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News from Clean Energy Now
Wednesday, September 6, 2012


Clean Energy Advocates Applaud Public Comments Extension on Critical Electric Generation Decision for Holland

Holland Residents Can Now Address Study’s Shortcomings, As Their Energy Future is Determined


HOLLAND, MI - After two days of hearings and nearly three dozen local voices highlighting severe deficiencies in Holland Board of Public Works (HBPW) commissioned study, Holland residents were encouraged to see that the Board extended the public comment period on future electric generation options. Most of the residents who testified at the hearings raised extensive concerns about the Board's failure to seriously consider clean energy options like efficiency and renewable sources. Clean air and clean energy advocates still question whether HBPW will provide substantive responses to the comments submitted, including directing the consulting firm to run additional scenarios that reflect the goals of the Community Energy Planning process that thousands of Holland residents participated in and what was expected to help guide future decisions by HBPW.  

“The Holland Board of Public Works has the clean energy future of Holland in their hands, and all Holland residents deserve a seat at the table. We applaud the Board for finally allowing the public to comment, but their work isn’t done,” said Jan O’Connell with Sierra Club. Transitioning Holland to clean, renewable energy sources is a common sense solution that will create jobs and save families money.  Renewable energy and energy efficiency haven’t been seriously examined, and there has been an unnecessary push for a large gas-fired power plant. Holland families deserve a serious discussion over the possibilities of renewable energy."


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 5th, 2012
Contact: Mike Berkowitz, (248) 345-9808, mike.berkowitz@sierraclub.org

Michigan Sierra Club Releases Legislative Scorecard for State Legislators

All but four Republicans scored zero percent, most Democrats scored above 75 percent

LANSING - The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter today released its 2011-2012 Legislative Scorecard, which tracks legislators environmental voting records, for the Michigan House of Representatives. While the scorecard generally showed Democrats voting to maintain and/or strengthen environmental protections, more disturbingly it showed Republicans generally vote to weaken or eliminate environmental protections.
“It’s extremely frustrating that the environment has become a partisan political issue,” said Mike Berkowitz, the Michigan chapter organizer for the Sierra Club. “Of the 62 Republican State Representatives, 58 scored zero percent. If that statistic doesn’t scare you, it should. The Republican House leadership has completely failed at protecting clean air and clean water for Michigan citizens.”
The Sierra Club’s scorecard calculated the results based upon eight roll call votes in the House for the 2011-2012 legislative session. According to the Scorecard, House Democrats scored an average of 78 percent, while House Republicans scored an average of one percent. Six lawmakers scored a perfect 100 percent. A full list of “Environmental Champions” (100 percent), “Environmental Stewards” (80 to 99 percent), and “Pollution Promoters” (zero to 25 percent) is included at the end of this release. The only Republican who crossed over to vote with Democrats on more than one bill on the scorecard was Rep. Matt Lori (R-Constantine.) Nine Democrats scored less than a 65 percent, two of whom scored as low as 38 percent. The full scorecard is available here.
“We focused on votes that our members and our Legislative Committee voiced major opinions about,” said Lydia Fischer, chair of the Legislative Committee for the Michigan Sierra Club. “Overall, votes were selected that clearly showcased the true environmental intent of the legislators.”
Aside from the partisan nature of the voting, the number of anti-environment bills that were advanced also increased. “Almost every single environmental bill considered over the last year was an attack on Michigan’s environmental protections,” Berkowitz continued. “Pro-environment bills that we lobbied for – such as bills to protect Michigan residents from the dangers of fracking – never even received public hearings in committee.”
“Why does our legislature have the wrong priorities when it comes to protecting Michigan’s environment?” asked James D’Amour, a Sierra Club member once active in the Republican Party. “Clean air and clean water should not be partisan issues. We were the best progressive leaders in making conservation a top priority. This so-called ‘new’ GOP is disappointing and disheartening for Republicans like me who care about the environment.”
###
The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization, with over 170,000 members and supporters in Michigan.


2011-2012 Environmental Champions (100% score)



District
Name
Party
5
John Olumba
D
9
Shanelle Jackson
D
11
David E. Nathan
D
25
Jon M. Switalski
D
27
Ellen Cogen Lipton
D
53
Jeff Irwin
D





2011-2012 Environmental Stewards (80-99% score)





District
Name
Party
1
Timothy Bledsoe
D
6
Frederick C. Durhal Jr.
D
7
James Womack
D
8
Thomas Stallworth III
D
12
Rashida Tlaib
D
15
George T. Darany
D
17
Phil Cavanagh
D
21
Dian Slavens
D
26
Jim Townsend
D
35
Rudy Hobbs
D
39
Lisa Brown
D
50
Charles Smiley
D
54
David Rutledge
D
68
Joan Bauer
D
69
Mark S. Meadows
D
75
Brandon Dillon
D
92
Marcia Hovey-Wright
D





2011-2012 Pollution Promoters (25% and below)



District
Name
Party
19
John J. Walsh
R
20
Kurt Heise
R
23
Pat Somerville
R
24
Anthony G. Forlini
R
30
Jeff Farrington
R
32
Andrea LaFontaine
R
33
Ken Goike
R
36
Peter J. Lund
R
38
Hugh D. Crawford
R
40
Charles Moss
R
41
Martin Knollenberg
R
43
Gail Haines
R
44
Eileen Kowall
R
45
Tom McMillin
R
46
Bradford C. Jacobsen
R
47
Cynthia S. Denby
R
52
Mark Ouimet
R
55
Rick Olson
R
56
Dale W. Zorn
R
57
Nancy E. Jenkins
R
58
Kenneth Kurtz
R
59
Matthew J. Lori
R
61
Margaret E. O'Brien
R
63
Jase Bolger
R
64
Earl Poleski
R
65
Michael Shirkey
R
66
William Rogers
R
70
Rick Outman
R
71
Deb Lynn Shaughnessy
R
72
Ken Yonker
R
73
Peter MacGregor
R
74
David Agema
R
77
Thomas B. Hooker
R
78
Sharon Tyler
R
79
Al Pscholka
R
80
Aric Nesbitt
R
81
Judson S. Gilbert II
R
82
Kevin Daley
R
83
Paul Muxlow
R
84
Kurt Damrow
R
85
Ben Glardon
R
86
Lisa Posthumus Lyons
R
87
Mike Callton
R
88
Robert J. Genetski II
R
89
Amanda Price
R
90
Joseph Haveman
R
91
Holly Hughes
R
93
Paul E. Opsommer
R
94
Kenneth B. Horn
R
97
Joel Johnson
R
98
Jim Stamas
R
99
Kevin Cotter
R
100
Jon Bumstead
R
101
Ray A. Franz
R
102
Phil Potvin
R
103
Bruce R. Rendon
R
104
Wayne A. Schmidt
R
105
Greg MacMaster
R
106
Peter Pettalia
R
107
Frank Foster
R
108
Ed McBroom
R
110
Matt Huuki
R




"Too many children losing connection to world around us"

January 02, 2012 -- Jackson Citizen Patriot guest column by Mark Muhich Click here to read full story.

January 19, 2012

Media ContactGail Philbin, 312-493-2384

Sierra Club-GVSU Film Series Celebrates Three Anniversaries in 2012

Screening of "Gasland" Spotlights Latest Environmental Threat to Michigan

Grand Rapids -- The Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter and Grand Valley State University’s School of Communications join forces to celebrate three Sierra Club milestones in 2012 with a film series and membership drive that kicks off with a free, public screening of the award-winning documentary “Gasland.”  The movie and a post-screening Q&A take place Thursday, Feb. 16, 7-9 pm. at GVSU’s Loosemore Auditorium, 401 Fulton St. W, Grand Rapids. 

The event and collaboration honor the 45th anniversary of the Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter and the 120th of the national organization, and it marks the 25th anniversary of the Michigan Wilderness Act. This 1987 legislation, spearheaded by the Michigan Chapter, protected 90,000 acres of old growth forests, dunes and lakes after a 10-year political battle to designate the best of Michigan’s three million acres of national forest lands as wilderness.

“This is a great way to introduce people to the Sierra Club, because the movie is about a new environmental threat we’ve seen here in Michigan and are tackling head on,” said Anne Woiwode, Michigan Chapter director.

   

“Gasland,” an Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning film by Josh Fox, offers a first-person account of the filmmaker’s quest to find out more about hydraulic fracturing –“ fracking” for short -- a brutal but increasingly popular method of extracting deep-seated natural gas that has come to Michigan in recent years. 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 Michigan Chapter has been working with legislators on a package of bills to delay fracking in Michigan and strengthen regulations to protect people from the fallout of this dangerous process. The approach represents just one of a variety of tactics including grassroots action, coalition building and litigation that has helped the Chapter secure numerous environmental protections in the last five decades. In addition to the Michigan Wilderness Act, its diverse victories include the protection of 35 miles of pristine coastline that became Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in 1970, a 2002 ban on Great Lakes oil drilling, and 2008 legislation requiring power companies to invest in alternative energy and consumer energy efficiency.

The joint Sierra Club-GVSU celebration in 2012 represents the first-ever collaboration between the nation’s oldest environmental organization and the only Michigan university deemed one of the top 25 "cutting edge" green colleges in the United States by the 2009 Kaplan College Guide.  It coincides with GVSU’s winter semester and will feature another environmental film screening on campus April 5th and student recruitment activities including a wilderness outing hosted by GVSU film professors John Philbin and John Schmit. 

“In the 1980s while living in California, I got hooked on the Great Outdoors and joined the Sierra Club – it was a place I found kindred spirits,” says Philbin, who made a documentary about Yosemite National Park rangers in 1986.  “And Sierra Magazine got me dreaming of hiking trips to all the national parks. I’m happy to help introduce the Club to my students and rally a new generation to the cause.”

For more on Gasland, visit: www.gaslandthemovie.com.  For details about Sierra Club’s anniversary year, contact Gail Philbin at gail.philbin@sierraclub.org or 517-484-2372, ext. 16. For information about the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, visit www.michigan.sierraclub.org.


January 12, 2012

Media Contact:  Gail Philbin, 312-493-2384

Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Celebrates Three Milestones in 2012

Chapter’s 45th Anniversary; National’s 120th; and 25th of Michigan Wilderness Act

Lansing – Lynne Stauff and Dave Errickson can honestly say the nation’s oldest environmental organization changed their lives.  The Lansing residents met on a Club outing in Glacier National Park in 2006, got engaged at another park and tied the knot last August.

“My first Sierra Club outing brought me the love of my life,” says Errickson.  “In five years of membership, I have gotten back far more than I could ever give.”

 “We courted over trail work, splashing boulders in a muddy stream, rinsing off in a cold creek, sharing meals with like-minded people while watching the sun set over the mountains,” Stauff adds. “We still enjoy Sierra Club trips and volunteering with our local chapter.  It’s been an adventure of a lifetime!”

Even folks who can’t attribute the success of their love lives to the Sierra Club owe a great deal to this national organization, which celebrates its 120th anniversary in 2012, and to the Michigan Chapter, which fetes its 45th.

“If you’ve ever enjoyed Sleeping Bear Dunes, Grand Island, Nordhouse Dunes or many other wild places in Michigan or around the country, you have the Sierra Club to thank,” says Jean Gramlich, an Oakland County resident and chair of the Chapter’s Executive Committee.  “Its victories are a part of the fabric of our lives.”

The national Sierra Club played a key role in killing a plan to flood the Grand Canyon in the 1960s after mobilizing thousands of people in protest in the days before the internet and social media. Similarly, since its founding in 1967, the Michigan Chapter has had many important victories, beginning with the protection of 35 miles of pristine coastline that became Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in 1970.

The Michigan Chapter’s success stories range from the historic 1987 Michigan Wilderness Act, which protected 90,000 acres of old growth forests, lakes and dunes, to a 2002 ban on Great Lakes oil drilling to 2008 legislation requiring power companies to invest in alternative energy and energy efficiency.  The volunteer-led organization’s advocacy helped shut down old coal-fired power plants and stop new ones from being built, blocked over 100 damaging oil and gas leases, and brought greater scrutiny and regulation to factory farms.

Yet, the victory Chapter Director Anne Woiwode takes most pride in is the Michigan Wilderness Act, passed in 1987 after a 10-year political battle she witnessed as a young environmentalist. The law created 10 now-familiar wilderness areas full of remote lakes and spectacular dunes:  Big Island Lake, Delirium, Horseshoe Bay, Mackinac, McCormick, Nordhouse Dunes, Rock River Canyon, Round Island, Sturgeon River Gorge, and Sylvania.

“My son came home from college after a visit to Nordhouse Dunes and raved about it, asking if I’d ever heard of it,” recalls Woiwode. “I was happy and proud to know the Sierra Club had ensured that he and future generations would be able to enjoy this great natural treasure.”

The Michigan Chapter will observe its year of anniversaries with a variety of events such as film screenings, wilderness outings and presentations to underscore the vital role it has played in protecting the state’s natural heritage. For details, visit www.michigan.sierraclub.org or contact Gail Philbin at gail.philbin@sierraclub.org


December 14, 2011

Groups Call on State of Michigan to Shake Up Agriculture Practices

East Lansing, MI – A diverse group of faith, farming, conservation, community and food organizations today called on the Michigan Agriculture Commission to reassess and revamp some of the state’s most controversial livestock farming practices.  The seventeen organizations called for a complete reassessment of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Generally Accepted Agriculture Management Practices, or GAAMPs regarding use of liquid livestock wastes and concentration of facilities.  The organizations specifically ask the state officials to give “due consideration” of impacts of these practices on agricultural communities and the environment, as well as on individual operations.
 
Janet Kauffman, spokeswoman for Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, presented a letter from the organizations to the Commission at their meeting today.  Kauffman said "the big picture shows big impact and real harm -- to neighbors, to watersheds, and to the Great Lakes.  To stop pollution downwind and downstream, agricultural practices can't just be for one farm anymore.  We need to add it all up and find practices that protect whole communities, and whole watersheds."
 
According to the letter, the voluntary GAAMPs for liquid manure and facility concentration have lagged far behind the scientific documentation of the negative impacts of this waste on public health, natural resources and the well-being of communities.   By law the GAAMPs are updated every year, however updates are usually minimal and has not addressed the rapid growth of intensive livestock practices. The introduction of liquid manure systems and the application of the liquid manure onto fields with subsurface tiles, and rapid expansion and the concentration of large facilities has been linked to water pollution downstream, including in the Great Lakes.  Pathogens, including E. coli, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia are commonly found in ditches that drain the farms into streams and lakes.
 
