January 27, 2014

Statement from Sierra Club On Proposed Oil Industry Sweetheart Bills

Monday, January 27, 2014                 Mike Berkowitz  

Statement from Sierra Club On Proposed Oil Industry Sweetheart Bills
Giant Tax Breaks, Eminent Domain Privileges Considered Tuesday By House Panel

LANSING--Proposals before a legislative panel Tuesday that would give oil and gas companies new powers to construct pipelines on private property over the objections of Michigan landowners--and give new tax breaks to the industry--were strongly opposed today by the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, which issued the following statement from State Director Anne Woiwode:

 On Tuesday the state House Energy and Technology Committee will hear testimony for the first time on House Bills 4885, 5255 and 5254.   House Bill 4885 would reduce state revenues from oil and gas development by dramatically reducing the so-called severance tax on gas and oil enhanced recovery drilling, including the controversial fracking process. Under the proposed legislation, oil and gas companies would get a 40% break on the oil severance tax, from the current 6.6% to 4% while gas drilling taxes would be reduced by 20%, from 5% to 4%.  This proposed handout to the oil and gas industry not only gives them an unneeded tax break, but encourages drilling activities that threaten our Great Lakes system, putting our waters at risk.  We believe fracking is too risky to continue in Michigan and should be stopped.  Giving tax breaks to the oil industry to encourage more fracking is the last thing Michigan’s elected officials should be considering.  Instead, Michigan lawmakers should take up legislation introduced last year that would strengthen weak environmental protections for fracking and invest more money in environmental monitoring of our water and air and other protections to safeguard human health and our natural resources.

Moreover, House Bills 5254 and 5255 pose an alarming new threat for all local Michigan residents who are facing aggressive oil, gas and related pipeline construction in their communities.   Sierra Club strongly opposes giving new eminent domain authority to private oil and gas companies at the expense of the rights of private property owners and the public.  We call on lawmakers to reject both bills. The proposed legislation would also restrict the amount of information pipeline companies would have to release to the public. The recent expansion of oil and tar sands pipelines in Michigan has led to many private landowners witnessing pipeline construction within a few yards of their homes or businesses.  Giving oil and gas companies more ability to take lands for the transportation of fossil fuels and pipeline development is the wrong decision for Michigan, for clean water, and for property owners.
 The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization, with over 150,000 members and supporters in Michigan.

January 14, 2014

Sierra Club: Let Voters Decide Wildlife Issues

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE        More information:
News from the Sierra Club                   Marvin Roberson 906-350-0288
Tuesday, January 14, 2014         

Sierra Club:  Let Voters Decide Wildlife Issues
Conservation Group Defends Keeping Wolves, Others Issues Subject To Ballot

LANSING—Michigan Sierra Club has endorsed keeping voters involved in the state’s wildlife decision-making by announcing its support for one citizen petition drive and opposing another, both of which are linked to Michigan’s controversial wolf hunt.

Michigan Sierra Club’s 18-member Executive Committee voted unanimously to support a petition drive undertaken by Keep Michigan Wolves Protected to repeal Public Act 21 of 2013 and to oppose a separate effort launched recently by Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) to block voters from having a say over hunting and other wildlife decisions.  

“Many citizens do not want wolves hunted. We believe they should have a voice,” said Marvin Roberson, Michigan Sierra Club Forest Ecologist.  “We believe that the values of a majority of Michigan citizens should be heard on this and future wildlife issues.”

Conservation organizations have historically advocated for keeping the voice of the public in natural resource management decisions because wildlife and other state natural resources are owned by Michigan’s citizens.

Both current petition drives were launched in the wake of the successful effort by Keep Michigan Wolves Protected to give voters an opportunity to ban wolf hunting.  The group early last year gathered enough petition signatures to place the question before voters this November. But moves by the Legislature, Gov. Rick Snyder and most recently MUCC are attempting to thwart any vote to ban wolf hunting.   The MUCC-sponsored citizen initiative, called Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, would go a step further and place all future decision-making on hunting and other wildlife issues entirely in the hands of Lansing lawmakers and the politically appointed Michigan Natural Resources Commission and out of the hands of voters. 

“Our leadership from throughout the state felt strongly that stewardship of Michigan’s natural resources and wildlife has a long tradition of being held in the public trust and that removing voters from any decision-making in how these resources are managed is not the Michigan way,” said David Holtz, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Chair.  “Those who are working to take democracy out of wildlife protection would like us to believe this is all about science.  It’s not about science. It’s about politics and privilege.  Michigan’s natural resources belong to the people, not to politicians or special interests.”

