August 29, 2014

NEWS: Sierra Club releases endorsements for MI State Legislative and Local races

August 29, 2014

Mike Berkowitz

Sierra Club Endorses Candidates in State Legislative and Local Races
Nation’s Largest Grassroots Conservation Organization Backs Climate and Clean Energy Leaders in Michigan election

LANSING, MI  -The Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club announced over 30 candidate endorsements in Michigan’s upcoming state legislative and local elections.        
“These Sierra Club endorsed candidates have demonstrated strong leadership in promoting clean air, clean water and cleaner energy for a healthier Michigan,” said Mike Berkowitz, Political Director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.

Sierra Club endorsed the following candidates for State Senate:

Coleman Young for State Senate District 1
Morris Hood for State Senate District 3
Virgil Smith for State Senate District 4
Vincent Gregory for State Senate District 11
Kevin Commet for State Senate District 16
Jim Ananich for State Senate District 27
Sarah Howard for State Senate District 30
Ron Mindykowski for State Senate District 31
Fred Sprague for State Senate District 33
Cathy Forbes for State Senate District 34
Phil Bellfy for State Senate District 37

Sierra Club endorsed the following candidates for State Representative:

Stephanie Chang for State Representative District 6
Sherry Gay Dagnogo for State Representative District 8
Julie Plawecki for State Representative District 11
Kristy Pagan for State Representative District 21
John Chirkun for State Representative District 22
David Haener for State Representative District 23
Robert Wittenberg for State Representative District 27
Derek Miller for State Representative District 28
Bo Karpinsky for State Representative District 30
Christine Greig for State Representative District 37
Sandy Colvin for State Representative District 39
Phil Phelps for State Representative District 49
Sharon Wimple for State Representative District 57
Jon Hoadley for State Representative District 60
John Fischer for State Representative District 61
Andy Helmbolt for State Representative District 62
Rob VerHeulen for State Representative District 74
Annie Braidwood for State Representative District 85
Lynn Mason for State Representative District 86
Betsy Coffia for State Representative District 104
Robert Kennedy for State Representative District 106

Sierra Club also endorsed the following for local races:

David Bowman for Oakland County Commission District 10

“Sierra Club volunteers from among the organization’s 160,000 Michigan members and supporters will work with endorsed candidates in their own communities, identifying and recruiting other likely voters who are concerned about the state’s environmental and energy policies,” said Richard Morley Barron, Political Chair of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter

The Michigan Chapter’s Political Committee conducts thorough reviews of all candidates based on their environmental history, voting records and policy positions through candidate interviews and responses to candidate questionnaires.
A full list of candidates endorsed by the Michigan Sierra Club, including federal, state and local candidates, is available at the following website:

About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide, and over 160,000 in Michigan. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation. For more information, visit

Paid for by Michigan Sierra PAC (109 E. Grand River Ave. Lansing, MI 48906)


August 25, 2014

Snyder Should Ban, Not Study Radioactive Waste Imports to Michigan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                         More Information:
Monday, August 25, 2014                               Mike Berkowitz

Sierra Club:  Snyder Should Ban, Not Study 
Radioactive Waste Imports to Michigan

LANSING, MI--Michigan Sierra Club criticized Gov. Snyder’s decision today to study rather than prevent radioactive wastes from being imported to Michigan from other states.

We shouldn't be accepting radioactive waste from other states, period,” said Mike Berkowitz, Sierra Club Legislative Director.  “Creating a study group is more about public relations than protecting Michigan’s drinking water sources.  What possible reason is there for Michigan to be burying other states’ radioactive wastes?

“The fact that the governor has already said in advance of the study that our current rules allowing wastes are protective enough speaks volumes. If Governor Snyder is unwilling to protect Michigan from radioactive wastes, then lawmakers need to step up and fill the void.”

Berkowitz pointed out that in announcing the study, Gov. Snyder gave no deadline for completing it or whether the study group would take input from the public.

Nearly 40 tons of radioactive sludge from Pennsylvania gas drilling operations is being shipped to a Michigan hazardous waste site after it was rejected by Pennsylvania as well as West Virginia.  Wayne Disposal in Belleville near Willow Run Airport is the destination for the large radioactive waste shipment from Pennsylvania.  Other states, meanwhile, are either banning or tightening regulations on radioactive waste disposal, making Michigan an attractive target for disposal.


