Farms of Michigan, LLC, the Center for Food Safety, Crane Dance Farm, LLC, ELFCO food cooperative, Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, Food & Water Watch, Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council, Groundswell Farm, Zeeland, Humane Society of the United States, Michigan Farmers Union, Michigan Voices for Good Food Policy, Michigan Young Farmers Coalition, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Socially Responsible Agricultural Project. 

Less support for polluting factory farms means a more sustainable Michigan.  For more information, visit, http://MoreforMichigan.org.            

September 9, 2013

Groups Join DOJ to Halt Serious Air Pollution from DTE Coal-burning Power Plants

Plants lack modern pollution controls that protect human health

Contact:
Shannon Fisk, Earthjustice, (215) 717-4522
Tiffany Hartung, Sierra Club (248) 933-2451

Detroit-Conservation groups took legal action late last week to support the Department of Justice (DOJ) efforts to clean up several of Detroit Edison’s coal-burning power plants in Southern Michigan by requiring them to comply with the Clean Air Act.

Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, amended its complaint in the case of US v. DTE Energy Company, to clean up Detroit Edison’s River Rouge, Trenton Channel, and Belle River coal-fired power plants. Earlier last week, DOJ amended its complaint to add the same claims on Trenton Channel, River Rouge and Belle River, and additional claims against the Monroe coal plant.

According to the Clean Air Task Force, these additional three coal-burning plants collectively contribute to 157 deaths, 254 heart attacks, and 2,480 asthma attacks each year.

“The River Rouge and Trenton Channel coal plants are aging dinosaurs that Detroit Edison continues to operate without readily available and legally required pollution control technology,” said Shannon Fisk, an Earthjustice attorney handling this case.  “It is far past time for Detroit Edison to protect public health and create jobs by cleaning those plants up or retiring and replacing them with affordable clean energy resources.”

The violations stem from Detroit Edison’s major, multi-million dollar modifications at those plants without installation of the legally-required modern pollution controls that would help protect public health.  As a result of these violations, Detroit Edison’s coal plants have emitted hundreds to thousands of tons of additional harmful air pollutants every year.

Emissions from coal-burning plants include dangerous pollutants like carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury. High levels of exposure to these emissions can cause irritation of the throat and lungs, leading to difficulty breathing, increased asthma symptoms, more respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular disease, and premature death.

“When I think about clean and renewable sources of energy, I think about the infinite possibilities of creating jobs and powering Michigan through cleaner sources like wind and solar power,” said Douglas Myers, River Rouge resident and Sierra Club member. “If DTE were to focus on forward thinking in the problem areas we could remove a lot of the dirty and harmful elements being emitted through their current facilities.”

This case was initially filed in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. EPA as an enforcement action regarding an illegal modification at Unit 2 of Detroit Edison’s Monroe coal plant.  Sierra Club intervened in that proceeding.   While the federal district court initially ruled against DOJ and Sierra Club, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit earlier this year reversed the district court decision.  As a result, DOJ and Sierra Club’s case against Monroe Unit 2 continues, and both plaintiffs are seeking to expand their claims to address legal violations at other Detroit Edison coal units.

 When Congress enacted the Clean Air Act of 1970, thousands of power plants, refineries, and other facilities were emitting large volumes of various air pollutants. The act required new facilities to be equipped with the most modern and efficient pollution-control technologies available. Many existing plants were let off the hook on the theory that they would be taken out of service fairly rapidly and replaced with new, clean plants.   The coal industry lobbied congress and the EPA to be allowed to continue running these old plants without adding modern pollution controls.  As a result, many of these aging, polluting facilities are still operating today, over 40 years later.

The law did, however, include important provisions addressing the older plants: If and when they make changes that increase emissions, they are required to retrofit with up-to-date technologies.  This is a key part of what the law calls the New Source Review (NSR) program. 

“Big coal has fought against NSR with respect to existing plants ever since the program was created,” continued Fisk.  “It has filed many lawsuits to challenge the program and simply refused to abide by it.”

