March 12, 2013

DTE Energy Sued in Federal Court for More Than 1,400 Clean Air Act Violations at Four Michigan Coal Plants

DTE’s Aging Coal Plants Pose Major Public Health Threat to Michigan Communities
Contact: Emily Rosenwasser, Emily.Rosenwasser@sierraclub.org312-251-1680 x119

DETROIT - Today, the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan against DTE Energy Company and its subsidiaries, DTE Electric Company and Detroit Edison Company. The complaint cited more than 1,400 violations of the federal Clean Air Act from emissions at DTE’s Belle River, River Rouge, St. Clair and Trenton Channel coal-fired power plants. Each of the coal plants listed in the suit threatens the health and safety of Michigan families across the state by emitting dangerous pollutants, including particulate matter, mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

“DTE’s coal fleet is outdated and out of compliance, and southeast Michigan families deserve better than dirty air in our communities,” said Patrick Geans, Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign organizer in Detroit. “According to a Michigan Environmental Council report, Michigan families pay $1.5 billion in health costs associated with burning coal, including asthma attacks, heart disease, and cancer. Every resident in our state has the right to clean air, and DTE’s dependence on coal-fired power robs Michigan families of that right.”

DTE Energy, the largest utility company in Michigan, draws 80 percent of its electricity from coal-fired power plants. Three of the four coal plants cited in the lawsuit are more than 50-years-old, lacking modern pollution controls as required by federal law. According to a report from the Clean Air Task Force, the Belle River, River Rouge, St. Clair and Trenton Channel coal-fired power plants contribute to 267 deaths, 434 heart attacks, and 4,180 asthma attacks each year collectively.[1]

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 an average of $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.

“Today's legal action is the latest in our campaign to hold DTE Energy accountable for skirting their legal obligations and operating one of the nation’s oldest coal fleets,” said Tiffany Hartung, Beyond Coal campaign representative for the Sierra Club in Michigan. “When coal-dependent utilities like DTE realize that they can no longer pollute Michigan communities for free, the burden of operating old coal plants causes their outdated business model to crumble. Smart utility companies are preparing ahead for a transition beyond coal. When it comes to DTE, we must push them to do right by Michigan communities.”

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 2013 MPSC report demonstrated that the cost of a new renewable energy project is now cheaper than a new coal fired power plant, and that the state’s current renewable energy standard has generated at least $1.8 billion in economic activity through 2012.[2] Michigan’s burgeoning clean energy job sector ranks fifth nationally in terms of job growth.[3]  

“Michigan communities are ready to leave coal in the past and move forward to exciting, job-creating developments in efficiency and clean energy,” said Geans. “DTE is a bad neighbor to southeast Michigan, and it is time for the company to embrace clean energy. It is DTE’s responsibility to collaborate with community members, public officials and important local stakeholders to build a responsible transition away from coal in southeast Michigan.”

The basis for the violations is data collected by DTE at its own facilities using electronic continuous opacity monitoring systems. DTE reports data from its monitoring systems quarterly to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). In an effort to investigate and protect Michigan’s air, the Sierra Club requested the data from MDEQ, which revealed egregious violations of the Clean Air Act by exceeding opacity limits allowed in pollution permits on numerous occasions between 2007 through 2011.

To view the complaint filed to U.S. District Court, please click here:

March 5, 2013

Michigan Senate Criticized for Passing Anti-Science, Anti-Conservation Bill

Casperson bill attacks MDNRs management for biodiversity

March 5, 2013
Contact: Anne Woiwode, (517) 974-2112,

LANSING – Sierra Club condemned the MI Senate passage today of Senate Bill 78, which proposes to block the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) from designating and managing Michigan lands using scientific principles of biodiversity*. SB 78, sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson (R - Escanaba), attempts to remove biodiversity as a management option for the MDNR. The bill has been roundly criticized by Michigan's top scientists as "ridiculous," a threat to forest health, and a reversal of almost 100 years of conservation stewardship of Michigan's public lands.