Lyman Welch, Water Quality Program Manager, Alliance for the Great Lakes, explained the significance of cumulative impacts, “Agricultural runoff threatens our Great Lakes with algal blooms that harm the lakes’ health, and the economy of the region through lost tourism and lost recreational use. Michigan’s agricultural practices must be updated to help prevent nutrient runoff from harming the Great Lakes.”
 
“Thirty years is a significant length of time, time to reassess practices for effectiveness,” said Rita Chapman, Sierra Club Clean Water Program Manager, “to make sure they still result in clean water and air, and healthy sustainable agricultural communities.  It’s time to look ahead to agricultural practices that all can live with.”
 
In addition to ECCSCM, Sierra Club and the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the letter presented to the Commission today was signed by the following organizations:

- Adrian Dominican Sisters, Program for Justice Peace, and Corporate Responsibility
- Clean Water Action
- Clinton River Watershed Council
- Food and Water Watch
- Great Grand Rapids Food Systems Council
- Izaak Walton League of America, Dwight Lydell Chapter
- Lone Tree Council
- Michigan Environmental Council
- Michigan Farmers Union
- Michigan Trout Unlimited
- National Wildlife Federation
- Program of Environmental Studies/Geology, Alma College
- Society for Protecting Environmental Assets
- Western Lake Erie Waterkeepers



Groups Call on Snyder To Embrace Clean Energy

Consumers Energy's Coal Plant Closings Should Spark Policy Change

LANSING –The decision announced today by Consumers Energy to shutter seven Michigan coal plants and cancel long-standing plans for a new one means the Snyder administration should abandon its support for coal and strongly embrace clean energy policies. 

“Governor Snyder can no longer ignore the fact that Michigan’s future is not with coal,”  Sierra Club’s Tiffany Hartung said, reacting to the news today that Consumers Energy is closing coal plants in favor of clean energy alternatives.  “The real question is whether Michigan will be getting the clean energy jobs or some other state or country.  Because of the administration’s support for coal, we’ve wasted more than a year and allowed other states and countries to get ahead of us.  We should be moving boldly ahead with strong clean energy policies.” 

Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director for Clean Water Action, said the governor should immediately begin working on a comprehensive economic development plan focused on expanding clean energy jobs in Michigan.

“Every day we delay means we fall further behind other states and countries,” said Roper.  “Michigan can do better, but only if Lansing politicians either get out of the way or stand with us and decide to start looking toward the future.”

Consumers Energy plans to close seven coal facilities in Muskegon, the Bay City area and Luna Pier, south of Monroe.  With plans for new wind farms in Mason and Tuscola counties, Consumers expects to be able to meet its forecasted energy needs without those seven coal plants plus a proposed new one near Bay City that was cancelled by Consumers today.

“It’s great to see Consumers Energy embracing clean energy as a better deal for its customers than coal,” said Roper. “The plants they are closing are old and their pollution has been damaging people’s health.”

The groups also called on Consumers to develop transition plans for communities where coal plants are being closed to provide training and other support for workers.

The coal plant decisions come as Consumers recently announced it was lowering costs to its 1.8 million customers for renewable energy charges, a projected $54 million savings.   A proposed coal plant for the Bay City area that was scuttled today was the 159th proposed plant in the United States to be cancelled in recent years.

 “There is consensus brewing here---Consumers Energy has come to the same conclusion as 158 other companies, that coal just doesn’t make economic sense,” said Shannon Fisk of the Midwest Office of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The $3.5 plus billion that would have gone towards a dirty plant can have a much better impact in Michigan going towards energy efficiency and renewable energy resources that will create jobs, save ratepayer money, and benefit public health.”

According to a 2009 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Michigan can meet its energy needs through a combination of wind power, biomass, and other renewable energy sources coupled with aggressive energy efficiency programs.[1]  Among the NRDC’s findings:

Energy efficiency program alone could save Michigan $3 billion in electricity costs over the next 20 years.  Michigan’s previous energy plan, written in 2007, is out of date, with unrealistic projections of future electrical demand, limited implementation of energy efficiency and renewable energy, and reliance on outdated 20th century coal technologies.  Clean renewable energy is less expensive, cleaner, faster, more economically robust, and creates more jobs in Michigan than a 20th century plan based on new but obsolete large power plants driven by fossil fuels.
 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[1] Natural Resources Defense Council, “A Green Energy Alternative for Michigan,” http://docs.nrdc.org/energy/ene_09081101.asp



December 2, 2011

Pollution Modeling Shows Holland at Risk from Toxic Emissions

Sulfur dioxide plume from the coal-fired James DeYoung plant looms over neighborhoods, puts community health at risk

HOLLAND, MICHIGAN – Holland residents are at risk of unsafe exposure to dangerous sulfur dioxide, according to new air pollution modeling released by the Sierra Club today. With news of this model, health professionals and Holland residents rallied to show their concern over the health impacts of the local coal plant.  Sulfur dioxide, which is emitted in large quantities by the coal-fired James DeYoung plant, threatens the Holland community with asthma attacks, severe respiratory problems, lung disease and heart complications

The model can be viewed here

Download the factsheet here.

Gathered at the Herrick District Library Auditorium, the group unveiled a map of Holland that depicts the modeled pollution cloud threatening Holland’s most treasured areas – from the Macatawa lakeshore to the Historic District to Downtown 8th Street to Freedom Village. Outraged by the threat to air quality, the group called on the Holland Board of Public Works to protect Holland by supporting a sustainable, long-term energy plan that would move Holland beyond coal completely. The Holland Beyond Coal group has gathered over 1,300 signatures in support of this plan.

Guest speakers spotlighted coal’s harmful effects on public health, the environment and Holland community, while demanding clean energy alternatives at this critical time for Holland’s energy future.

“Every day, I work with individuals who are battling respiratory illnesses like asthma. The correlation between excess sulfur dioxide in the air and increased asthma rates is clear,” said Cristina Fugsleth, a respiratory therapist who has worked at Holland Hospital for more than 35 years. “As we can see today in this modeling, our coal plant is making us sick. We must act now to protect our air. Healthy air is essential to living a healthy life.”

Local residents Coley and Lisa Brown shared their concerns after moving to Holland this year to settle down in America’s second happiest city. “I am in that category of ‘high risk’ for heart issues and I get concerned for my health” stated Coley Brown, “Imagine my shock when I recently discovered that there is a plan to expand the coal plant that is currently already making me sick. I thought, not in my town. I breathe this air.”

Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection agency establishes National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for pollutants such as sulfur dioxide that harm public health. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to revisit ambient standards for pollutants such as sulfur dioxide every five years to ensure the levels keep up with the best science regarding the impact of air pollution on public health. In June 2010, EPA finalized a standard for sulfur dioxide setting a ceiling for ambient concentrations of the pollutant on a 1-hour basis to protect against short-term spikes in SO2 pollution, which EPA found can have an adverse effect on at-risk populations such as children and the elderly during spikes in pollution in intervals as short as 5 minutes.

Following EPA’s modeling protocols for this new standard, Sierra Club discovered that the James De Young plant threatens Holland with emissions that are 3.5 times the public-health based ambient standard. 

The air quality model was completed by Wingra Engineering, S.C., an independent environmental engineering consultation firm whose clients include manufacturing plants, electrical utilities, and environmental advocacy groups.


 

December 1, 2011 

Governor Snyder Uses First Veto to Protect the Great Lakes

Michigan’s leading environmental groups today applauded Governor Rick Snyder on using his first veto since taking office in order to strike down House Bill 4326. This bill would have stripped the authority of Michigan’s governor to protect the Great Lakes and the other natural resources that inspired the Pure Michigan campaign and are so vital to the lives and livelihoods of Michiganders.

"This sends a simple message: Governor Snyder thinks the Great Lakes are worth protecting, and the Michigan legislature does not” said Mike Berkowitz of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “We are extremely encouraged to see Governor Snyder veto this short-sighted folly.”

The State legislature sent HB 4326 to the Governor’s desk right before the Thanksgiving break. The bill would have prohibited the state’s governor from adopting any rule stricter than a federal standard unless authorized by the legislature. 

“Michiganders have always been united in protecting our spectacular lakes,” said Cyndi Roper of Clean Water Action. “It’s mystifying why the majority of our legislators would voluntarily throw out a valuable tool for safeguarding Michigan’s water. We are encouraged to see that in this instance Governor Snyder does not agree with the legislature’s interest in undercutting Great Lakes protections.”

A number of key environmental groups opposed to the bill include Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, Clean Water Action, the Ecology Center, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Michigan Environmental Council, and the BlueGreen Alliance. Many union groups also staunchly opposed HB 4326.

“We are counting on Governor Snyder’s leadership in future efforts to preserve our state's right to protect the Great Lakes and Michigan's other natural resources” said Alexis Blizman of the Ecology Center. “We urge Governor Snyder to continue to uphold the promises he made during his campaign, and not roll back important environmental protections.”


For Immediate Release – November 1, 2011
Contacts: Kady McFadden, 630-747-0915
                  Tiffany Hartung, 231-747-7489
                   Sierra Club, Beyond Coal & Clean Energy Solutions
                   Facebook: www.facebook.com/BeyondCoalMI
                   Twitter: @BeyondCoalMI
 

Toxic Coal Ash from We Energies Coal Plant
Pours into Lake Michigan

Disastrous collapse comes just weeks after House votes against
strong coal ash protections – will Senators Stabenow and Levin
vote to protect Michigan Families?

LAKE MICHIGAN – A partial retaining bluff collapse Monday at the We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant in Wisconsin sent toxic coal ash spewing into Lake Michigan. This collapse comes just weeks after the U.S. House voted to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from protecting Americans from coal ash.  The same weak bill is now before the U.S. Senate.

In response, Jean Gramlich, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Chair,  issued the following statement:

“The Environmental Protection Agency has been trying to enact national protections to stop this kind of disastrous spill from happening again, ever since the TVA disaster in 2008, and House Leadership has been blocking them every step of the way. As a result, communities here in Michigan and across the nation remain at risk and unprotected.

“This spill in the Great Lakes is a tragic reminder of why the status quo is not good enough. As long as politicians interfere, spills like this are going to happen, and communities right here in Michigan are at risk. Congress needs to back off and allow the EPA to finalize strong protections. 

“Coal ash is dangerous and toxic.  Though it’s currently treated as if it were household waste, coal ash contains mercury, arsenic, lead and other life-threatening toxins. 

“The Senate should immediately stop work on its bill to block the EPA from protecting Americans from toxic coal ash, and Senators Stabenow and Levin should urge the EPA to finalize its protections against toxic coal ash, which have been in the works since 2009.

 “We are very grateful that no one appears to have been injured in today’s spill, and our hearts go out to the residents of Southeast Wisconsin who have been victims of We Energies negligence for years. The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter also thanks the Wisconsin first responders, cleanup and safety workers for their courage in helping to clean up this mess.

“The burning of coal is a public health menace. This incident underscores that as long as we are still mining and burning coal someone somewhere is paying the price.”


Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011    

Contact:    Mike Berkowitz, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter: 517-484-2372 x13
                  Cyndi Roper, Clean Water Action: 517-490-1394

House Republicans Vote in Favor of Raising Utility Costs 

LANSING – In a near party line vote, the Michigan House of Representatives today passed House Bill 4815, with an overwhelming majority of Republican legislators voting in favor of the bill. HB 4815, as written, would exempt Michigan-manufactured incandescent light bulbs from the federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 if they are sold in Michigan.  The federal act is set to phase out inefficient light bulbs by 2014 in an effort to increase energy efficiency in the United States. Contrary to these efforts, HB 4815 supports inefficient and outdated technology. Inefficient light bulbs require more energy to operate, and in turn require more energy be created from dirty energy sources, which have a major impact on our water, our air, and the public’s health.

“This vote sends a simple message: House Republicans do not care about consumers,” said Mike Berkowitz, Michigan Chapter Organizer for the Sierra Club. “This vote could collectively cost Michiganders over $350 million each year and increases the energy bill for each Michigan household by $85 annually. The legislature should not encourage our state to be less efficient, create more pollution, and charge ratepayers more.”1

Despite claims made to the contrary, the federal Energy Independence and Security Act does not phase out incandescent light bulbs. Instead, the act promotes the use of more efficient versions that comply with these efficiency standards and provide an alternative for consumers who find compact fluorescents objectionable. These more efficient incandescent bulbs are produced by popular brands such as Philips, Sylvania, and GE. Their cost is similar to that of Compact Fluorescent bulbs and they are readily available on the shelves of your local home improvement store. Also, LED options are available for consumers as another lighting alternative.

“Instead of dictating what light blubs Michiganders can and can’t use, why doesn’t the House majority focus on creating jobs?” asked Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director of Clean Water Action. “HB 4815 is simply a misguided attempt to undermine sound energy policy and will do nothing to create jobs in our great state. If the legislature truly wants to support Michigan residents having a full choice of lighting options, they should work with manufacturers to help bring efficient incandescent bulb production and the associated jobs to Michigan.” Roper explained that instead of voting for HB 4815, Michigan lawmakers should use their clout to embrace the emerging national market for efficient incandescent light bulbs. “By creating a niche for the efficient incandescent bulb industry in Michigan, you would help create much-needed jobs while reducing energy waste,” she concluded.

Currently, the state of Michigan is progressing toward energy independence. This bill would damage such progress and create extra costs to consumers, state government and the environment. The bill now moves to the Michigan State Senate.

 

1 Natural Resources Defense Council Study: http://www.nrdc.org/energy/files/betterbulbs.pdf


Contacts:  Alex Wall, Sierra Club, 202-548-4595
Kate Geller, LCV, 202-454-4573

Walberg Blasted for Votes Endangering Public Health

New television ad campaign highlights public health impacts of pro-polluter votes

To view the ad, click here.

11 October 2011, Lansing, MI:  A new round of television ads begin airing today criticizing Michigan Representative Tim Walberg for his opposition to new clean air standards that would curb air pollution from toxic pollutants like mercury and arsenic, including his vote on the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011 (the TRAIN Act), which recently passed in the House and aims to block clean air protections against life-threatening air pollution.   Walberg has taken $191,920 from Big Oil and other dirty energy interests during his career.
 
The ads will air in the Lansing market for one week beginning October 11 and are sponsored by Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and the League of Conservation Voters.  
 