August 16, 2013

National Experts/Farmers Explore Local Threats to Safe, Healthy Food in Central MI


Sierra Club Organizing Event Spotlights Factory Farms Sep. 12 at CMU
What:    Sierra Club Organizing Meeting focusing on factory farming in Central Michigan
When:   7:30pm, Thursday, Sep. 12, 2013
Where:  French Auditorium (first floor), Education and Human Services Building, Central Michigan University (Ottawa near Washington Street on West Campus); Parking in Lot 56 next to EHS Bldg.
Cost:      Free
RSVP:    By Sep. 11 to family@seeling.org or gail.philbin@sierraclub.org

Sierra Club hosts an organizing meeting that will focus on the issue of factory farming in Central Thurs., Sep. 12, at 7:30pm in the French Auditorium of the Education and Human Services Building at Central Michigan University. The meeting is free and open to the public.

The event will feature Joe Maxwell, Vice President of Outreach and Engagement at The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and a Missouri hog farmer, who will discuss the environmental, human and animal impacts of the massive confinement approach to livestock farming. Lynn Henning, Sierra Club Water Sentinel and Lenawee County farmer, will explore the relationship between environmental pollution and farm subsidies in the region.

Area residents concerned about the quality of their water, air and natural resources are invited to attend this meeting, which will begin a community conversation about important regional environmental issues. Sierra Club Michigan Chapter staff will provide information about local Chapter outings and activities and opportunities to get involved in helping to form a Sierra Club volunteer group in the area.

For details and to RSVP, email family@seeling.org or gail.philbin@sierraclub.org.

July 25, 2013

New Report Shows At Least 16 Coal-fired Power Plants in Michigan Discharge Toxic Coal Ash or Wastewater

Report Highlights Critical Need for Strong Federal Standards




CONTACT: Alison Flowers, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, alison.flowers@sierraclub.org, 303-246-6297
Patrick Geans, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, patrick.geans@sierraclub.org


DETROIT, MICHIGAN -- Today, a coalition of environmental and clean water groups, including the Sierra Club, held a press conference and water sports demo at Belanger Park, River Rouge, Michigan, to demonstrate the importance of strong U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards that limit toxic water pollution from coal plants. This event coincided with the release of a new national report this week which shows at least 16 coal-fired power plants in Michigan discharge toxic coal ash or wastewater.


The report, “Closing the Floodgates: How the Coal Industry Is Poisoning Our Water and How We Can Stop It” reviewed water permits for 386 coal plants across the country, and sought to identify whether states have upheld the Clean Water Act by effectively protecting families from toxic water pollution.

The analysis found:

-Of the 274 coal plants that discharge coal ash and scrubber wastewater into waterways nationwide, at least 16 were in Michigan. Worse, only three of these plants even reports how much toxic arsenic and selenium they are discharging in the EPA’s Toxics Release inventory. Those three that do report alone discharged almost 6,000 pounds of arsenic and selenium in one year, according to the Inventory.

-Only eight of Michigan’s active coal plants have permits which limit dumping of any toxic metal, and none of the permits limit arsenic, cadmium, or lead. DTE’s River Rouge Plant, which the NAACP has identified as one of the worst environmental justice offenders in the nation lacks such limits.

-Ten plants are dumping their wastes into water bodies which have been formally designated as having impaired water quality, which includes mercury contamination and active coal power plants are among the largest sources of this toxic pollutant.

“This report makes it clear that DTE needs a lesson in common sense: dumping poisons into our water without disclosing threatens the health, drinking water and recreation opportunities in Detroit,” said Patrick Geans, Sierra Club Michigan Beyond Coal organizer. “Environmental Protection Agency limits on these toxics in our water will prevent children from getting sick, ensure our water is safe to drink and our fish safe to eat, and save lives.”

Existing guidelines written to limit toxics discharged from coal plants do not cover many of the worst pollutants such as those discharged in Michigan rivers and streams, and have not been updated in more than 30 years. In April 2013 the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first ever national standards for toxics dumped into waterways from coal plants.