“SB 78 would prevent Michigan’s public land managers from using the most up to date scientific knowledge about Michigan’s habitats and ecosystems to manage and restore the lands that belong to all the people of Michigan” said Anne Woiwode, State Director of Michigan Sierra Club. “This legislation would hurt our state’s wildlife and natural resources, will diminish the value of Michigan’s public lands in the future, and sets a dreadful precedent of allowing the DNR to ignore science. The Senate should be ashamed of themselves for passing this anti-science bill.” 

Since its founding in 1921, the MDNR has used biodiversity principles in management for restoration and protection of state lands. Without this authority, the MDNR would not have been able to successfully restore habitat and wildlife following the land clearing and the devastating wildfires that devastated Michigan in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Scientists, researchers, and ecological experts largely oppose this legislation as well. “Senate Bill 78 is lacking in common sense, ecologically literacy, and vision; it is divisive, counterproductive,  mean-spirited; couldn't be worse” said Dr. Burton Barnes, emeritus professor in the School of Natural Resources & Environment of the University of Michigan. Dr. Barnes continued, “Biodiversity has become a huge economic force and opportunity throughout the world. It is a vital and inseparable part of ecosystem services provided by the lands managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).”

Testimony on this bill from other scientists, researchers, and ecological experts is included below.

The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization, with over 170,000 members and supporters in Michigan.

What Do The Experts Say About SB 78?

Dr. Brad Cardinale - Associate Professor, School of Natural Resources & Environment
Testified on 2/21/2013                                                                      University of Michigan
“There are several scientific inaccuracies in this bill.”

“Senate Bill 78 would directly hamper the DNR’s ability to manage public lands for invasive species, pests and disease, and thus, the productivity and sustainability of wood.”

Burton V. Barnes - Professor Emeritus, School of Natural Resources & Environment
Testified on 2/14/2013                                                                             University of Michigan
“Senate Bill 0078 is lacking in common sense, ecologically literacy, and vision; it is
divisive, counterproductive, mean-spirited; couldn't be worse. As Mark Twain said of a
book he reviewed—it is a cemetery.”

“Biodiversity has become a huge economic force and opportunity throughout the world. It is a vital and inseparable part of ecosystem services provided by the lands managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).”

Dr. J. Michael Vasievich - Retired Research Scientist for the USDA Forest Service
Testified on  2/14/2013                                       Masters and Ph.D in Forestry, Duke University
“Severely restricting the DNR from considering biodiversity takes away an important element of scientific forest management.”

Judy Kelly - President of the Michigan Botanical Club, Biology Professor
Testified on 2/14/2013                                                                        Henry Ford Community College

“We oppose Senate Bill 78 because it is environmentally harmful in ways that ultimately diminish both our economy and quality of life in Michigan.”

“We must make wise decisions based upon the best science, which includes recognizing the elemental value that biodiversity supports in the health of our ecology and economy.”
Kim Herman - Former National President of the Natural Areas Association
Testified on 2/14/2013                  Masters in Botany/Plant Ecology, Michigan State University

“To pass this bill will further endanger already imperiled ecosystems and species and immeasurably hurt the health of our state forests and wildlife lands.”

“To pass SB 78 is analogous to spending all the capital in our savings accounts. To manage our state forests and all our state lands sustainably, including biodiversity conserves our capital and grows interest for today and future generations.”

March 1, 2013

Last Call at the Oasis and Lynn Henning at Allegan Theater March 10

The 2nd Annual Allegan Green Film Fest runs throughout March, and on March 10, they're featuring Last Call at the Oasis, a documentary about our dwindling clean water resources that features the Michigan Chapter's Lynn Henning!  Details below.  Lynn will be at the screening to answer questions afterwards. Please join us!                           

Last Call at the Oasis
Sunday, March 10,  4 p.m.
Allegan Regent Theatre, 211 Trowbridge St., Allegan
Admission: $5

Last Call at the Oasis presents a powerful argument for why the global water crisis will be the central issue facing our world this century. Illuminating the vital role water plays in our lives, the film exposes the defects in the current system and depicts communities struggling with its ill-effects. Featuring activist Erin Brockovich and such distinguished experts as Peter Gleick, Alex Prud’homme, Jay Famiglietti and Robert Glennon, it also showcases the work of Michigan farmer and Sierra club activist Lynn Henning.

For a complete listing of films in the Allegan Film Fest, visit
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