“We need Rep. Walberg to stand up for the health of his constituents and Michigan families instead of standing with the polluters,” said Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Director.  “Rep. Walberg’s attacks on pollution protections will not create more jobs or economic growth, but will mean more children in the hospital, harder times for families trying to make ends meet and millions of dollars in health bills for Michigan taxpayers.

“Representative Walberg is putting polluters before people and endangering public health by opposing common sense clean air safeguards that would curb harmful air pollution,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at the League of Conservation Voters. “Our Representatives must be held accountable for votes that would force us to breathe air polluted with toxics like mercury and arsenic. This campaign will inform Representative Walberg’s constituents of the extreme anti-clean air votes Tim Walberg is taking in Washington.”
 
The ad criticizes Walberg for voting for the TRAIN Act, a bill which would indefinitely delay two critical Clean Air Act standards that limit soot, smog, mercury and other toxic pollutants like arsenic, cadmium, dioxin, lead, and formaldehyde from power plants.  [Roll Call Vote #741, 9/23/11]  The TRAIN Act could result in as many as 139,500 American lives lost to air pollution over the next seven years.
 
The ad sponsors will continue to closely track and respond to anti-clean air votes. Walberg also voted last week in favor of blocking toxic mercury protections for cement plants (H.R. 2681). These bills, as well as the TRAIN Act, are part of a series of attacks on health protections that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced in August.

To view the ad, click here.
 
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About Sierra Club of Michigan: The Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club is the statewide voice for the nation's largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. For 40 years, the Michigan Chapter has organized the bold action of citizens working together to protect and restore our Great Lakes state’s health and heritage.
 
About the League of Conservation Voters: The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) is a national non-profit organization that works to turn environmental values into national priorities. To secure the environmental future of our planet, LCV advocates for sound environmental policies, informs the public and holds elected officials accountable for their votes through publications such as the National Environmental Scorecard, and provides the state LCVs with the resources and tools to accomplish and sustain their mission.


Friday, Sept. 30, 2011

Wolverine Coal Plant Faces New Lawsuit

Groups challenge Gov. Snyder and stop Wolverine from moving forward 

LANSING - The Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit this week challenging Gov. Rick Snyder’s decision to reverse the permit denial last year of an expensive and unneeded, and dangerous coal fired power plant in Rogers City.  

The lawsuit, filed in Ingham County, argues that the state's permit would allow excessive emissions of mercury, acid rain precursors, particulate matter (soot) and other pollutants, as well as would fail to comply with federal requirements to use the best available technology for pollution controls. Last year, the State of Michigan rejected the same permit, saying Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative failed to show need for another coal plant. Additionally, the permit was denied because it was not shown that any new demand for power could not be met through clean energy sources, including energy efficiency, solar and wind power.  

”Wolverine’s proposed coal plant would emit toxic mercury pollution into the air that will end up in our streams, lakes and eventually our bodies,” said Jean Veselenak, a resident of Presque Isle County. “We can’t afford the risk of mercury poisoning, which would put citizens and children at risk. It’s time for Governor Snyder and Wolverine to move past polluting technologies of the past.” 

Citizen groups involved in the lawsuit cited extensive flaws in the air pollution permit issued by Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in June 2011, and note that because the plant's power is unnecessary, the enormous amount of pollution it would emit is unjustified. These groups argue that overturning the state's newly issued permit would prevent over 6 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year from the proposed plant and protect the public health of Michigan residents.

 “Wolverine’s proposed coal plant is, as the Michigan Public Service Commission staff found, an unnecessary and costly mistake,” said Shannon Fisk, Senior Attorney at the Midwest Office of NRDC. “Wolverine should stop wasting its ratepayers’ money, cancel this multi-billion dollar pipe dream, and instead pursue cleaner energy sources that will create jobs and protect public health.” 

Wolverine officials have continued to pursue the plant despite growing opposition from members of the retail electric cooperatives that comprise their customer base. Projections by state officials say that if built, a new coal plant would raise electric rates for cooperative members by 60 percent or more, an estimated $77 monthly increase for residential ratepayers. The same projections state that 26 percent of Wolverine's cooperative members currently live below the poverty level. 

The lawsuit filed was on September 26th and assigned to Ingham County judge Rosemarie Aquilina.  The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center (GLELC) of Detroit and Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) of Chicago are assisting the Sierra Club and NRDC in the litigation.


Environmental Groups Call for Public Comment on Dangers of Fracking

House Subcommittee has not allowed citizens to give input during hearings

Lansing, MI (22 September 2011) – While the Michigan House Natural Gas Subcommittee held a third public hearing today to discuss a dangerous natural-gas extraction process known as fracking, one thing was once again missing from the agenda: public comment. Although the subcommittee has conducted three hearings this month, no time has been dedicated on the agenda to allow the public to address concerns over fracking.

 

“Of the nearly six hours the subcommittee has met over the past three weeks, only minutes have been given to address the dangers of fracking,” said Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director for Clean Water Action. “At each of these meetings, the committee has met with natural gas industry lobbyists. When do the citizens of Michigan get the opportunity speak? This committee is short-changing the public by only listening to industry lobbyists instead of doing the kind of fact-finding that will result in strong protections for Michigan’s water, air and the places we live.”

 

At today’s hearing, over 15 citizens from around the state submitted request cards to the subcommittee chair, Representative Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton), seeking to speak during public comment. However, none of them were allowed to speak. Today’s meeting is the last hearing currently scheduled by the subcommittee.

 

“It is very disappointing that citizens are not allowed to address their concerns about a dangerous process such as fracking at a public hearing with our elected officials,” said Jo Anne Beemon of the Friends of the Jordan River Watershed, who traveled from Charlevoix to Lansing to highlight the risks associated with the extraction process. “Michigan’s economy depends on our natural resources, including our Great Lakes and waters. We can’t afford the risks that fracking poses to these invaluable resources.”

 

After the subcommittee meeting, several environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) and Friends of the Jordan River Watershed, held a press conference continuing to call for a fourth public hearing to address fracking concerns.

 

Their initial call for an additional hearing came last week after Representative Nesbitt repeatedly denied a specific agenda topic at subcommittee hearings, which would have focused on allowing testimony from citizens and groups concerned about the fracking process.

 

“The Natural Gas subcommittee and Representative Nesbitt should hold a fourth additional public hearing that specifically addresses the dangers that fracking poses to our state,” said Mike Berkowitz of the Sierra Club. “Protecting public health and Michigan’s waters should be a top priority for all of our elected officials. We need to make sure the citizens and their concerns are heard in a public forum.”

 

Fracking is common extraction process used by the natural gas industry. The process involves blasting a mixture of water and dangerous chemicals deep underground to free deposits of natural gas. However, natural gas companies refuse to publically disclose all of the specific fracking chemicals they use, even though they could be poisoning our water and polluting the air.  

 

“Michigan legislators should pass legislation immediately that requires companies to publicly disclose upfront the chemicals they are using in the fracking process,” said Nick Occhipinti of WMEAC. “Stronger water and air protections would help protect Michigan’s natural resources and reduce the risk fracking poses to the health and safety of our families.”


Consumers Union  •  Natural Resources Defense Council  •  Sierra Club Michigan Chapter

New Poll Reveals Michigan Residents Support
Strong Lighting and Appliance Efficiency Standards

Nearly 80% of Voters Back the Use and Expansion of Energy Efficiency Technologies

CHICAGO, IL (September 15, 2011) – New polling shows that even as the state legislature considers a bill promoting outmoded and inefficient lighting technology, Michigan residents solidly support energy efficiency technologies and would like the government to play a leading role in setting higher standards for appliances, light bulbs, and other household products. The opinion data comes from a new Public Policy Polling survey released today by public interest groups.

“Supporting energy efficiency standards means more jobs, lower electricity bills and more product choices for consumers,” said Natural Resources Defense Council energy advocate Becky Stanfield. “You simply cannot get any of those benefits by clutching the status quo in a century-old technology of an incandescent bulb. It’s just plain common sense – and that’s why the people of Michigan support the expansion of efficiency standards with all the benefits that come with them.”

Some of the poll’s notable findings include:

  • 77 percent of voters in Michigan support expanded use of energy efficiency technologies to help meet our energy needs and reduce energy costs.

  • 85 percent of Michigan voters say they have already installed energy efficient products in their own homes or businesses.

  • 62 percent of voters agree that switching to more efficient lighting is an effective way to reduce energy waste.

  • There’s a strong bipartisan consensus on the issue with 84 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of independents, and 69 percent of Republicans supporting energy efficiency standards.

  • Voters strongly support the federal government setting minimum energy efficiency standards for various household products with 62 percent in favor for appliances to only 27 percent opposed; and 64 percent in favor for light bulbs to only 27 percent against.

  • In addition to federal action, 58 percent of voters would like the state government to require electric utilities like Detroit Edison and Consumers Energy to help their customers become more energy efficient. 

The survey also found that elected officials who attempt to weaken or delay energy efficiency standards could pay a price at the polls. Forty-eight percent of voters said they would oppose such efforts by their members of Congress at the polls to only 25 percent who would react favorably to those efforts.

In the first year of utility efficiency programs in Michigan, the reduction in demand totaled 375,000 mwh, enough to power more than 37,000 homes. The projection for this year is that the programs will reduce demand by twice that amount or about 750,000 mwh.

“The numbers show that we take energy efficiency seriously in Michigan---as we should, since it has created jobs and saved ratepayers a ton of cash,” said Michigan Sierra Club Director Anne Woiwode. “It’s time for the state legislature to catch up because we’ve only gotten to the low-hanging fruit. Silliness like the ‘dumb light bulb bill’ - which has the potential to cost Michiganders over $357 million every year - threatens to undo a lot of the good work that has been done.” 

“Consumer Reports recently tested a variety of energy efficient light bulbs newly available in stores. We found that these models use over 75% less energy, last nearly 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, and can save consumers hundreds of dollars over the life of the bulb,” said Ellen Bloom, Director of Federal Policy and the Washington, DC Office of Consumers Union. “Expanding energy standards means promoting energy efficiency, enhancing the lighting options available on the market, and helping American consumers save billions of dollars in electric bills.”

The survey had a sample size of 900 voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent. It was conducted via telephone from August 25 to 28 by Public Policy Polling.

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Consumers Union of United States, Inc., publisher of Consumer Reports®, is a nonprofit membership organization chartered in 1936 to provide consumers with information, education, and counsel about goods, services, health and personal finance. 

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org 

Founded in 1892, the Sierra Club is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. There are more than 1,400,000 members and supporters in 50 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. For 44 years the Michigan Chapter has represented Sierra Club members and supporters throughout the Great Lakes State.   


 

(Press release from Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development)

 

Commission on Agriculture & Rural Development
Seeks Public Input on Agricultural Management Practices

Deadline to provide comment: September 28, 2011

 

LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) today announced a Public Input Meeting and review period has been scheduled for September 28, 2011 in order to gather comments on the 2012 drafts of the state’s Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs). 

 

Public comment will be taken on the following GAAMPs: Manure Management and Utilization, Cranberry Production, Site Selection and Odor Control for New and Expanding Livestock Production Facilities, Farm Market, and Irrigation Water Use.  The GAAMPs regarding Nutrient Utilization, Care of Farm Animals and Pesticide Utilization and Pest Control have no proposed changes for 2012.

 

The GAAMPs Public Input Meeting will be held at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday,

September 28, 2011, in the Lake Superior Conference Room at the State of Michigan Library & History Center located at 702 West Kalamazoo Street, Lansing, MI.

 

Written comments may be submitted to MDARD’s Environmental Stewardship Division,

P.O. Box 30017, Lansing, MI 48909 and postmarked no later than September 28, 2011, or sent via e-mail to casteelh@michigan.gov by 5 p.m. on September 28.  MDARD will forward all comments received by the due date to the respective GAAMPs Task Force chairpersons for consideration prior to final review and adoption.

 

The Michigan Right to Farm Act provides nuisance protection for farms and farm operations.  In order to have this protection, the farm or farm operation must conform to GAAMPs, which are set by the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development.  These GAAMPs are reviewed annually by scientific committees of various experts, and revised and updated as necessary.  Public comment is accepted and considered before final versions of the GAAMPs are approved. 

 

For a copy of any of these GAAMPs including the proposed revisions, please visit www.michigan.gov/gaamps, or contact the MDARD’s Environmental Stewardship Division at

(517) 373-9797, or toll free at (877) 632-1783.

 

August 22, 2011

Michigan Environmental Groups Caution Touting
Only Economic Impact of Natural Gas Drilling

LANSING – Michigan citizens groups cautioned focusing solely on the economics of natural gas use following the release today of an analysis touting potential economic impact of additional electricity from natural gas in Michigan.

The report, entitled "The Economic Impact of Replacing Coal with Natural Gas for Electricity Production," was undertaken by Professor Bill Knudson, a marketing economist with the Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University. The report did not focus on environmental impacts concerning hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," which is a natural gas extraction process that uses dangerous chemicals for exploration. Indeed, thousands of contamination incidents from natural gas operations using fracking have been reported nationwide, highlighting the negative consequences the extraction method has on the environment.

"The potential economic benefits of natural gas use could easily be overshadowed and dashed entirely by the negative effects the dangerous fracking process could have on Michigan’s waters," said Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director for Clean Water Action. "We must ensure that we protect our Great Lakes and other water resources. Our waters provide a steady stream of revenue from tourism and support hundreds of thousands of jobs for Michiganders."

Clean Water Action, Sierra Club and other groups are calling for a delay in new fracking operations in Michigan until strong regulations are in place, including implementing public accountability measures and requiring companies to fully disclose all chemicals they plan to use in the process.

"By refusing to disclose the unknown chemicals they inject into our environment, the natural gas industry is recklessly threatening our state’s air, water and public health," said Rita Chapman of the Sierra Club. "The public has a right to know what is in our water and we must hold the industry accountable by establishing safeguards for fracking and preventing further contamination."

Chapman also pointed out that the MSU study failed to factor in any analysis that included clean energy sources such as wind and solar or energy efficiency as a replacement for energy produced now by coal.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced proposed rules covering air pollution caused by fracking, including significant reductions of emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, and air toxins known or suspected of causing cancer and other serious health effects. Michigan’s natural resources are vulnerable to gas drilling activities, and implementing these safeguards will alter the economics of natural gas as an alternative to coal.

"Natural gas drilling is yet another dangerous fossil fuel distraction," said Roper. "Michigan is already creating jobs in the clean energy sector through wind, solar and energy efficiency. Michigan lawmakers should stop clinging to our dirty fuel past and embrace the future or, once again, we’ll be left behind."