The Sierra Club’s Michigan Beyond Coal campaign is organizing to support the strongest options for these “effluent limitation guidelines” that will limit the amount of toxic chemicals that are dumped into our waterways.  These standards will also require all coal plants to monitor and report the amount of toxics dumped into our water, giving us detailed information for the first time about the types and amounts of dangerous chemicals in our water.

The new report’s nationwide findings were similarly shocking:

●      Of the 274 coal plants that discharge coal ash and scrubber wastewater into waterways, nearly 70 percent (188) have no limits on the amounts of toxic metals like arsenic, boron, cadmium, mercury, and selenium they are allowed to dump into public waters.

●      Of these 274 coal plants, more than one-third (103) have no requirements to monitor or report discharges of toxic metals like arsenic, boron, cadmium, mercury, and selenium to federal authorities.

●      A total of 71 coal plants discharge toxic water pollution into waterways that have already been declared as impaired. Of these plants that are dumping toxic metals into impaired waterways, nearly three out of four coal plants (53) had no permit that limited the amount of toxic metals it could dump.

●      More than half of the 274 coal plants plants surveyed (144) are operating with an expired Clean Water Act permit. 53 of these power plants are operating with permits that expired five or more years ago.

The new report also reviewed red-line copies of the EPA’s proposed coal plant water pollution standards or “effluent limitation guidelines” obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, finding that the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) caved to coal industry pressure and took the highly unusual and improper step of writing new weak options into the draft guidelines prepared by the EPA’s expert staff.

July 11, 2013

Sierra Club Praises House Democrats for Proposing Safeguards on Fracking

LANSING – The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, an environmentally-concerned citizens group, today praised a package of bills proposed by Democratic representatives in the state House that will be the first significant legislative initiatives to deal with the growing dangers of fracking. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a controversial process for extracting natural gas that puts Michigan’s fresh water at risk.

“We welcome this package of bills which provides tools for stronger public involvement and accountability by the oil and gas industry,” said Nancy Shiffler, Co-Chair of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter’s Beyond Natural Gas and Oil Campaign.  “This is a first, important step toward addressing a range of threats to Michigan’s waters posed by risky, loosely regulated drilling.”

The bills in this package will help protect Michigan’s communities and water by requiring public participation in permit decisions, disclosure of chemicals used in fracking fluid, and the means to hold oil and gas companies accountable for their pollution.

The Sierra Club also believes that lawmakers must go beyond the proposals announced today and stop all fracking activity until comprehensive regulations and other measures are adopted to protect Michigan’s air, water and public health.  Michigan citizens and communities are currently vulnerable to serious injury from fracking activities that now take place in Michigan.

The Sierra Club looks forward to working with lawmakers responsible for these important proposals and any others who are interested in protecting Michigan’s air, water and public health from the dangers of fracking.

The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest most effective grassroots environmental organization, with over 150,000 members and supporters in Michigan.
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June 26, 2013

Sierra Club Offers Ways to Explore, Enjoy, Protect Environment in Traverse City Region

Public Invited to July 17 Organizing Meeting at TADL; July 21 Outing at Sand Lake Quiet Area

People who enjoy the outdoors or are concerned about the quality of their water, air and natural resources or their family’s health are invited to join a conversation about local environmental issues at a Sierra Club organizing meeting Wed., July 17, at 7 pm at the Traverse Area District Library, McGuire Room, 610 Woodmere, Traverse City. The event is free and open to the public.

Sierra Club Michigan Chapter staff and volunteer leaders will explore ways that local residents can get involved in the effort to protect the area’s great natural heritage through outings, legislative and political efforts and educational programs. The event will also offer the chance for people with common interests and concerns to enjoy refreshments and good conversation.

“Sierra Club has been involved in northwest Michigan for nearly five decades, since local residents mobilized to protect Sleeping Bear Dunes back in the ‘60s,” said Gail Philbin, Chapter assistant director. “The area has a strong tradition of active citizens who will fight to protect the environment but who also enjoy and engage in it through hiking, fishing and other outdoor activities. We hope they will come to this meeting and find out how we can work together.”