August 11, 2014


Fish Factory Could Bring Diseases, Parasites To Famed River

LANSING--The Sierra Club announced today that it will challenge a state permit allowing a controversial factory fish farm in the famed Au Sable River near Grayling. The permit, issued on July 1 by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), would allow the fish farm to discharge pollutants into the East Branch of the Au Sable River, just upstream from where it joins the world-renowned “Holy Waters” section of the Main Branch of the river. Another state agency, the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources, has described the Holy Waters stretch of the Au Sable as “unique”, and notes that it is “renowned” throughout the world.
“The idea of placing an industrial fish farm within the Au Sable River is just mind-boggling", said Anne Woiwode,  Director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. "Fish waste, food, disease, and parasites are inevitably associated with fish farms of this type. To allow the discharge of these substances into the Au Sable River goes against everything Michiganders expect from our state officials ”.
Woiwode also pointed out that the permit does not require monitoring or control of the release of disease, parasites, most pollutants, or even live fish into the river.
"There is evidence indicating that there have already been escapees from this facility, even before it has ramped up to industrial capacity”, said Woiwode.
Attorney Nick Schroeck, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, represents Sierra Club. Schroeck says that the DEQ has failed in their duty to protect the environment.
“The DEQ has admitted that operation of this facility will degrade one of the most economically valuable rivers in the country,” said Schroeck. “But the agency claims  that this degradation is  acceptable, because it will provide 2 full time and 2 part time jobs.  The risk to the Au Sable far outweighs any potential benefits from this facility."
The Sierra Club will file a petition today for a Contested Case with the DEQ, challenging the permit.
Sierra Club is the nation's oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization, with 150,000 members and supporters in Michigan.

August 8, 2014

Michigan Agriculture Contributes to Toledo's Water Woes

By Gail Philbin, Assistant Director, Michigan Chapter

Toledo’s recent bout with poisoned drinking water should serve as a huge wake-up call to Michigan to take seriously the link between factory farming, water pollution and public health.

The story of how dangerous levels of a toxin ended up in the water supply of Ohio’s fourth-largest city is in large part the story of how we grow our food today and who decides what are considered good farming practices. The impetus for Toledo’s weekend water ban was microcystin, a toxin experts say can cause diarrhea, vomiting or abnormal liver function that probably formed in a recent algae bloom in Lake Erie. The soupy, pea-green growth in one of our Great Lakes is an increasingly common occurrence fed by phosphorus run-off from southern Michigan and northwestern Ohio fields applied with commercial fertilizer or factory farm waste.

Why all the fertilizer and animal waste in our water? Because we eat lots of meat, dairy, poultry and eggs. The United States is the largest producer of corn in the world.  Eighty percent of what we grow is consumed not by people but by domestic and overseas livestock, poultry and fish production, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Vast monocultures of corn require large amounts of fertilizer to grow.  

We also like cheap food and most of us buy products that come from industrial-scale, concentrated livestock facilities, many of which have been constructed in the last decade in western Lake Erie watersheds that include southern Michigan. Such operations are favored by federal Farm Bill subsidies that keep their product prices artificially low. This taxpayer-funded support often goes to help construct manure lagoons and other systems for handling the huge amount of waste factory farms generate. Even so, it can end up polluting nearby waterways, as shown in the Less=More sustainable agriculture coalition’s 2013 report about subsidies and factory farm pollution, Restoring the Balance to Michigan’s Farming Landscape. The current subsidy system rewards polluters, giving an unfair advantage over the kind of healthy, sustainable livestock farms that more Michigan consumers seek to support at farmers markets and other local outlets.

Both monoculture crop farms and industrial livestock operations populate the landscape of the two main watersheds affecting Lake Erie, and it’s not clear how much of each is involved in the Toledo algae bloom. However, the role of the region's new livestock producers’ waste, much of it liquefied manure, and field runoff from the largest operations has scarcely been quantified up until now. John Klein, president of the citizen group Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, calculates that just the dairy and beef factory farms in the headwaters of the Maumee River and Raisin River, watersheds that impact western Lake Erie, annually generate about six million pounds of phosphorus. 

Last spring, a diverse coalition of Great Lakes groups predicted the kind of threat Toledo just experienced when it called on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to end the application of manure on frozen or snow-covered ground as an allowable practice of permitted Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The coalition cautioned that when snow melts or ground thaws, this common practice can result in runoff of phosphorus-loaded waste that ends up in Lake Erie. Reports by the International Joint Commission in February and the Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force in 2013 also advocate prohibiting this practice.

Toledo’s recent nightmare should send an alarm to all state agencies with oversight of modern agricultural operations about the connection between the highest-risk factory farming practices, water pollution and public health. The Michigan Natural Resources Conservation Service, a state-based agency of the US Department of Agriculture that allocates Farm Bill conservation subsidies, must reassess the practices it prioritizes with taxpayer money and stop supporting polluting factory farms. The MDEQ, which is still in the process of reviewing its general permit for CAFO operators, need wait no further to ban winter manure application. And the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Resource Development should immediately follow suit and keep winter manure application out of the best management practices in its voluntary Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program. 

We must get serious about how we raise our food. We have healthy, sustainable alternatives to industrial agriculture, but we can't replace the Great Lakes.