Thursday, August 11, 2011

MORE INFO:  Cyndi Roper, 517-490-1394

                         Mike Berkowitz, 248-345-9808

U.S. Report Today Triggers Call For Michigan Action  
Recommendations on Controversial Natural Gas Fracking

LANSING, MI--Citizens groups today called on Michigan lawmakers and federal officials to take action on proposals to protect Michigan’s waters following the release today of recommendations from the federal government to reduce public health and environmental impacts of natural gas drilling using fracking.
 

“It’s great that the federal government is identifying problems with fracking and offering some solutions,” said Mike Berkowitz of Michigan Sierra Club. “But Great Lakes state lawmakers must step up and not leave it just to Washington to protect our waters. We must establish oversight of the natural gas industry here in Michigan.”
 

A federal Department of Energy advisory panel report released today includes a series of recommendations to develop ‘strong’ regulations on gas drilling. Those regulations include extensive air pollution controls, full tracking of drilling wastewater, disclosure of all air and water pollution as well as chemicals used, and rules that take into account the cumulative impact of the drilling of thousands of wells in certain regions or watersheds. The report release by DOE follows recent disclosure of a federal Environmental Protection Agency report documenting groundwater contamination during the 1980s linked to fracking.  The gas industry has insisted fracking poses nothreat to groundwater, an assertion now challenged by the EPA disclosures.
 

“While the Obama Administration can take action right now on some of these proposals, the Michigan Legislature and Congress must act immediately as well,” said Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director of Clean Water Action. “The public cannot be adequately protected until Congress and theMichigan Legislature eliminate loopholes for the oil and gas industry in environmental laws.”
 

As part of the Obama Administration’s national energy plan, DOE established a Natural Gas Subcommittee under their Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) to make recommendations concerning environmental and public health impacts of natural gas drilling in the U.S.
 

This report is the first of two expected to be issued by the Natural Gas Subcommittee; the second report will be issued 90 days from now. The full report and more information on SEAB is available at:

http://www.shalegas.energy.gov/
 

Clean Water Action, Sierra Club and other citizensgroups have called for a delay in fracking in Michigan until the state has adopted protections for Michigan’s Great Lakes water system, including groundwater.  The groups have called for the state to take important measures before new natural gas drilling can resume, including the following:

  • Protect Michigan’s water supply by eliminating a special interest exemption from state water use laws so natural gas companies are treated the same as all other large water users in Michigan.  Standards for fracking must be adopted that ensure there are no adverse impacts on our water resources as a result of water withdrawals.
  • Protect water quality by requiring public disclosure of specific fracking chemicals used by natural gas companies when they apply for a permit to extract.  The public’s right to know what is in our water outweighs any corporate claims of confidentiality involving the use of chemicals.  The Michigan Legislature must regulate fracking operations to ensure they are safe, including proper disposal of chemical waste and other byproducts of fracking.
  • Require public participation in the permitting process so all of the facts are known before a permit is issued and all stakeholders—including citizens who own wells, fish streams and use drinking water—have the right to be heard.



July 21, 2011

Bloomberg Philanthropies commits $50 million
to Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign
to move America toward cleaner energy

Grant a 'game changer' that will effectively retire one-third of the nation's aging coal fleet by 2020 

Alexandria, VA. Today the Sierra Club announced a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies that will effectively retire one-third of the nation's aging coal fleet by 2020, replacing it with clean energy. The partnership includes a $50 million commitment over four years to the Beyond Coal Campaign that will fuel the Sierra Club's effort to clean the air, end the coal era, and accelerate the transition to cleaner, cost-effective energy sources.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune was joined for today’s announcement by Michael R. Bloomberg. They appeared outside a coal-fired plant in Alexandria, Virginia.

In the U.S., coal is the leading cause of greenhouse-gas emissions, and coal’s pollution contributes to four out of the five leading causes of mortality -- heart disease, cancer, stroke, and respiratory illness. Coal emits almost half of all U.S. mercury pollution, which causes developmental problems in babies and young children, as well as being a major contributor to asthma attacks. Coal pollution causes $100 billion in health costs annually. 

"If we are going to get serious about reducing our carbon footprint in the United States, we have to get serious about coal. Ending coal power production is the right thing to do, because, while it may seem to be an inexpensive energy source, the impact on our environment and the impact on public health is significant," said Bloomberg. "Coal is a self-inflicted public health risk, polluting the air we breathe, adding mercury to our water, and the leading cause of climate disruption." 

Bloomberg added: "The Beyond Coal Campaign has had great success in stopping more than 150 new coal-fired power plants over the past few years and is empowering local communities to lead from the front while Congress continues to watch from the back. That is why I'm pleased to support the Sierra Club and its allies, and I encourage others to do the same." 

The $50 million grant will fill a significant portion of the campaign's projected $150 million four-year budget and will have a significant impact in advancing the efforts of the Beyond Coal campaign. 

The partnership will play a key role in helping the Sierra Club achieve their impact goals of:

  • Cutting 30% of coal production by 2020

  • Reducing mercury pollution from coal by 90% by 2020

  • Replacing a majority of coal with clean energy

From an organizational perspective it will:

  • Increase the number of Sierra Club campaign states from 15 to 45

  • Increase the active member and supporter base from 1.4 million to 2.4 million people

  • Double the size of full-time Sierra Club staff working on the campaign from 100 to 200

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune thanked Bloomberg for the grant, calling it a "game changer" in the fight against coal. He also praised Bloomber's farsighted vision and understanding of how protecting public health, developing innovative energy sources, and addressing climate change are all inextricably linked. He also welcomed his business savvy and track record for success to the campaign. 

"This partnership will help the Sierra Club to work with communities nationwide as they tell one coal plant after another that inflicting asthma and other diseases on their children is unacceptable and that they will not accept coal pollution in their neighborhoods. 

"Coal relentlessly dirties our water, air, and lungs and fixing the problem cannot be left to Washington," said Brune. "Nor can coal's contributions to climate disruption be left to international bodies. Mike Bloomberg's strong clean air agenda as Mayor of New York, and his Chairmanship of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, shows that he understands that actions are being taken, and that the most significant ongoing successes will be won city by city, by dedicated people across America." 

Beyond Coal campaign successes to date include:

  • The campaign has stopped 153 new coal-fired power plants from being built, preserving market space for clean energy.

  • Nearly 10% of the current coal fleet is now slated for retirement.

  • New mountaintop removal mining permits have slowed to a trickle.

  • Victories at 16 colleges and universities, where Sierra Student Coalition members have won fights to shut down coal plants on their campuses.

  • Hundreds of thousands of people mobilized in support of strong clean air and water protections

  • The biggest clean air agreement in the history of the Southeast with the TVA settlement.

Studies show that replacing coal's pollution with clean energy is possible and as coal prices are going up, wind and solar are coming down. Iowa already gets more than 15% of its energy from wind power, and San Antonio recently decided to shut down one of its dirty coal plants and install over 400 MW of solar power, what will be one of the largest solar installations in the world. Meanwhile, the green job sector is growing -- the wind industry already provides more jobs in the U.S. than the coal industry. 

The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign started as a three-person campaign in 2002 and has quickly grown into a powerhouse effort that is changing the way America produces energy. In 2001, the Administration at the time met with coal industry representatives as part of a closed-door energy task force, to craft plans for a new "coal rush" -- the construction of 150 new coal-fired power plants. Had the industry prevailed in building these plants, the nation would have been locked into the use of 19th-century dirty fuels for the foreseeable future. The potential for entrepreneurs to develop wind, solar and other clean technologies would have been crippled. Working with local people in neighborhoods across the country, Sierra Club organizers began fighting Big Coal’s efforts to push through these plants. Together, they achieved one victory after another. 

Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Beyond Coal Campaign, called coal "an outdated fuel that is making our kids sick and has no place in a modern energy economy." 

"We're already winning in cities across the country. Community by community, people are standing up and saying no to coal, saying that they are ready for the clean energy economy. Now we’re ready to take this campaign to a whole new level." 

This is the second major climate initiative by Bloomberg Philanthropies following the recent involvement and investment in the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40). Bloomberg Philanthropies is focused on climate action, taking a realistic view that progress will come not from national governments and international bodies, but instead by driving action at the city and local level. 

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Note: The press conference took place today on the Potomac River in front of the GenOn coal-fired power plant in Alexandria, Virginia. The Alexandria community has rallied around the need to end the plant’s burning of coal and is one of many localities across the country that are active partners in the Beyond Coal Campaign.

Michael Brune - Executive Director, Sierra Club 
415-977-5662    Follow on Facebook and Twitter 

 

watch the thank-you video


Year After Oil Spill, Green Groups Urge Upton, Walberg
to Put Residents First, End Attacks on EPA

EPA is critical to protecting air, water and must be allowed to do its job

GALESBURG 26 July 2011 – Michigan’s top environmental groups today recognized the one-year mark of the massive oil spill in the Kalamazoo River by calling on Congressmen Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) and Tim Walberg (R-Tipton) to do everything in their power to prevent future spills and support the Environmental Protection Agency in its mission to protect and clean up our water, air and land. Representatives of Clean Water Action, the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation held a media event today at River Oaks County Park alongside a closed section of the Kalamazoo River that is still undergoing clean-up efforts.

"The fact of the matter is that Congressmen Upton and Walberg should know better than anyone in Congress that the EPA is critical to protecting the water we drink and the air that we breathe," said Cyndi Roper, Michigan director of Clean Water Action. "Instead, they are working to weaken the EPA at the expense of the public health. The oil spill last year left people ill, destroyed property values and damaged our natural resources in ways that will be felt for years to come. It is a devastating reminder that the EPA plays a critical role in protecting our land, air and water."

The oil spill spewed nearly 850,000 gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo Watershed. Clean up is still going on, with the river remaining closed to the public. The pipeline owned by Enbridge Inc. was transporting raw tar sands oil when it ruptured a year ago. Tar sands oil is also known as diluted bitumen, which is a highly corrosive, toxic and unstable blend of crude from Alberta, Canada. In a press call last held last week, the EPA revealed that heavy metals have been found in the Kalamazoo River, and that clean-up may take much longer than first anticipated.

Upton and Walberg voted on July 13 for H.R. 2018, legislation that threatens the water quality in our lakes and rivers and the safety of our drinking water sources. The legislation would roll back key enforcement provisions of the Clean Water Act, provisions that allow the EPA to act to protect our waters and our public health. H.R. 2018 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 239 to 184. In addition to voting for the bill, Upton and Walberg voted against an amendment that would have ensured continued protection of municipal drinking water sources. In short, the bill would threaten the progress the nation has made since the 1972 Clean Water Act gave the federal government the primary role in cleaning up the nation’s waters.

"It’s difficult to imagine how the oil spill would have been managed without the EPA overseeing the cleanup," said Rita Chapman, the clean water program director for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. "As incomplete as the cleanup still is today, it would have been far worse without the EPA. People want our lakes and rivers to be safe for swimming, fishing and boating, and certainly we all expect to have clean sources of drinking water. It’s outrageous that Representatives Walberg and Upton would limit clean water protections, especially with the effects of last year’s oil spill still being felt so acutely by the very people they represent in Congress."

Upton, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also is working to accelerate the construction of another tar sands pipeline that will run from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast – a span of more than 2,000 miles. TransCanada, a Canadian pipeline company, has proposed a pipeline called Keystone XL, which would carry up to 900,000 barrels per day of tar sands oil right through the Ogallala Aquifer and six American heartland states, including Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

"Before any pipeline project gains approval, like the Keystone XL, we need to fully understand what happened with the Enbridge tar sands pipeline and the dozens of other pipeline spills that have happened in the last year," said Beth Wallace, Community Outreach Regional Coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. "Congress needs to focus on increased pipeline safety to ensure that our communities, natural resources and wildlife will never face another oil spill disaster like the one in the Kalamazoo River. We call on Congressman Upton and Congressman Walberg to put the health and safety of Michigan residents first, rather than Big Oil special interests."


Citizens Criticize Snyder for Allowing Controversial Rogers City Coal Plant to Move Forward

June 29, ROGERS CITY – Citizens groups today criticized the Snyder Administration for giving the green light for the construction of a highly controversial coal plant in Rogers City, saying the decision will raise costs for ratepayers who are already struggling financially and hurt public health.

In 2010, the State of Michigan said Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, which wants to build the plant, failed to show Michigan needed another coal plant to meet energy demand.

"Gov. Rick Snyder is blindly approving a dirty coal plant without considering the high cost to ratepayers and its impact on people’s health and safety," said Wayne Vermilya, from Onaway, MI "The people of Michigan have said time and time again that they do not want another coal plant. By refusing to listen to Michigan citizens, Gov. Snyder is showing that he puts Big Coal profits ahead of people’s well-being."

"This decision not only showcases the shortcomings of our permitting process and poor understanding of ‘air-quality,’ but also the Snyder Administration’s ignorance on Michigan's energy issues and job creation," said Ric Evans, a candidate for director on the Great Lakes Energy Co-op board, which is a member of the Wolverine cooperative. "There is considerably more job growth potential in energy efficiency, weatherization and clean energy technologies than any antiquated coal plant could ever produce, and for a fraction of the cost. While this decision is not all that surprising, it is still incredibly unfortunate for the people of Michigan, and especially for the folks downwind of this plant – and ultimately, we are ALL downwind of this plant."

Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative wants to build a new $2-billion dirty coal plant that will financially burden Wolverine’s 200,000 co-op members, 26 percent of whom live below the poverty line.

In 2010, the State of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources and Energy rejected a permit for Wolverine to build a coal plant in Rogers City. The DNRE said Wolverine failed to show Michigan needed another coal plant and found that any new demand for energy could be met by clean energy sources. If Wolverine built the coal plant in Rogers City, ratepayers’ bills would go up an estimated $76 a month to pay for the coal plant that wouldn’t be needed. Today’s decision by the Department of Environmental Quality effectively allows Wolverine to move forward anyway and build the coal plant.

"More coal will only send us backwards on clean energy and energy efficiency, which are the real engines of job growth across the nation and globally – not more coal," Anne Woiode, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter director said. "The citizens of Rogers City and across Michigan are united in calling on large utilities to stop building coal plants and start investing more clean energy and energy efficiency. Gov. Rick Snyder is moving Michigan backwards, not forward, with this reckless decision."