To RSVP for this event, email gail.philbin@sierraclub.org or call 312-493-2384.

On Sunday, July 21, at Noon, the Sierra Club will also host a hike at Sand Lake Quiet Area, a place of deep forests, lakes and wetlands where all motorized vehicles are prohibited. The event is free and open to the public. The 2-3 hour trek will wind through a serene portion of the Pere Marquette State Forest with five lakes surrounded by rolling hills of oak-pine forest.  To RSVP and for details, contact Lorne Beatty, Michigan Chapter Outings Leader, lorne.beatty@michigan.sierraclub.org or 810-632-7766.

June 25, 2013

Sierra Club Michigan Statement on President Obama’s Climate Plan

For Immediate Release
June 25, 2013

Contact:  Emily Rosenwasser, Emily.Rosenwasser@sierraclub.org312-251-1680 x119

Sierra Club Michigan Statement on President Obama’s Climate Plan

Washington, D.C. –  Today President Barack Obama announced his administration's next steps for building a legacy of action to fight the climate crisis. The plan includes new energy efficiency standards for federal buildings and appliances, scales up responsible clean energy production on public lands with an ambitious new commitment to power 6 million homes by 2020, and uses the full authority of the Clean Air Act to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants.

Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Director Anne Woiwode released the following statement in response:

"This is the change Michiganders have been waiting for on climate.

“President Obama is finally putting action behind his words, which is exactly what the Sierra Club, our 2.1 million members and supporters, and coalition partners have worked hard to achieve. Today, we applaud him for taking a giant step forward toward meeting that goal.

"By committing to establish new energy efficiency standards for federal buildings and appliances, scale up responsible clean energy production on public lands with an ambitious new goal to power 6 million homes by 2020, and use the full authority of the Clean Air Act to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants, the President is stepping up to reduce the climate-disrupting pollution that is destabilizing our climate while threatening our economy and endangering our communities and families with extreme weather and dramatic sea level increases.

"Here in the heart of the Great Lakes, Michiganders are looking forward to the day when the Administration sees fracked gas and tar sands in massive pipelines across our state for what they are - fossil fuels of the past, and a threat to Pure Michigan and public health. Nevertheless, the President's plan gives us hope he will cement his climate legacy and protect future generations by ending destructive oil drilling in the Arctic, rejecting dangerous nukes, halting mountaintop removal, abandoning dirty fossil fuels in favor of clean energy - and by making the critically important decision to reject the dirty and dangerous Keystone XL pipeline."

June 17, 2013

Sierra Club Hosts Free Screening of The Sky is Pink in Traverse City


Event at Library Focuses on Fracking and Other Issues in Region
Media Contact: Gail Philbin, gail.philbin@sierraclub.org

The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter presents a screening of The Sky is Pink, a short film about the controversial method of natural gas extraction known as fracking, Wed., June 26, at 7 pm at the Traverse Area District Library, McGuire Room, 610 Woodmere, Traverse City. The event is free and open to the public.

Grand Traverse-area residents concerned about the quality of their water, air and natural resources are invited to the screening, which will be followed by a discussion of important regional environmental, legislative and political issues. Sierra Club staff and volunteer leaders will present opportunities for concerned citizens to get involved in environmental protection efforts in northwest Michigan.

To RSVP, email William Strong at williamstrong@sbcglobal.net or call 269-372-3642.

The Sky is Pink is an 18-minute documentary by Josh Fox, the Oscar-nominated director of Gasland, about New York state’s urgent crisis of drilling and fracking, a brutal method of extracting deep-seated natural gas that recently has come to northwest 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 about this event, email williamstrong@sbcglobal.net or call 269-372-3642.

