May 23, 2014

Hundreds of Gallons of Oil Spill in Jackson


May 23, 2014
Contact: Marissa Luna,

Hundreds of Gallons of Oil Spill in Jackson
Underscores the need for stormwater infrastructure investments

JACKSON – Recently, 800 gallons of motor oil and hydraulic fluid spilled into the city of Jackson storm sewer system and some made its way into the Grand River. Local officials were alerted about the spill on Sunday night, and clean up efforts began on Monday. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials arrived on the scene on Wednesday, but neither local nor federal authorities know where the spill originated or if there is more oil harming other areas of the river. 

“Sunday's spill underscores the risks posed to vital waterways like our Grand River when we fail to make adequate investments in local stormwater infrastructure,” said Derek Dobies, vice mayor of Jackson. “Initiatives like Clean Jackson that focus on making crucial updates to our stormwater system will help our city better prepare for these types of incidents and protect the Grand River for future generations to enjoy.”

Just over a year ago, in April 2013, 300 to 500 gallons of oil leaked into the Grand River in Lansing due to an equipment malfunction at the Lansing Board of Water & Light.

“Unfortunately this isn’t the first time that oil has spilled into the Grand River,” said Nic Clark, Michigan director of Clean Water Action. “I agree with the Vice Mayor, we need to pursue an all of the above strategy to protect our water that includes investment in green infrastructure stormwater design, renewable energy, and pipeline safety.” 

In the past decade, there has been a substantial $27 million decrease in investment in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s (MDEQ) general fund appropriations. Cuts to the MDEQ budget mean that communities like Jackson can’t make needed investments in infrastructure projects to control storm water runoff.

“Just last month Lt. Governor Brian Calley signed legislation giving more tax breaks to corporate oil,” said Mike Berkowitz, legislative and political director for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “Rather than providing tax giveaways to oil companies while they pollute our water and make record profits, our elected leaders should be making greater investments in the MDEQ to ensure that the Grand River and our Great Lakes are protected from pollution.”


Clean Energy Now is a coalition of groups that supports policies that will move Michigan beyond coal power and toward greater use of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency as a way to protect the environment and build prosperity. Follow the campaign at

May 19, 2014

Sierra Club Endorses Minimum Wage Proposal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                More information:
Monday, May 19, 2014                                                           David Holtz

Sierra Club Endorses Minimum Wage Proposal
Citizens Group Says Senate Bill A Step Forward, But More Is Needed

LANSING—As the minimum wage debate in Michigan’s Legislature heats up, Sierra Club announced today it has endorsed Raise Michigan’s ballot initiative to increase the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

“Good jobs with better wages give workers and their families the resources they need to succeed and engage in the communities where they live,” said Lydia Fischer, Sierra Club’s Conservation Co-Chair in Michigan.   “Poverty is a barrier to environmental cleanup in many local communities throughout Michigan.  Raising the minimum wage helps make environmental activism more accessible to people who live in communities where asthma, cancer and other public health hazards are everyday concerns.  

The Club endorsement of the Raise Michigan proposal by its 17-member state Executive Committee comes as the state House considers a Senate bill that would raise the minimum wage to $9.20 an hour by 2017.  

The bipartisan Senate bill is an important step in the right direction, but should be improved by House lawmakers, said David Holtz, Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter Chair.   Holtz said House lawmakers should increase the minimum wage rate to $10.10 an hour and remove barriers to democracy in the Senate bill that would keep voters from having the option of enacting the Raise Michigan proposal.  The Republican-sponsored Senate bill includes a repeal of the current minimum wage law, the effect of which would be to kill the Raise Michigan ballot proposal. 

“The Senate’s bipartisan proposed minimum wage increase is significant and would never have happened if it weren't for citizens putting pressure on lawmakers to act," said Holtz.  “The proposed legislation, however, still falls short of what workers really need.  The fact that Senate Republicans authored a legislative trick to disenfranchise voters is politics at its worst and this provision should be rejected by the House.”

Sierra Club is a volunteer-led environmental organization with 160,000 members and supporters in Michigan.

May 15, 2014

Comments to the Michigan Senate Agriculture Committee Regarding Changes to Siting GAAMPs

By Gail Philbin, Assistant Director, Michigan Sierra Club, May 15, 2014

The Michigan Sierra Club appreciates the opportunity to speak before this committee on the recent changes to the Siting GAAMPs that removed Right to Farm protection for many urban and suburban farmers.  We opposed those changes, and I’ve included a copy of our comments to the Michigan Agriculture Commission along with these comments to this committee.