Thousands of Michigan citizens have voiced opposition to new coal plants such as the one in Rogers City. Building new coal plants would saddle ratepayers with the cost of those new facilities, even though there is no need for new coal plants in Michigan and future energy demands can be met with renewable energy sources and increased energy efficiency.

A new coal plant will also worsen air pollution, increase dangerous emissions such as mercury and carbon dioxide, and harm public health. The Rogers City coal project could also open the door to a landfill quarry for coal ash, an additional danger to public health.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CONTACT: Anne Woiwode (517) 484-2372
                     Tiffany Hartung  (231)747-7489  www.sierraclub.org/coal/mi
                     Facebook: Clean Energy Now     Twitter: @BeyondCoalMI

CEN to Snyder: Stop Wolverine’s Pricey Coal Plant

State has legal duty to steer utility toward cleaner sources of power

LANSING—With a decision on permitting Wolverine Power’s proposed, unneeded Rogers City coal plant just days away, Clean Energy Now (CEN), which represents more than 250,000 Michiganders, has sent a letter to Governor Rick Snyder urging him to stop the project because it will needlessly harm air quality and significantly boost customers’ electric bills.

CEN rejects the Snyder administration’s claim that a recent court decision eliminated its power to deny a plant because it is unneeded, or when, as in Wolverine’s case, cleaner and more affordable alternatives to its proposed $2 billion-plus coal-burner are readily available. The coalition is also inviting residents to sign an online petition urging the governor to stop the plant.

 “In fact, the Snyder administration does have the legal power to point Wolverine toward a cleaner alternatives to service its customers,” according to Susan Harley of Clean Water Action, a member of CEN. “They are wrong to abandon that legal power and let the company stick its 220,000 customers with much bigger power bills—and stick Michigan’s environment with dirtier air and more greenhouse gases.”

The state originally issued a denial letter for Wolverine’s permit last year because the proposed plant was unneeded. But a state court threw out the letter because it cited only “need” as the basis for its decision.

Snyder’s Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) declined to appeal and said it would only consider recent revisions to federal clean air standards when it reevaluated Wolverine’s permit, as the court had ordered.

But MDEQ and Snyder are ignoring another part of the ruling, which allows for denying a permit if, in fact, the decision directly links lack of “need” and availability of “alternatives” to better protecting air quality.

“The law is clear that MDEQ is not required to authorize unnecessary air pollution,” according to Shannon Fisk of the Natural Resources Defense Council, also a CEN member. “The governor should ensure that MDEQ uses this authority so that we can finally be done with this dirty, unnecessary, and very expensive plant. It’s still not too late to do that, and the court that overturned the original denial says it would work.”

If the plant is built, according to the Michigan Public Service Commission, it will likely raise utility bills in many rural areas of northern, central, and western Lower Michigan by about 60 percent.

“Now is not the time for allowing a new, expensive coal plant into Michigan,” said Tiffany Hartung of Sierra Club.. “The state must tell Wolverine to do the right thing—use efficiency, renewables, and other, cleaner sources of fuel to serve its customers. If that doesn’t happen, we will all pay in many different ways, including a slowdown in the steady growth of the state’s clean energy manufacturing economy.”

Clean Energy Now is a coalition of 11 groups that supports policies that will move Michigan beyond coal power toward greater use of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency as a way to protect the environment and build prosperity.

Members include Environmental Law & Policy Center • Citizens for Environmental Inquiry • Clean Water Action • Ecology Center • Great Lakes Environmental Law Center • Michigan Energy Alternatives Project • Michigan Land use Institute • Midland CARES • Progress Michigan • Natural Resources Defense Council • Sierra Club.



CONTACT: 
                  James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council: 517-256-0553

                  Ryan Werder, Michigan League of Conservation Voters: 313-444-9373

                  Mike Berkowitz,  Sierra Club Michigan Chapter: 517 484-2372 x13  

                  Cyndi Roper, Clean Water Action: 517-203-0754
 

 House to Governor: We’re cutting Great Lakes protection
and giving your authority to Washington!

Bill reduces, transfers Michigan’s authority to manage fresh water

(Lansing, June 16) Michigan’s governor would be stripped of powers to protect the Great Lakes under legislation approved by the state House of Representatives today.

HB 4326 would prohibit a state agency from adopting a rule more stringent than federal standards unless specifically authorized by state statute. The bill – ostensibly designed to reduce regulations – reduces protections for the Great Lakes and undermines the power of Michigan’s governor to act decisively to protect them.

"This bill sends a simple message: The Michigan House thinks the Great Lakes aren’t worth protecting," said Anne Woiwode, state director of the Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter. "They’re saying Michigan is the same as Mississippi or Arizona, and that is just wrong."

James Clift, policy director with the Michigan Environmental Council, said Michigan has a unique role as stewards of the Earth’s greatest freshwater resource. This legislation would be an abdication of that role.

"Federal rules are designed to be a floor, not a ceiling, for protecting key natural resources like our lakes," said Clift. "Yet this House vote indicates they believe that Michigan’s freshwater seas should be protected with the same one-size-fits-all rules they use in every other state."

Great Lakes advocates point out that the Michigan Legislature already has the authority to strike down any rule made by a Michigan governor’s administration.

"The legislature is already the final word on regulations," said Cyndi Roper, Michigan director for Clean Water Action. "But now they’re aiming to take away the governor’s authority to issue rules in the first place. It’s an attack on the governor, on future governors, and on the natural resources of Michigan."

The governor’s rulemaking authority was most famously used in 1976 to help restore a dying Lake Erie. Gov. William Milliken’s administration restricted phosphorus in dishwashing detergent – a pioneering step that helped pave the way for the recovery of Lake Erie.

"As Michiganders know better than anyone, the Great Lakes are the economic and recreational heart of our state. Signing away Michigan's unique ability to protect them is nothing short of foolish," said Ryan Werder, political director with the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.


Groups knock Snyder on job efforts

BY CHRIS CHRISTOFF

DETROIT FREE PRESS LANSING BUREAU CHIEF

11:52 AM, May. 25, 2011|

LANSING – As Gov. Rick Snyder prepared today to sign a landmark tax reform bill, he was sharply criticized by a coalition of labor and environmental groups for not doing enough to promote jobs, and especially clean energy industry jobs.

The BlueGreen Alliance said Snyder and Republicans are more interested in undercutting collective bargaining, health care benefits and taxing pensioners than they are in producing more jobs.

“This administration has been ignoring clean energy to death, and has made it clear that energy isn’t on their radar screen right now, and that’s a concern,” said Ann Woiwode, director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “In order to compete, Michigan has to domore, we have to keep on the path we started on.”

Woiwode said former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s efforts to attract alternative energy and advanced battery manufacturers has created jobs and given the state a foothold in the global energy market. 

 “It’s a startling thing to see. Statistics show this is an industry should be supporting,” Woiwode said.

 Ari Adler, spokesman for House Republicans, said Granholm’s administration inflated job creation numbers for new clean energy and other industries. He said it’s unfair to measure job growth since Republicans have controlled state government since only January.

Adler said since then, Republicans have done more to make Michigan competitive for job-creating businesses than was accomplished in the decade before through tax reform, reduced state spending and regulation reform.

“It’s not government’s role to create jobs,” Adler said. “We create an environment in which individuals can create jobs.”

AFL-CIO Michigan president Mark Gaffney said government must play a more direct role in job creation. He said the auto, solar panel, and planned high speed rail projects in Michigan are flourishing because of federal government money and intervention. He said the renewable energy industry needs similar government help.

“We think the Republicans in this state are just plan wrong on giving enormous tax breaks to businesses and sitting back and waiting for something to happen,” Gaffney said.

The alliance of 10 unions and four environmental groups is promoting environmental protection as a benefit of union jobs, and green energy as a rich source of new jobs.

Former congressman Mark Schauer of Battle Creek is a national co-chair of the BlueGreen Alliance Jobs21! campaign. Schauer said the campaign promotes policies to address unemployment, renewable energy and what he called an environmental and climate crisis.

Woiwode said environmentalists and labor groups have a long history of supporting one another. She and Gaffney said union and state workers who are trained in workplace safety are more likely to report environmental hazards that could endanger workers or the public. Gaffney said their union contracts protect them for whistle-blowing.

He said Republicans in Lansing have no plan to create jobs. He said Snyder’s $1.8 billion tax cut for businesses is repackaged supply side economics that has failed in the past to create jobs or monetary benefits for the middle class.

“We still have 450,000 Michiganders out of work, and yet we argue whether public employees should pay 10% or 20% of their health care, instead of finding ways to put people back to work,” Gaffney said.

He added, “It was jobs that Republicans ran on, and it’s tax breaks for businesses that they’re delivering. That’s not jobs.”

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011110525029


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
CONTACT: Eric Steen, erics@bluegreenalliance.org, 612-466-4488

Michigan’s Union Members & Environmentalists Call for Jobs Plan 

Environmentalists Call for End to Assault on Workers’ Rights, Hailing Michigan’s Union Workers as “Guardians of the Environment” 

LANSING, MI (May 25, 2011) Members and representatives from the state’s top environmental organizations — the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Clean Water Action — today joined with Michigan labor leaders to call for an end to recent attacks on workers’ rights — declaring that union workers are Michigan’s guardians of the environment. The labor and environmental leaders, led by BlueGreen Alliance Jobs21! Co-Chair and former Michigan Congressman Mark Schauer, called for a statewide plan to preserve and create the jobs of the 21st century economy in Michigan.

“We are proud to stand here alongside our union brothers and sisters to call for an end to the anti-workers attacks in Lansing,” said Anne Woiwode, State Director for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “In this down economy, we should be focusing on how to create good jobs and revitalize Michigan’s economy — and how to ensure a healthy environment for our children and our grandchildren — not how to further deny Michigan’s workers their basic right on the job.”

“Environmentalists and union workers have been working together to make our air, water and land cleaner for over 40 years,” continued Woiwode. “We have a strong bond and a common goal: making Michigan, and America, a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous place to live and work.”

“Attacks on the rights of these public employees make it harder to attract and retain quality workers who can enforce environmental regulations,” said Clean Water Action Policy Director Susan Harley. “Budget cuts to local communities and policies such as the Emergency Financial Manager law put the jobs of front-line workers — those who protect our water and our natural resources — at risk, and make it harder for people at the local level to protect the health and safety of their communities.”

With the state’s unemployment at more than 10 percent — still one of the highest in the nation — Lansing lawmakers this year have introduced legislation that chips away at basic rights on the job, such as requiring state workers pay up to 20 percent of their health care coverage costs, attacks on teacher tenure and the right to strike, and attempts to repeal or limit the prevailing wage. Lawmakers have also proposed limits to workplace safety and environmental regulations.

“Instead of continued efforts to take away basic rights on the job — including workplace safety and environmental regulations — we need to focus on creating good jobs in this state,” said Mark Gaffney, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO. “We need a jobs plan that strengthens and modernizes the industries of today and build the jobs and industries of tomorrow. We need a plan that supports and grows industries that will simultaneously help to protect the environment and secure our energy future — and we need to do that right here in Michigan.”

“Threats to bargaining rights, attacks on public sector workers, attempts to eliminate safety and health regulations, and a lack of focus on clean energy — these things don’t create jobs,” said Mark Schauer, a former Congressman from Michigan’s Seventh District and the Co-Chair of the BlueGreen Alliance’s Jobs21! initiative. “We are calling on Lansing to come up with a real jobs plan that will maintain the jobs we have and create new ones in the industries of the 21st century economy. If we don’t get to work on this now, Michigan and the U.S. will fall further and further behind.”

“It’s time for Lansing to focus on what matters to steelworkers, to union members, to environmentalists and to Michigan families in cities and towns across the state. It’s time for our leaders to focus on good jobs, safe communities, and a healthy environment to live in,” said Michael Bolton, United Steelworkers District 2 Director. “We need to get past the distractions and compete for the jobs and industries of the 21st century. We can and must win them.”


The BlueGreen Alliance is a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the green economy. Launched in 2006, the strategic partnership now brings together ten major U.S. labor unions and four of America's most influential environmental organizations and unites 14 million members and supporters in pursuit of good jobs, a clean environment and a green economy. Visit www.bluegreenalliance.org.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Contact: Leigh Fifelski, 517-999-3646
                Cyndi Roper, 517-203-0754
                Rita Chapman, 517-484-2372 

Citizens Groups: Delay Controversial Natural Gas ‘Fracking’ Process until Strong Safety Regulations are in Place

LANSING – Citizens groups today urged Michigan to delay a controversial method of extracting natural gas until it adopts strong safety regulations and full accountability measures essential to protecting public health and safeguarding Michigan’s freshwater supplies. The drilling process, called horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is quickly becoming the prevalent method for extracting natural gas.

“If Michigan is going to explore for natural gas, we must do it the right way, with total accountability, comprehensive safety measures and full public participation in order to protect our residents’ health and our drinking water,” said Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director, Clean Water Action. “We must close oil and gas industry loopholes, and make sure we fully protect communities in Michigan from the kind of reckless practices that have led to disastrous consequences elsewhere.. We must make sure that natural gas drilling is done safely and responsibly in Michigan – and that’s why these measures are essential.”

“Michigan citizens have said time and time again: They want more of their energy to come from clean energy sources, such as wind and solar,” said Rita Chapman, Sierra Club Clean Water Program Coordinator.  “We must delay all natural gas drilling until we can do it safely and with full transparency. In fact, the natural gas industry should embrace these safety measures and weed out the bad actors who give their industry a bad name. We must not gamble with the health and safety of our water and our citizens.”

The groups called for several important measures to be taken before new natural gas drilling can resume, including the following:
•    Protect Michigan’s water supply by eliminating a special interest exemption from state water use laws so natural gas companies are treated the same as all other large water users in Michigan.  Standards for fracking must be adopted that ensure there are no adverse impacts on our water resources as a result of water withdrawals.

•    Protect water quality by requiring public disclosure of specific fracking chemicals used by natural gas companies when they apply for a permit to extract.  The public’s right to know what is in our water outweighs any corporate claims of confidentiality involving the use of chemicals.  The Administration and Legislature must regulate fracking operations to ensure they are safe, including proper disposal of chemical waste and other byproducts of fracking.

•    Requiring public participation in the permitting process so all of the facts are known before a permit is issued and all stakeholders—including people who own wells, fish streams and use drinking water—have the right to be heard.   (Get full details here.)