In 2012, the Michigan Legislature passed Public Act 520, which added the wolf to the list of game species in Michigan.  Sierra Club opposed the legislation because had failed to follow through on commitments under the state’s wolf management plan to begin scientific studies related to proper management of the wolf.  Almost immediately upon passage of PA 520, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected launched a petition drive. The petition drive succeeded in collecting enough signatures to place a referendum on PA 520 on the ballot in 2014. This would have allowed Michigan voters to either approve or overturn the legislative decision to add wolves to the list of game species.

However, in a move clearly designed solely to thwart any vote on wolves as a game species, the Legislature passed and Gov. Snyder signed into law Public Act 21 of 2013. This allowed the Natural Resources Commission to add species to the game list as well as the Legislature. It also gave the NRC sole authority over issues regarding fisheries management. Keep Michigan Wolves Protected then initiated a second referendum petition challenging PA 21 to reverse this bald-faced move to thwart a legitimate vote of the people on the referendum to repeal PA 520. 

The citizens initiative petition drive launched by MUCC is identical to PA 21 except that it includes a $1 million appropriation.  As a citizen’s initiative MUCC is seeking to collect enough signatures to bring this measure directly to the Legislature, which can approve the initiative without going to a vote of the people.  The inclusion of an appropriation in this measure also means the provisions transferring authority to the NRC to set game and fish species in the citizen’s initiative would remove any opportunity for referendum and a vote of the people. Decisions by the NRC are not subject to referendum by the voters. This would have the practical effect of making the outcome of a 2014 vote on Keep Michigan Wolves Protected petition drive to ban wolf hunting meaningless.

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

January 9, 2014

Answers to Questions Raised about Coal Plant Permits Included in Governor Snyder Scorecard

January 9, 2014
Questions have been raised about the inclusion of Governor Snyder’s decision to issue permits for two proposed coal plants within his first months in office in Sierra Club’s Scorecard [1]evaluating Governor Snyder’s environmental record during his first term.  Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Director Anne Woiwode responds to these questions with the below summary and documentation on these issues, and she can be reached at, at 517-484-2372 x 11 or by cell phone as 517-974-2112.  

Governor Snyder’s decision to approve permits for the Holland and Rogers City coal plants reversed then existing state policy that advanced cleaner alternatives to coal and reflects the governor’s lack of commitment to clean energy. Approving permits for coal plants that would emit enormous amounts of carbon dioxide contributing to climate disruption, expel toxic metals like mercury, and directly contribute to Michiganders developing respiratory illnesses from particulate matter emissions is the wrong decision for the people of Michigan and our environment.
Within a month of taking office, Governor Snyder’s Administration began abandoning a process developed under the Granholm Administration that sought to assure that the people of Michigan’s interests were protected by considering whether proposed coal fired power plants were needed and whether there were other alternatives that were less polluting. Governor Snyder’s reversal of decisions to deny permits to two coal fired power plant proposals both delayed Michigan’s move toward cleaner energy sources and led to the ratepayers of each of those facilities carrying the costs of the continued investment in developing those plants.
On February 3, 2009, Governor Jennifer Granholm issued Executive Directive 2009-2[2], based on both the Michigan Environmental Protection Act and on the federal Clean Air Act, that directed the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, in cooperation with the staff of the Michigan Public Service Commission, to review proposed coal fired power plants that were applying for air permits to install (PTI) for whether the power they would produce was needed, and whether there were alternatives available that would meet this need with less pollution.  
Granholm’s action reflected concerns about pollution from new coal power plants (including mercury, acid rain precursors, ozone-causing chemicals and the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide) as well as concerns that investing in massive, polluting coal power plants instead of alternative cleaner technologies would cost ratepayers an excessive amount of money and would divert funding from cleaner technologies, including renewable power and energy efficiency measures. 

The staff of the Michigan Public Service Commission reviewed three proposed plants[3]: Consumers Energy’s proposed expansion of the Karn Weadock coal plant in Essexville; Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative’s coal plant proposed for Rogers City; and the City of Holland’s proposed expansion of the James DeYoung plant.  The MPSC staff concluded that in the case of Consumers Energy’s proposal, the plant could only be justified if Consumers committed to closing existing coal fired plants.  Consumers did proceed with the proposed plant and committed to closing multiple existing coal plants in exchange,  but ultimately the utility concluded it could not justify proceeding with building an expanded coal fired power plant[4].  Later, Consumers sought permission from the MPSC to charge its customers $22 million to cover the costs of the failed power plant proposal[5].
In the MPSC staff reports to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on both the proposed Wolverine plant and the proposed Holland plant expansion, the agency staff concluded that neither plant was needed to meet power needs of their utilities and that there were available alternatives that would meet the needs in the future.  MDEQ’s decisions to deny each of these permits was based on the findings of these reports[6] and cited relevant state and federal law.  Litigation was brought by each utility in the respective Circuit Courts in their counties, which reached significantly different conclusions.  The Ottawa County court in December of 2010 reversed the Holland permit denial based on the MDEQ’s decision to base the denial on the lack of need for the plant.  In January 2011, the Missaukee County court in the Wolverine case concluded that the MDEQ had failed to adequately document their decision in their permit denial letter, even though the full record of the permit consideration provided extensive documentation.  The court remanded the permit to the MDEQ allowing them to further document their decision.  
In January 2011, Governor Snyder took office, and the new Administration declined to effectively defend the permit denial decisions and ultimately issued both permits.  Last December, both proposed plants were cancelled.