The public outcry following the Michigan Agriculture Commission’s action on April 28 shows that it touched a nerve. One of the hottest trends in food in Michigan is the public demand for access to more local, sustainable meat, dairy, poultry and eggs, and one sure way to get it is to grow your own. More people are returning to a practice common a century ago of raising a flock of chickens in the back yard for fresh eggs, for example, as the best way to ensure their families have safe, healthy food in an era of animal factories.

The Commission’s action has also opened up an important and long overdue dialogue about our food system and what our priorities should be as we navigate a future of greater challenges to our water supply and increasingly volatile weather events. Do we want to put all our eggs in the factory farm basket, so to speak, with its resource-intensive practices that pollute our water, land and air? Or do we foster diversity, sustainability and independence by protecting the right of citizens to raise their own food if they choose?

The Michigan Sierra Club hopes that, as the committee looks into the issues raised by the recent GAAMPs changes, it recognizes that the people of Michigan want and deserve access to healthy, safe food.  The desire is evidenced by the wild popularity of farmers markets and community supported agriculture around the state, and, yes, by the growing numbers of urban and suburban backyard farmers. We urge you to explore options that will protect these small but important pieces of our food system’s future.

Thank you.

May 13, 2014

Sierra Club Blasts DEQ Decision on Severstal

Permit Allows Major Polluter To Continue Polluting Dearborn Area

Tuesday, May 13, 2014                                   Rhonda Anderson

DETROIT—Sierra Club of Michigan sharply criticized a decision by the Snyder administration Monday to grant a new permit to Severstal, one of the state’s leading corporate polluters.   The decision to grant the permit by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality follows widespread opposition from local Dearborn residents and environmentalists to granting a new permit to Severstal, which has a long history of permit violations. 

“The decision by the DEQ puts polluters before families in Dearborn and Detroit and is an outrage,” said Rhonda Anderson, Sierra Club’s senior organizer.  “What the Snyder administration is saying with this permit is that no matter how many times you have violated clean air standards in your previous permit we will not only give you a new one but one that makes it easier to pollute.  It seems clear that public health wasn’t even a consideration in this decision. This is unacceptable, an injustice and an embarrassment for Michigan.”

Dearborn-based Severstal has been the target of 117 complaints and more that 20 violation notices with the DEQ since 2010.   Initially, the DEQ strongly opposed efforts to weaken its clean air permit, but after the state’s Michigan Economic Development got involved the agency reversed it position.  

Severstal Dearborn is a subsidiary of an international, Russian-based company, Severstal, which has far-flung mining and manufacturing interests in Russia, Brazil, Africa and other places. 


May 12, 2014

Join Sierra Club in Lansing May 15 to Protect Your Right to Raise Your Own Food!

Voice Your Opposition to Recent Changes that Removed Right to Farm Protection from Backyard Farmers!

Recent changes made by the Michigan Agriculture Commission have removed Right to Farm protection for many urban and suburban backyard farmers who are raising small flocks of chickens or other animals to ensure healthy, humane food for their families. Sierra Club submitted comments opposing the rule changes at the April 28 commission meeting, which you can read at:
Now we have another chance to make our voices heard, and we’re hoping you can join us in standing up for the right to healthy, homegrown food

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will testify about the changes before the Michigan Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday, May 15, at 8:30am in Lansing. This meeting is public and provides an opportunity to tell the senators how you feel about your right to grow your own food.  

You can bet the Michigan Farm Bureau will be there early to fill the seats, so if you’re going, please arrive as early as possible to get a seat up front! If you arrive late, please stand in the back of the room to show your support. 

Thursday, May 15, 8:30am
Senate Agriculture Committee Meeting
Senate Hearing Room, Ground Floor, Boji Tower
124 W. Allegan Street, Lansing, MI   48933

To get your testimony in the official record, make sure you: 1) Bring written testimony with you to submit so it gets entered into the committee record even if you don’t get to testify; 2) Fill out a card when you arrive if you’d like to read your testimony before the committee (if there is time).
If you can’t attend the hearing, please email your testimony before May 15 to get it into the record. Email to Tony Mosesso, the Committee clerk, at
Questions? Contact