“As a citizen, I want our government to start listening to people and our concerns instead of just listening to the oil and gas companies that have completely shut us out of the process,” said M’Lynn Hartwell of Traverse City. “We also call on suppliers, vendors and distributors of natural gas to call on oil and gas companies to embrace these safeguards. Michigan must take tough action on natural gas now.”

“It is time for policymakers to adopt tough safety measures," said Jim Egged of Dearborn. "A delay on natural gas fracking until stronger protections are in place will protect the health and safety of our communities.”


May 12, 2011

CLEAN ENERGY NOW

CONTACT:  Jan O’Connell  (616) 956-6646
                      Shannon Fisk (347) 393-5557

Citizens Groups Sue Michigan for Ignoring Law, Issuing Holland Coal Plant Permit

LANSING – Citizens groups today filed a lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for ignoring state regulations when it approved an air pollution permit for a coal plant in Holland.

“The State of Michigan should not be in the business of bending the rules and that’s what this lawsuit is about,” said Jan O’Connell of the Sierra Club. “The Department of Environmental Quality should not have issued a permit when the Holland Board of Public Works has failed to address a range of legally required issues. The people of Michigan deserve to know that their state government puts their health, safety and future before profits.”

The MDEQ issued an air pollution permit on Feb. 11, 2011, paving the way for a proposed expansion of the DeYoung coal fired power plant in Holland. The Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed the lawsuit against the MDEQ in Ingham County Circuit Court today.

“When government sidesteps the law, they must be held accountable, especially when its ill-advised decision threatens people’s health,” said Shannon Fisk of the Midwest Office of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The people of Michigan have said time and time again that they want more clean energy and more energy efficiency, not dirty and expensive coal plants. Give the people -- not big coal companies -- what they want.”

The lawsuit charges the proposed coal plan expansion would emit about 181,440 tons of carbon dioxide every year – emissions that the MDEQ’s permit does not regulate or limit. The lawsuit says MDEQ’s issuance of the permit was arbitrary, capricious, and not authorized by law, in part because the agency ignored the lack of need for the plant, and the existence of cleaner alternatives that Holland acknowledges would be less costly.

Holland residents will not only see an increase in harmful emissions, but we will also see an increase on our electric bills if the coal plant is built,” said Fred Kathi, Holland resident. “I urge Holland to save rate payers’ money and lungs by cancelling the coal plant and pursuing cleaner alternatives.” 

###

Additional info can be found at:

The NRDC report, Energy Future: A Green Energy Alternative for Michigan http://docs.nrdc.org/energy/ene_09081101.asp

The PSC Energy Generation Alternatives Analysis http://efile.mpsc.state.mi.us/efile/docs/16000/0144.pdf


May 5, 2011

Contact: James Clift, 517-256-0553

Senate Republicans Vote to Weaken Protections for the Great Lakes

Lansing - The Michigan Senate voted along party lines today to limit the authority of the governor to protect theGreat Lakes.  Under the provision, the executive branch is prohibited from issuing any rule that contains a standard more stringent than federal law unless specifically authorized by the legislature.

Flashback to the 1970s - Lake Erie was dying - algae beds were covering the lake - scientists pointed the finger at phosphorus in laundry detergent.  The legislature refused to act.  In 1976, Governor Milliken stepped up and issued an administrative rule limiting phosphorus - and the lakes recovered.  The legislature affirmed that restriction 32 later in 2008.

Under the law passed by the Senate today, the governor would be prohibited from stepping in to protect the lakes as Gov. Milliken did 35 years ago.

"Federal standards to protect water quality are designed to be a minimum standard below which states are not allowed to drop.  They are not written by people who feel a stewardship responsibility over one of the world's most important freshwater resource," said James Clift, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council.

"It seems inconceivable that politicians in the Great Lakes State believe Washington bureaucrats will protect the lakes better than those who live here. But that's what they've said with today's vote."

Senate Democrats tried to amend the bill to exempt rules designed to protect the Great Lakes, but that amendment failed.



April 14, 2011  

Contact: Leigh Fifelski 517.999.3646

Clean Energy Now Calls on DEQ to Reject Wolverine Permit  

Unneeded Coal Plant Will Be Costly to Customers, State’s Economic Future, and Public Health


Citizen groups representing tens of thousands of Michiganders who support transforming their state’s crippled manufacturing sector into a clean-energy world leader called on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to reject Wolverine Power Supply Co-Operative’s proposed Rogers City coal plant air pollution permit.
 
Members of the Clean Energy Now Coalition warn that the dirty, unnecessary plant would hike electricity rates by 60 percent in north and central Michigan, where poverty, unemployment, and the cost of living rates are sky high, and saddle small co-ops there with a huge, multi-generation debt.
 
“Wolverine has already spent well over $22 million to sell this bad, outmoded idea, and still refuses to disclose where that money is going,” said Sue Harley, of Clean Water Action. “The company is throwing away lots of its members’ money on a wasteful dream that will drain pocketbooks and damage our Great Lakes with mercury and other toxics.”
 
Anne Woiwode, of the Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter, added: “People in northern Michigan cannot afford this coal and pet coke plant. Not only does the company not need it, much cheaper, cleaner alternatives are readily available.”
 
MDEQ first turned down Wolverine’s proposal last May, saying the co-op had no need for it and warning that it would raise customers’ average monthly bills by $70. This February a state court ruled DEQ could not base its permit denial on need and ordered a prompt reconsideration.
 
But the court also said that if DEQ’s denial had directly tied Wolverine’s clear opportunity to use other, cleaner options—efficiency, wind and other clean energy options—to better protecting air and water quality, it would have been legal.  
 
“MDEQ’s refusal to use its authority to reject unnecessary degradation of air quality is very unfortunate for the utility’s customers, public health, and efforts to build a clean-energy economy,” said Shannon Fisk, of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “As Consumers Energy recently discovered, new coal power is now more expensive than new wind power, and this decision points us in the wrong direction.”
 
CEN members are pressing Wolverine to reconsider its five-year-old plan, which has not been revised even  as other American companies have cancelled more than 150 coal plant proposals due to their severe financial risks, which convinced investment firms that new coal is a bad financial bet.
 
“Wolverine has given no indication that it is seriously considering cheaper, cleaner alternatives,” noted Wayne Vermilya, Allis Township resident. “When is this company going to face reality, and use efficiency and renewables to give its customers and the environment a much better deal?”
  


April 7, 2011

Contact: Tiffany Hartung (231) 747-7489

Senate Defeats Multiple Assaults on Clean Air Act

Senators Stabenow and Levin Vote Against Clean Air and Water

Washington, D.C. - Yesterday, the U.S. Senate beat back multiple assaults on the Clean Air Act and attempts to handcuff the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to protect Americans from toxic pollution.

Senator Stabenow sponsored and voted in support of the Stabenow/Brown amendment block EPA's permitting authority for the largest polluters for two years.  This amendment would allow EPA to issue standards for power plants and refineries but would delay the legal effectiveness of these regulations for two years.

Senator Levin voted in support of the Baucus amendment which needlessly limits the facilities regulated under the EPA's permitting authority for global warming pollution.  This bill allows EPA to proceed with power plant and refinery regulations.

The most egregious of the attacks, offered by Senator McConnell, would permanently remove EPA authority over GHG emissions and weaken fuel economy standards, failed 50 to 50.  Other bills which would needlessly delay, block or narrow EPA's commonsense public health protections received limited support.  

Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Director Anne Woiwode released the following statement in response to today's vote:

"The Senate's defeat of four bills aimed at gutting the Clean Air Act demonstrates a short-term victory for Americans who want clean air and safe drinking water.

"Had this attack on the CAA been successful, it would have put the health of millions of Americans at risk. Senators Levin and Stabenow and other legislators who voted in favor of any of these bills owe an explanation to their constituents about why they have voted for the interests of corporate polluters over the health and well-being of their communities. The message is clear: Sen. Levin and Stabenow believe oil and coal companies' profits are more important than clean air and water.

"Unfortunately, the battle for Americans' health, air and water, is not over. Corporate polluters and their friends in Congress are pushing a dangerous agenda to gut the Clean Air Act, and are holding EPA health protections hostage in the must-pass federal budget negotiations this week. 

"Even more outrageous, this polluter-funded effort to hijack the budget will include generous government handouts to Big Oil and other corporate interests.  Polluters' grab for taxpayer dollars will do nothing to create jobs and will put our health at risk.

"We urge Congress to reject this political gambit that endangers millions of Americans and jeopardizes our economy, and we urge President Obama to veto any legislation aimed at gutting the Clean Air Act."

Vote Breakdown (background information on bills)

McConnell Amendment #183:
Total Supporting - 50
Republicans Supporting: Scott Brown, Kirk, Snowe,
Democrats Opposing: Manchin, Ben Nelson, Pryor, Landrieu,
Republicans Opposing: Collins voted against

Rockefeller Amendment  #215:
Total Supporting - 12
Scott Brown, Collins, Johnson, Conrad, Landrieu, Manchin, McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Pryor, Rockefeller, Webb, Graham

Stabenow-Brown  #277:
Total Supporting - 7
Sherrod Brown, Casey, Johnson, Pryor, Stabenow, Conrad, Klobuchar

Baucus #236:
Total Supporting - 7
Baucus, Hagan, Conrad, Klobuchar, Begich, Johnson, Levin


April 7, 2011

Contact: Mary Dettloff, 517-335-3014

DNR to Propose Closing 23 State Forest Campgrounds

The order to close the 23 campgrounds will be submitted as a proposal at today's Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) meeting in Lansing, and will be eligible for action by DNR Director Rodney Stokes at the NRC's May 12 meeting in Flint. If approved at the May meeting, the closures would be effective on May 19, 2011.

The Department of Natural Resources today announced that the state's Forest Recreation Program has seen a 63-percent decrease in funding in the last three years, resulting in the need for the department to close 23 under-performing state forest campgrounds in the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula.

State forest campgrounds are not state parks. State forest campgrounds are rustic sites with fewer amenities than a state park. They are unstaffed and provide a more rustic, tent camping experience. Every state forest campground is located on a river or lake, and more than 60 campgrounds have nearby pathways for non-motorized trail recreation, such as hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature observation. Accommodations range from five to 50 campsites, with group sites available. All campgrounds have vault toilets and potable water from hand pumps.

General Fund support for state forest recreation programs, such as the state forest campgrounds, has been reduced every year since 2009, when $72,200 was cut. In 2010, $24,100 was cut from the program, and in Fiscal Year 2011, the program is targeted for a $314,700 General Fund reduction.

"While revenue has remained even in the last decade, due to camping fee increases in 2002 and in 2007, state forest campground fees are now at the high end of the market at $15 a night per individual site," said Cara Boucher, assistant chief of the DNR's Forest Management Division. "Meanwhile, the number of registrations and campers has steadily dropped over the same period. Given the long-term trend of declining use and the inability to raise camp fee revenues, the only way to absorb the current cut in General Fund support is to close some campgrounds."

To address the reduced camping demand and insufficient funding to maintain all state forest campgrounds, the DNR will close underutilized campgrounds, Boucher said.

"We will preserve the campgrounds that perform well, and provide a diverse selection for the campers," Boucher said. "The campgrounds targeted for closure are under-performing and close to other state forest campgrounds, so we can still provide camping opportunities in those areas."

Currently, the highest-performing state forest campground generates more than $40,000 a year annually in revenue, while the lowest-performing generates just over $300 a year.

The campgrounds targeted for closure are:

  • Beaufort and Big Lake state forest campgrounds - Baraga County

  • Black Lake Trail Camp - Cheboygan County

  • Lime Island State Forest Campground and Cabins and Munuscong River State Forest Campground - Chippewa County

  • Manistee River Bridge State Forest Campground - Crawford County

  • Deer Lake State Forest Campground - Iron County

  • Bray Creek State Forest Campground - Lake County

  • Blind Sucker #1, High Bridge, Holland Lake, Natalie and Reed & Green Bridge state forest campgrounds - Luce County

  • Black River State Forest Campground - Mackinac County

  • Little Wolf Lake State Forest Campground - Montmorency County

  • McCollum Lake State Forest Campground - Oscoda County

  • Pigeon Bridge and Round Lake state forest campgrounds - Otsego County

  • Canoe Lake, Cusino Lake, Mead Creek and South Gemini Lake state forest campgrounds - Schoolcraft County

  • Long Lake State Forest Campground - Wexford County

To read the informational memo on the state forest campground closures provided to the NRC at the April 7 meeting, go to the NRC's website at www.michigan.gov/nrc and click on Agendas and Minutes to find the April 7 agenda. To read the memo, click on the box for the order on page two of the agenda.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.


April 6, 2011

Contact: Tiffany Hartung, (O) 231-747-7489, (C) 248-933-2451

 

Michigan US Representatives Upton, Rogers, Amash, Benishek, Camp, Huizenga, Miller, McCotter, Walberg, and Others in U.S. Congress Shill for Polluters, Endangering Americans’ Health

Upton Bill Passes 254-172
 

(Lansing, MI) – Today Michigan US Representatives Upton, Rogers, Amash, Benishek, Camp, Huizenga, Miller, McCotter, Walberg and other members of Congress approved legislation that strips the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to protect the public health of millions of Americans from big polluters. The bill, introduced by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), prohibits the EPA from enforcing safeguards against dangerous carbon pollution, guts the Clean Air Act and threatens the health and well-being of American families.

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

“Today, at the expense of millions of Michigan residents who suffer from asthma, respiratory illness and other pollution-related disease, Representative Upton moved his bill in the US House and he and Representatives Rogers, Amash, Benishek, Camp, Huizenga, Miller, McCotter, Walberg and others voted for it, voting for higher profits for greedy corporate polluters, and dirtier air and water, more health problems, and more jobs shipped overseas, for the rest of us.

“Yesterday’s narrow defeat of 4 bills aimed at gutting the Clean Air Act in the Senate demonstrates a short-term victory for clean air, safe drinking water, and health.  Shameful pro-polluter votes like Representatives Upton, Rogers, Amash, Benishek, Camp, Huizenga, Miller, McCotter, Walberg today continue to put the health of millions of Americans at risk.   

“Since day one of the 112th Congress, members of the Republican leadership like Fred Upton have been tasked by their polluter campaign contributors with gutting essential health protections like the Clean Air Act and abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to protect us from life-threatening pollution. 

“We urge the Senate to stand its ground for our health, our economy and our environment by rejecting this damaging and dangerous legislation.” 