May 2, 2013

Clean Energy Advocates Call on DTE to be Accountable to Michigan Shareholders & Ratepayers



Thursday, May 2, 2013 


Clean Energy Advocates Call on DTE to be Accountable to Michigan Shareholders & Ratepayers 
Michigan shareholders and ratepayers hold press conference outside DTE Headquarters to represent Southeast Michigan’s missing voices from DTE shareholder meeting in NYC 

DETROIT – Dozens of ratepayers and shareholders gathered in front of DTE Energy’s headquarters today as Michigan’s largest utility held its annual shareholder meeting in New York City, far from its ratepayers and those affected by its corporate policies. The clean energy advocates raised concerns about DTEs dependence on coal, which poses a health risk for residents and a financial risk for shareholders. Clean Energy Now members spoke to an empty chair, symbolizing DTE CEO Gerry Anderson and the board who refused to face concerned shareholders in the utility’s hometown. The group delivered thousands of comments and petitions from DTE’s ratepayers across Southeast Michigan calling on DTE to support clean energy and energy efficiency as well. 

Ratepayers and shareholders are paying a heavy price as a consequence of DTE’s dependence on dirty energy. Michigan ratepayers shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden of the utility’s risky business decisions,” said Frank Zaski, a DTE shareholder and ratepayer from Franklin.  Instead of investing in aging infrastructure to continue to burn dirty coal or building an unneeded and extremely costly nuclear plant, DTE has the opportunity to earn returns on large capital investments in clean renewable energy, unleashing innovation and creating thousands of jobs for Michigan workers in new industries.” 

Southeast Michigan is home to DTE Energy’s dirty and outdated coal plants, which emit enormous amounts of sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, mercury, soot, smog and particulate matter. Recent studies have linked these contaminants to numerous health problems, including: heart disease, childhood asthma, lung disease and neurological impairment, particularly in infants.  Currently, almost every coal plant owned by DTE has been cited for environmental violations, with several lawsuits against the company by environmental agencies and organizations pending.   


“My kid deserves better, and so do all of the children of southeast Michigan,” said Nicole O’Brien, a concerned mother and ratepayer in Beverly Hills. “It’s shameful DTE is avoiding listening to parents who have kids with health problems. We know these plants are making people sick, yet DTE continues to rely on coal as our major energy source. I’m encouraging DTE to do the right thing and to open their ears to the voices of concerned Michigan residents. It’s long overdue we transition away from coal and embrace renewable energy alternatives to clean up our state and to prevent pollution from harming our kids.”

Douglas Myers, resident of River Rouge who deals with pollution from DTE’s River Rouge coal plant daily, traveled to the New York City annual meeting and said he “felt it necessary to make our voices heard during DTE’s shareholder meeting in NYC for the future of the Downriver Area as well as others that have been at risk for quite sometime due to the dependency of DTE's use of  antiquated coal-fired power plants.” 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), electric rates in Michigan are higher than in 38 other states and are among the highest in the country. Michigan rates were up eight percent last year, compared to rates across the country that were up one percent. By transitioning away from expensive, dirty coal to renewable sources like wind and solar power and by maximizing energy efficiency, DTE could save ratepayers money.  DTE has not made significant investments or commitments to bolster energy efficiency and renewable energy sources beyond the minimum required by state law, publicly stating that no further decisions on clean energy mandates should be made until after the current ones expire in 2015.

In 2012, DTE spent more than $11.8 million to defeat a referendum to raise Michigan’s renewable energy requirements to the same level as found in several neighboring states, despite private acknowledgement that the increased renewable requirement would not harm the company financially.  DTE is also artificially limiting its energy efficiency programs though they are the cheapest form of power. The shareholders and ratepayers at the event today called on DTE to embrace clean energy to help lower costs for ratepayers and to protect Michigan’s air and water.
 
“DTE needs to answer to Michigan residents instead of hiding in New York,” says Dan Marcin, shareholder and PhD candidate in economics from Ann Arbor. “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. Let’s launch DTE out of the past and into a cleaner, brighter future. We can only move forward together if DTE’s CEO Gerry Anderson will listen to our collective concerns, and together we are rallying for change.”
Groups that delivered petitions and public comments on Thursday included: Clean Water Action, Ecology Center, Progress Michigan, Sierra Club and Union of Concerned Scientists  .


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Clean Energy Now is a collaboration of nearly 50 non-profit organizations in Michigan working to move our state toward a clean energy future.