ATTACHMENT (note: this document is no longer available on the State of Michigan’s website)

 (To Print: use your browser's print function)
Release Date: February 03, 2009
Last Update: February 03, 2009 


Consideration of Feasible and Prudent Alternatives in the Processing of Air Permit Applications from Coal-Fired Power Plants
WHEREAS, Section 1 of Article V of the Michigan Constitution of 1963 vests the executive power of the State ofMichigan in the Governor;

WHEREAS, under Section 8 of Article V of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, each principal department of state government is under the supervision of the Governor unless otherwise provided by the Constitution;

WHEREAS, under Section 8 of Article V of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, the Governor is responsible to take care that the laws be faithfully executed;

WHEREAS, under Section 52 of Article IV of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, the conservation and development of the natural resources of this state are matters of paramount public concern in the interest of the health, safety, and general welfare of the people;

WHEREAS, under Section 51 of Article IV of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, the public health and general welfare of the people of the state are matters of primary public concern;

WHEREAS, Part 17 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, MCL 324.1701 to 324.1706, provides in part that "[i]n administrative, licensing, or other proceedings, and in any judicial review of such a proceeding, the alleged pollution, impairment, or destruction of the air, water, or other natural resources, or the public trust in these resources, shall be determined, and conduct shall not be authorized or approved that has or is likely to have such an effect if there is a feasible and prudent alternative consistent with the reasonable requirements of the public health, safety, and welfare";

WHEREAS, Part 17 of the National Resources and Environmental Protection Act is supplemental to existing administrative and regulatory procedures provided by law;

WHEREAS, under Part 55 of the National Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, MCL 324.5501 to 324.5542, and Executive Order 1995-18, MCL 324.99903, the Department of Environmental Quality has the authority to grant permits for the construction and operation of sources of air emissions under the federal Clean Air Act, 42 USC 7401 to 7671q;

WHEREAS, Section 5541 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, MCL 324.5541, provides that Part 55 of the Act "does not repeal any of the laws relating to air pollution which are not by this part expressly repealed.  This part is ancillary to and supplements the laws now in force, except as they may be in direct conflict with this part";

WHEREAS, under Section 165(a)(2) of the federal Clean Air Act, 42 USC 7475(a)(2), the Department of Environmental Quality has the discretion to consider alternatives to proposed sources of air emissions when determining whether or not to grant an air permit to that source;
WHEREAS, coal-fired electricity generating plants annually emit thousands of tons of air emissions, including, but not limited to, greenhouse gases, that threaten the air, water, and other natural resources of Michigan and the health, safety, and general welfare of Michigan residents;

WHEREAS, circumstances have changed since the 21st Century Energy Plan, issued pursuant to Executive Directive 2006-2, projected that Michigan's total electric generation requirements would grow at 1.3% annually until 2025, as evidenced by the Michigan Public Service Commission's projection in its Winter 2008/2009 Energy Appraisal that electricity sales decreased 1.4% in Michigan in 2008;

WHEREAS, the enactment of the Clean, Renewable, and Efficient Energy Act, 2008 PA 295, MCL 460.1001 to 460.1195, has reduced the need for additional coal-fired electricity generating plants in Michigan by providing for the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy to meet future electricity needs in this state, reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels such as coal;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Jennifer M. Granholm, Governor of the State of Michigan, by virtue of the power and authority vested in the Governor by the Michigan Constitution of 1963 and Michigan law, direct:

A. Before issuing a permit to install under Part 55 of the National Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, MCL 324.5501 to 324.5542, for the construction of a new coal-fired electricity generating plant, the Department of Environmental Quality shall determine whether there is a feasible and prudent alternative consistent with the reasonable requirements of the public health, safety, and welfare that would better protect the air, water, and other natural resources of this state from pollution than the proposed coal-fired electricity generating plant.