 

March 10, 2011

Contact: Michelle Martinez:  313-443-1046

 

Michigan Citizens, Families Urge Congress:
Don't Cut Vital U.S. Heating Assistance Plan

 

LANSING - As utilities continue to raise energy rates, Michigan citizens and families today called on Congress to protect a federal heating relief assistance program that lawmakers are considering slashing.

The program, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), assists low-income households and families in need meet their immediate home energy needs. Generally, qualifying families are those who pay the highest proportion of their household incomes on home energy bills. 

"Families across Michigan are struggling in this tough economy, and cutting this essential relief program will be devastating," said Ann Grimmett of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. "Costs are going up every day, for everything from food to fuel to heating costs. While utilities raise rates, federal support for LIHEAP is more important now more than ever."

Comments from citizens at the hearing will be passed along to Congress, which is considering slashing LIHEAP funding by as much as 30 percent. The hearing was hosted by the Michigan Public Services Commission.

"The reason Michigan families are paying more and more for energy is because of our dependence on coal, which is a reminder to the Snyder Administration that it must invest in more homegrown, affordable renewable energy," said Michelle Martinez of the Sierra Club. "We need to slam the brakes on rising energy costs and energy efficiency is the cheapest form of energy available. Michigan can help our fellow citizens by creating clean energy jobs that can't be outsourced, invest in our homes, and keep Michigan families warm."

"Michigan households spent almost double on energy in 2010 than in 2000 - and we keep paying higher and higher prices when we burn coal," said Robin Douglas, a DTE energy consumer activist. "Gov. Rick Snyder has an opportunity to send a clear signal that he supports all families, by investing taxpayers' hard earned money on wind and solar energy and more energy efficiency programs. These are investments that create jobs, protect ratepayers from price spikes and help build a stronger future."

"Michigan families need LIHEAP energy assistance because our most vulnerable populations are paying for energy twice: once on their electric bill, and then again at the hospital when they get asthma from the pollution as a result of living around coal plants," said Michelle Ali Danar, an energy specialist. "These vulnerable citizens are paying unfair taxes and not seeing any of the benefits."

"As energy costs go up, Gov. Rick Snyder has a golden opportunity to break Michigan's unhealthy dependence on coal and keep our dollars here in Michigan, by investing in clean energy and energy efficiency," said Susan Harley of Clean Water Action. "Michigan has an opportunity to build a clean energy future that strengthens our economy while protecting ratepayers and our most vulnerable citizens. High energy costs that hit consumers is a warning that Michigan must grow our clean energy economy now." 


March 9, 2011

Contact: Azlan Ibrahim, (517) 333-1606 

 

More than 160 Michigan Scientists Tell Congress: Let EPA do its Job, Stop Attacks

MI scientists: Assault on EPA threatens public health, economy

LANSING - More than 160 scientists from universities across Michigan today called on Michigan's congressional delegation to oppose further attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency's authority, calling the EPA essential to protecting the public health.

"For more than 40 years, the EPA has protected public health and safety by holding polluters accountable - and it should be allowed to continue doing its job," said Knute Nadelhoffer, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan. "Scientists across Michigan stand united with scientists at the EPA and across the nation. Science, not politics, must drive our fight against dangerous pollution."

Nadelhoffer testified before Congress on Tuesday about the importance of allowing the EPA to set greenhouse gas emission standards under the Clean Air Act.

The scientists' letter states: "We strongly urge you to reject any measure that would block or delay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from protecting the people of Michigan from air pollution and human caused climate change, both of which put our health, agriculture, environment and economy at risk." [The letter is attached below.]

The scientists are continuing to circulate the letter to more researchers and scientists across the state, with the goal of building momentum and raising their voices to Congress.

"Michigan scientists urge Congress to defend Michigan citizens, not polluters," said David Karowe, professor of biological sciences at Western Michigan University. "By taking away or weakening the EPA's authority to fight greenhouse gas pollution, Congress is endangering the public health by increasing the likelihood of deadly heat waves, floods, and droughts."

"In the long run, climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions is going to be extremely costly to Michigan's economy, so we need to consider the long-term risk against the short-term costs," said Stephen Hamilton, professor of ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry at W.K. Kellogg Biological Station of Michigan State University. "And each year that we delay action commits us to more severe climate change well into the future, because greenhouse gas effects will persist for a very long time."

"Greenhouse gas pollution is a threat to our families' health and safety, and it endangers important industries from agriculture to tourism," said Steve Bertman, WMU chemistry professor and an expert on atmospheric chemistry. "The science is clear: Greenhouse gas pollution harms our air, land and water.  Ultimately, it will be the growing industries of alternative energy that will bring innovation and jobs back to Michigan. We should be doing everything we can to support these jobs of the future rather than upholding outdated technologies of the past."

"I am proud to stand with my fellow scientists in sending this message to Congress: Let science, not politics, determine how we set standards on greenhouse gas emissions," said Sarah Green, chair of the chemistry department at Michigan Technological University.  "As Congress begins the debate on the Clean Air Act, it is vital that they hear from scientists - and more than 160 of us in Michigan are ready to make our voices heard."

"The EPA does important life-saving work to protect public health," said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center and an adjunct environmental law professor at the University of Michigan. "These Michigan scientists fully support the EPA's setting sensible clean air standards to reduce greenhouse gases and other pollution that harm our health. Congress should work to reduce pollution, not open the floodgates to more toxic pollution that puts Michigan's future and our health at risk."

Among the facts the Michigan scientists highlighted in their letter:

The Clean Air Act requires that EPA work to reduce smog and soot pollution, air toxics, and global warming pollution that together cost the people of Michigan and America billions of dollars in health care and other costs.

Clean air rules can create more than 62,300 construction, installation and professional jobs in Michigan in the next five years.

Michigan's Big Three have already publicly supported EPA rules to reduce emissions in new vehicles.Clean air regulations save consumers millions of dollars in gas costs, reduce oil consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 960 million metric tons.

Signatories of the letter included scientists and researchers from the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University, Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Michigan Technological University, Grand Valley State University, Ferris State University, and Hope College, Kalamazoo College and Calvin College, as well as scientists with other institutions doing research in Michigan.

A recent statewide poll showed Michigan voters overwhelmingly support the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from large industrial sources. According to the poll of 500 Michigan voters by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, 68 percent of voters support the EPA's authority, compared with only 27 percent.

Last week, the EPA released a report showing that the Clean Air Act will have saved $2 trillion by 2020 and prevented at least 230,000 deaths annually. By 2020, complying with the amendments would prevent 200,000 heart attacks, 17 million lost work days and 2.4 million asthma attacks, according to the report.


 

March 8, 2011

CONTACTS:
Cyndi Roper 517-999-3646
Anne Woiwode 517-484-2372
David Holtz 313-300-4454

 

First 2 Snyder Laws Weaken Protections for Michigan's Water

 

LANSING - Citizens groups criticized Gov. Rick Snyder for weakening federal water standards when he signed legislation today affecting the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program - the first bills he is signing into law as governor. 

"The Snyder Administration is opening the door to more threats against Michigan's water supply, and closing the door to more accountability," said Anne Woiwode, Director of the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club. "This new law is reversing course in our state after eight years of bringing dangerous pollution from livestock operations under better control. This is a recipe for disaster and we will ask the Environmental Protection Agency to review the law to determine whether it violates federal statues."

Snyder signed into law House Bill 4212 and Senate Bill 122,  allow agricultural operations under the voluntary Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) to meet lower water quality standards than any other water users.  Discharges of livestock wastes and other agricultural contaminants from these unpermitted facilities can cause sickness, fish kills and other damage to the environment.  Permits and regulations for the largest concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) will remain unchanged, but operations just one cow or one pig fewer would not have to meet the same requirements to prevent pollution and pay fines.

"Gov. Snyder's first significant act as governor is to sign into law loopholes in water protection regulations - and that's extremely disappointing for Michigan families and small businesses that depend on healthy lakes and natural resources," said Cyndi Roper, Michigan Director of Clean Water Action. "Michigan citizens have said time and time again that they want more protections for our Great Lakes and water, not less. Unfortunately, Gov. Snyder is turning a deaf ear to the people of Michigan and putting our most precious natural resource at risk."

"The governor's decision to weaken Michigan's effort to protect our water sends the wrong signal to Michigan industries, from tourism and fishing to manufacturing," said David Holtz, executive director of Progress Michigan. "Michigan's lakes, rivers and streams are the engine of our economy, and we must do everything in our power to protect it. Instead, this new law sends Michigan backwards and endangers local economies and our families' quality of life."
 


February 10, 2011 

Senate Agriculture Committee Gives Agricultural Polluters
“Permission to Pollute”


The reality of Pure Michigan was put at risk today by a package of bills that were rushed through the Senate Agriculture Committee. According to their supporters, Senate Bills 122 and 123 will encourage Michigan farmers to participate in a voluntary pollution prevent program. Ironically, the bills provide a ‘Get Out Of Jail FREE’ card for livestock facilities that pollute Michigan’s waters with animal sewage. The bills were just introduced yesterday, leaving no time for clean water and public health advocates to respond with their comments and expertise.

For years the Farm Bureau and agriculture advocates have tried to put their Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) into law, to gain recognition and funding. Yet once again they’ve tarnished an otherwise valuable program with provisions that significantly lower environmental and public health protections, leading to more animal waste in Michigan’s lakes and streams.

There are 53,000 farms in Michigan; 2,200 of those facilities are livestock operations and 200-250 of those are massive and polluting Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) or animal factories. CAFOs are the only segment of Michigan’s agricultural industry which requires any environmental permitting. As such, the “permission to pollute” provision only benefits livestock operations subject to CAFO permitting requirements because of water quality violations, less than ½ of 1% of Michigan’s farming community.

The MAEAP program does have value and may help farmers better manage their environmental risks. However, the cost to become “verified” in the program runs between $25,000 and $100,000. Small farmers simply can’t afford the price tag. If the primary incentive in the legislation is a “free pass to pollute” for CAFOs, it’s hard to see how the Farm Bureau will reach its goal of increasing MAEAP participation by 500% with this package of bills. 

Unlike in previous years, the bills don’t attempt to remove the obligation for CAFOs to obtain a permit as required by state and federal law. However, by severely weakening pollution standards, the MAEAP program would increase pollution from CAFOs and reduce penalties and fines for polluters. The bills also potentially put Michigan’s delegated authority to implement the Clean Water Act at risk, which would harm Michigan’s economic recovery. The House Agriculture Committee plans to take up the bills next week.

This package of bills may be the first to test Governor Snyder’s promise not to weaken pollution standards for CAFOs and his campaign promise of a “Pure Michigan.”  Signing these bills into law would certainly violate that pledge.


 

February 10, 2011

DEQ Urged to Reject Holland Coal Plant Permit:
Health, Ratepayer Costs Too High
 

Clean Energy Now – Citizens groups today called on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to reject a permit that would open the door to the unnecessary expansion of a Holland coal plant. Although the permit is back in front of the Department of Environmental Quality because of an Ottawa County Circuit Court decision, the groups point to severe flaws that require it to be denied. The groups said the Holland Board of Public Works coal plant expansion, if approved, will saddle ratepayers with higher costs, endanger public health and put the Great Lakes, land and air at risk.

“The Department of Environmental Quality should reject this dangerous and unnecessary coal plant that Holland BPW’s own studies show would cost its ratepayers $106 million more than other cleaner alternatives over the course of 20 years,” said Nicholas Schroeck, executive director, Great Lakes Environmental Law Center . “Michigan is just beginning to move out of the dark ages and into a new, clean energy future and citizens cannot afford to open the door to more dirty coal plants that can derail our efforts. We must take a stand to protect the future of Holland and all of Michigan from more polluting coal fired power plants.”

"Many Holland and Michigan citizens urge the DEQ to stand up for Michigan’s future and reject this permit, which will put people’s health at risk,” said Sara E. Leeland, PhD,  Holland resident who has been active in opposing the large-sized coal-plant.  "In fact, NEED for a double-sized coal plant is a big issue for many of us.  We expect the world-class 40-year sustainable energy plan now underway to show that Holland's long-term need will be for up to 50% less electricity than now used, not double the amount.   A larger plant would likely be used to make profits by feeding electricity into the grid.  Since the pollution created drifts directly across the population center of the city that would be choosing city profit over health."  

 The citizens groups said the DEQ must reject the permit on the following grounds:

  • Cleaner, feasible and more prudent energy alternatives to the coal plant expansion requires the DEQ to reject the permit in light of the risk to air quality that a coal plant expansion will pose. 

  • Citizens have identified many problems related to the coal plant expansion that the Holland BPW must address and comply with by the time a decision is made on the permit.

  • The DEQ must substantially re-draft the terms and conditions of the permit, re-publicize the revised permit draft and give the public an opportunity to comment on it if the DEQ moves forward and issues a permit for the expansion.

 NOTE: Documents submitted to the Michigan DEQ calling for the denial of the Holland Board of Public Works proposed coal plant permit can be found here:

Michigan Environmental Protection Act Petition submitted by NRDC and Sierra Club to MDNRE/MDEQ 2/4/11

NRDC, Sierra Club, et al, Supplemental Comments, 2/9/11


  

February 3, 2011

Citizens Urge Snyder Administration to 
Block Flawed Rogers City Coal Permit

Groups Call on Wolverine Power to Protect Ratepayers By
Cancelling Unnecessary $ 2 Billion Coal Plant


LANSING – Citizens groups today called on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment to block Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative’s proposed Rogers City coal plant. The groups said blocking the coal plant will protect Michigan’s environment, public health and ratepayers throughout the northern Lower Peninsula who may be saddled with massive, unneeded electric rate hikes.

The groups noted that the state is declining to stand up for an earlier DNRE decision to deny an air permit to Wolverine.  A recent court decision said the DNRE failed to base its permit denial on specific air quality concerns.  DNRE can and should correct that error in denying the permit again or, if the agency decides to issue a permit for the unnecessary plant, it must apply stringent new limits for greenhouse gases and other pollutants that threaten public health.

“Wolverine Power’s permit application ought to be denied for a long laundry list of reasons,” said Anne Woiwode, Director of the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club. “The DNRE should not act like a rubber stamp for Big Coal. The best way for the DNRE to prove that it puts people ahead of Big Coal profits is to stand by its original decision, deny Wolverine’s permit based on the overwhelming documentation and stop coal plants from proliferating in Michigan.”