B. Before making the determination required by Paragraph A, the Department shall first determine whether a reasonable electricity generation need exists in this state that would be served by the proposed coal-fired electricity generating plant.  If a reasonable electricity generation need exists in this state, the Department shall estimate the extent of the reasonable electricity generation need.

C. The Department shall next consider alternative methods of meeting the reasonable electricity generation need, including, but not limited to, each of the following:
  1. Constructing new electricity generating resources that use technologies other than the burning of coal or that generate electricity from coal using technologies that reduce or sequester emissions.
  2. Reducing electricity demand and peak demand through energy efficiency programs or load management techniques.
  3. Generating or purchasing electricity from existing electricity generating resources.
D. If the Department determines that a feasible and prudent alternative to the construction of a new proposed coal-fired electricity generating plant exists consistent with the reasonable requirements of the public health, safety, and welfare that would better protect the air, water, and other natural resources of this state than the proposed coal-fired electricity generating plant, the Department shall not issue a permit to install.

E. The Michigan Public Service Commission shall provide technical assistance to the Department in making determinations required by this Directive.

F. All departments, committees, commissioners, or officers of the executive branch of this state shall give to the Department of Environmental Quality any necessary assistance required by the Department in the performance of the duties of this Directive, so far as is compatible with its, his, or her duties.  Free access shall also be given to any books, records, or documents in its, his, or her custody, relating to matters within the scope of inquiry, study, or review of the Department under this Directive.

This Directive is effective immediately.
Given under my hand this 3rd day of February in the year of our Lord, two thousand and nine.

Copyright © 2009 State of Michigan

[1] Find the Scorecard here:

[2] Under the Snyder Administration, all of Governor Granholm’s Executive Directives have been removed from the State of Michigan’s website.  An analysis of Executive Directive 2009-2 is found on the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center website here and the full Executive Directive is included at the end of this memo

[3] A report was prepared for each proposal:
the Consumers Energy proposal report is here;
the Wolverine proposal report is here
and the Holland proposal report is here

[4]“Consumers Energy's statement on decision not to build coal-fired plant,” MLive, 12/2/11

[5]“Consumers Energy wants customers to pay $22 million for failed coal-fired plant, but many readers don't want to pay”, MLive, 12/8/11

[6] MDEQ letter denying Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative permit, May 2010 
MDEQ letter denying Holland Board of Public Works permit, August 2010

January 8, 2014

Sierra Club Releases First-Ever Report On Governor Snyder’s Performance

News from the Sierra Club
Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mike Berkowitz, 248-345-9808,

Sierra Club Releases First-Ever Report On Governor Snyder’s Performance  
Gov. Snyder Gets a Failing Grade on Energy, Environment, Good Government Policies

MICHIGAN — The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter today released its first-ever gubernatorial Scorecard, which evaluates Rick Snyder’s performance on energy, environment, good government and related issues.  Michigan’s chief executive got a failing grade, scoring 22% on the most important environmental actions taken during his first three years in office. The full scorecard is available here.

“Nearly 80 percent of decisions made by Gov. Snyder in our Scorecard contribute toward polluting our water, air, land and undermining public health and good government.  These are the wrong priorities for residents of the Great Lakes State,” said Mike Berkowitz, Legislative and Political Director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.

“Governor Snyder’s biggest environmental accomplishment over the past three years was establishing a regional transportation authority for southeast Michigan,” said Richard Barron, chair of Sierra Club’s Political Committee.  

“When Gov. Snyder campaigned for election there was optimism that as governor of the Great Lakes State he would be a leader on clean energy, pollution protection, and water quality,” said Barron.  “With the exception of transportation policy there’s been no substantive leadership on these issues, and in a majority of cases Michigan has moved backwards.”

The Scorecard release comes as Gov. Snyder prepares his 2014 State of the State address. It is intended to provide a substantive, detailed guide to his record on issues important to Sierra Club members and all residents of the Great Lakes State.

“Michigan used to be a leader in making conservation a top priority under Republican Governors such as Bill Milliken, but not anymore,” said James D’Amour, the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter’s Political Committee Vice Chair.  D’Amour described Governor Snyder’s environmental record as “disappointing and disheartening for Republicans like me who care about clean air and water.”

The Scorecard includes 36 key decisions made by Gov. Snyder on environmental issues including 29 bills signed into law, two bills vetoed, and five administrative actions regarding permits and DEQ/DNR programs. Governor Snyder signed 21 bills into law that were direct attacks on environmental protections. He signed 6 bills designed to protect the environment and also vetoed one bill attacking environmental protections. He signed four bills into law and vetoed 1 that were direct attacks on our democracy. The five administrative actions weakened access to clean air, water and land.

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