While the DNRE has said they will not appeal the decision, it will comply with the court’s remand of the permit to the agency for additional consideration and a decision on whether to issue or deny the permit.  Thousands of Michigan citizens have voiced opposition to new coal plants such as the one in Rogers City. Building new coal plants would saddle ratepayers with the cost of those new facilities, even though there is no need for new coal plants in Michigan and future energy demands can be met with renewable energy sources and increased energy efficiency.

If Wolverine built the unneeded coal plant in Rogers City, ratepayers’ bills would go up an estimated $76 a month to pay for the coal plant that wouldn’t be needed. In fact, Wolverine has already spent $22 million of co-op owner members’ money on the proposed coal plant which could be put on the backs of ratepayers.
 
"Wolverine and it’s member co-ops, Great Lakes Energy, Cherryland Electric, HomeWorks Tri-County Electric and Presque Isle Electric & Gas, have a chance to cut their losses now and move forward," said PIE&G member Wayne Vermilya of Onaway.  "It’s time for Wolverine and it’s co-op members to move on toward lower cost options, like energy efficiency and clean energy, that will create good Michigan jobs and help co-op members keep paying their bills."

A new coal plant will also worsen air pollution, increase dangerous emissions such as mercury and carbon dioxide, and harm public health. The Rogers City coal project could also open the door to a landfill quarry for coal ash, an additional danger to public health.

“We urge the DNRE to stand up for families in northeast Michigan, who want clean energy jobs and healthy air, not more coal plant pollution” said Shannon Fisk, senior attorney at the Midwest Office of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The Missaukee County court’s ruling allows DNRE to reject unnecessary coal plant pollution due to specific air quality concerns, and we urge the agency to do so here.”


January 20, 2011

Sierra Club Statement on Governor Snyder's
Support for Voluntary MAEAP For Agriculture

Governor Snyder’s first State of the State offered many positive sounding initiatives, including an emphasis on building local agricultural and other businesses, and increasing urban investments.  However, the Governor’s proposal to emphasize voluntary standards for agriculture raises many questions when it comes to proper control of massive, industrial agricultural operations such as livestock factories.  The contention that “frivolous lawsuits” must be averted raises an unsubstantiated claim that there have been numerous such lawsuits against agricultural operations in the state.  In fact, Michigan’s Right to Farm act has barred hundreds if not thousands of rural neighbors of polluting factory farms from protecting their family’s health, their property and their businesses from the destruction caused by air and water pollution. In addition, the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program, or MAEAP, referred to by Governor Snyder, has been found by state and federal environmental agencies as failing to meet requirements for protecting the environment.   We look forward to quick clarification from the Governor as to this plank.

See Sierra Club's letter to Governor Snyder here. 


  

January 13, 2011

Coal-burning plants: Bad business for Michigan

 Democrats’ job-killer policy would hurt Michigan’s business climate, require electricity rate hikes

Environmental groups today criticized state House Democratic leaders today for their bewildering support for new job-killing, costly and polluting coal-fired power plants in Michigan. 

“At a time when Michigan is positioned to attract tens of thousands of new clean energy jobs – on top of the 109,000 we already have – the House Democratic leadership has apparently made the choice to chase those jobs away by embracing old coal, instead,”  said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “If this is the kind of short sighted decision-making we can expect from the House Democrats over the next two years, both the environment and economy of Michigan will suffer."

New coal plants create temporary jobs during construction, but compete with renewable energy projects and undermine the state’s long-term economic growth in the clean energy sector.

The groups said the Democratic proposal would trigger costly and unnecessary electric rate increases for struggling Michigan families and small businesses. It would also undermine growing clean energy industries in Michigan that are adding jobs.

With electricity demand dropping, renewable energy growing, and Michigan families and businesses struggling to make ends meet, new rate hikes for unneeded coal plants are abysmally bad public policy.

“This is bad news for Michigan workers and consumers. I challenge anyone to identify one new power plant built in this country in the last decade that didn’t result in a rate increase,” said James Clift, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council. “Ask WE Energy customers in the Upper Peninsula. Their new coal-fired power plant resulted in a 30 percent rate increase.  The Michigan Public Service Commission projected the proposed Wolverine plant in Roger City would double customer rates – on average by almost $70 per month.”

Detroit Edison recently asked to raise its rates to cover an expected $73 million in utility bills that ratepayers are unable to pay because of the state’s poor economy.  Meanwhile, projected demand for electricity in areas served by Detroit Edison has dropped to 1998 levels.  Consumers Energy is in a similar position of excess capacity.

“Protecting ratepayers absolutely must be the focus of any utility investment decisions moving forward,” said Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter director.  “Michigan cannot afford to make bad decisions in the energy field if it wants to compete globally.  To keep our rates low, Michigan can meet future demand through a low-cost combination of energy efficiency, renewable power and demand management.”

A new power plant would lock Michiganders into sending money out of state to import more than $9 billion worth of coal for the next 50 years. All costs for new coal plants will be borne by ratepayers under legislation passed in 2008, and residential users will pay the biggest portion of that increase.

Across the nation, no utility has began construction of a new coal plant in the last two years – and plans for 138 have been dropped or put on indefinite hold.  In Michigan, CMS announced plans last year to indefinitely delay its proposed Karn Weadock coal plant expansion near Bay City because of the lack of demand for the power and forecasts for lower natural gas prices.

“States across the nation – including Michigan recently – are building new networks to produce cleaner, cheaper electricity while providing long term in-state jobs and growing local businesses,” said Cyndi Roper, Michigan director for Clean Water Action. “Why the Michigan House Democratic leadership wants to cling to a past that has failed us is a mystery.



December 22, 2010 

Groups Ask Snyder To Support Clean Energy Jobs

Letter Focuses On Incoming Administration’s Coal Plant Policies

 

LANSING, MI—Twelve citizens groups representing hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents today delivered a letter to Governor-Elect Rick Snyder asking him to continue state policies that require consideration of energy alternatives and the need for more energy as part of the process of issuing permits for new coal plants.

The letter to Snyder was sent by leading environmental and energy groups representing citizens from through the state. 

“Coal plants are a barrier to economic progress and a hazard to public health,” said the groups in their letter.  “To attract clean energy jobs, Michigan must send a strong signal that our future lies in energy efficiency, wind, solar, advanced battery, and other clean energy technologies – not outdated, 19th-century coal.”

Snyder was urged to support state energy policies that are:

  • Protecting Michigan ratepayers from expensive and unneeded power sources when cheaper alternatives are available;

  • Creating much-needed clean energy jobs in one of the fastest-growing sectors of the global economy; and

  • Improving public health by reducing dangerous emissions and pollution from the power sector that causes illness and contributes to climate change.

Organizations that wrote to Snyder are:

Clean Water Action, Ecology Center, Environmental Integrity Project, Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, Lone Tree Council,Michigan Energy Alternatives Project, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Midland Cares, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, Sierra Club Student Coalition, West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

The full text of the letter follows.

 


CLEAN WATER ACTION
ECOLOGY CENTER • ENVIRONMENTAL INTEGRITY PROJECT • GREAT LAKES ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTER 
LONE TREE COUNCILMICHIGAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES PROJECT MICHIGAN LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS • MIDLAND CARES • NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL • SIERRA CLUB • SIERRA CLUB STUDENT COALITION • WEST MICHIGAN ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION COUNCIL

 

Thursday, December 22, 2010

 

Honorable Rick Snyder, Governor-Elect

State of Michigan

VIA FACSIMILE

 

Dear Governor-Elect Snyder:

We the undersigned urge you to support Michigan’s path to a clean energy future by continuing to require a thorough analysis of the need for and alternatives to new sources of power before they are built.

State and federal law require consideration of feasible and prudent alternatives to new polluting energy sources like coal plants.  Examination of the need for new power is part of such consideration of alternatives, and is essential for Michigan’s clean energy future.

 Studying both the demand for new power and alternative sources of energy for meeting such demand is vital to Michigan for the following reasons:

  • Protecting Michigan ratepayers from expensive and unneeded power sources when cheaper alternatives are available;

  • Creating much-needed clean energy jobs in one of the fastest-growing sectors of the global economy; and

  • Improving public health by reducing dangerous emissions and pollution from the power sector that causes illness and contributes to climate change.

Coal plants are a barrier to economic progress and a hazard to public health. To attract clean energy jobs, Michigan must send a strong signal that our future lies in energy efficiency, wind, solar, advanced battery, and other clean energy technologies – not outdated, 19th-century coal. Policies such as Executive Directive 2009-02 that provide for the study of the need for and alternatives to new sources of generation are a reasonable, common-sense measure that will help Michigan accomplish its goal of building a robust clean energy sector while protecting ratepayers and our “Pure Michigan” natural resources.

As a technology leader and innovator, you understand how important it is to seize opportunities before others and how essential it is to make wise and measured business decisions.   Michigan businesses and families cannot afford to shoulder the high utility bills it will take to cover the cost of unneeded coal plants with price tags in the billions.  Not only will Michigan lose out on attracting new business, but also high energy costs from unneeded plants will drive out our existing companies.

Moreover, when it comes to growing more clean energy jobs, Michigan cannot afford to delay.  By devoting limited resources toward building new coal plants that would operate for the next 50 years, Michigan will be giving up clean energy jobs to other states and countries. 

Investors large and small are eagerly preparing to play larger roles in the U.S. clean energy sector. At the same time, other nations such as China, South Korea and India are ramping up their commitments to clean energy and are poised to surpass the United States in this vital sector. China is investing $12.6 million an hour to grow its clean energy sector. Meanwhile, only six of the top 30 wind, solar and advanced battery manufacturers are based in the United States, even though U.S. innovation planted the seed for key clean energy technologies.

Clean energy is already one of the few bright spots in Michigan’s economy, creating more than 100,000 jobs in Michigan from 2005 to 2008, an 8-percent increase while jobs overall declined 5.4 percent during that period, according to a 2009 Michigan Green Jobs Report.

Examining need and alternatives when it comes to the state’s energy choices will also benefit public health and help protect Michigan’s unique natural resources.  Human health must be a factor when making energy decisions and take into account the fact that air and water pollution from coal plants causes health impacts such as: premature death, asthma, developmental disabilities, and cancer.  Our fishing and tourism industries have already been harmed by the mercury contamination in our rivers, lakes, and streams that make our fish unsafe to eat.  In addition, global climate change poses grave threats to our Great Lakes way of life, and we must take steps to minimize greenhouse gas pollution. 

For reasons that are vital to the health of our residents, environment, and economy, we the undersigned urge you to uphold policies such as Executive Directive 2009-02 that examine need and alternatives to new sources of energy.  Now is the time for you to support Michigan businesses and much-needed local jobs by demonstrating your commitment to clean energy, new technology and a strong Michigan future.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.  You can contact us through Anne Woiwode, Michigan Director, Sierra Club, 517-974-2112, anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org or at Sierra Club, 109 E. Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48906.
 

Sincerely,


Cyndi Roper
Clean Water Action

Samuel E. Flenner III
Environmental Integrity Project

Terry Miller
Lone Tree Council 

Lisa Wozniak
Michigan League of Conservation Voters

Shannon Fisk
Natural Resources Defense Council

Michaela Howard
Sierra Club Student Coalition 

Michael Garfield
Ecology Center

Nick Schroeck
Great Lakes Environmental Law Center

Tom Karas
Michigan Energy Alternatives Project

Peter Sinclair
Midland Cares

Anne Woiwode
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter

Nick Occhipinti
West Michigan Environmental Action Counci


November 30, 2010 

Contact: Anne Woiwode, 517-484-2372 

Statement on Governor Elect Rick Snyder’s
Quality of Life cluster announcement

From the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Director Anne Woiwode

Protecting the health, water and air quality, natural resources and food systems for the state of Michigan are among the most important responsibilities of the Governor of Michigan.  While the directors of the agencies overseeing these key issues are important, the most important job the Governor has is to clearly articulate the values that he/she expects these directors to embody in their day to day decision making.

The announcement by Governor-elect Rick Snyder of plans to create a Quality of Life cluster of agencies (including the re-split Department of Natural Resources and Environment and Department of Agriculture) and appointment of Dan Wyant as both the executive of this cluster and Director of the re-created Department of Environmental Quality is a surprising one.  These agencies touch every person in Michigan virtually everyday, and are critical to our well-being and economic stability as a state. Long term, connecting these agencies with the goal of enhancing protection of health and the environment could be a positive step. However, the re-splitting of the DNRE just a year into its reorganization, the loss of large numbers of staff through early retirement and the  substantial and growing funding shortfalls that threaten their legally mandated requirements to implement federal and state laws, will likely add to the huge hurdles faced by the agencies in the next year or more.

The choices of Rodney Stokes as the Director of the re-created Department of Natural Resources and of Keith Creagh as the Director of the expanded Department of Agriculture puts individuals with long histories and experience in their respective agencies at the helm.  Their respective experience will help direct these agencies at a time when overwhelming uncertainty will be a way of life.

The appointment of Dan Wyant as Director of the recreated Department of Environmental Quality and executive of the Quality of Life cluster raises a number of critical questions that Governor-elect Snyder must address.  Mr. Wyant was a major player in the strategy executed by the administration of Governor John Engler to remove all environmental, land use and public health policy protections from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) during the 1990’s.  In the 1980’s Michigan was respected as the state with the best tools for protecting the health of rural residents, and preventing contamination of fisheries, drinking water and recreational waters, but by 1999 the state was notorious for having the worst program in the nation regarding CAFO pollution. 

In 2002, the US Environmental Protection Agency under George W. Bush came within a day of beginning proceedings to remove Michigan’s authority over the Clean Water Act because of the decisions made by Mr. Wyant and his colleagues in the Engler Administration.  Specifically, the Engler Administration’s decision to transfer authority over water quality from regulation under the DEQ to voluntary compliance under the Department of Agriculture and to resist requiring water quality permits for even badly polluting CAFOs led to a citizen petition to USEPA in 1999 asking for the federal agency to revoke Michigan’s delegation under the Clean Water Act. 

The impact of the Engler Administration’s refusal to regulate water and air pollution from CAFOs was largely responsible for the extraordinary difficulty the state of Michigan has even today with forcing the clean up of badly polluting CAFOs, including the Vreba Hoff Dairy CAFOs in Hillsdale and Lenawee County.  Mr. Wyant’s statements as recently as 2005 regarding his belief that the state should not require permits for CAFOs raises important questions about Governor-elect Snyder’s policy direction with regard to implementing, enforcing and complying with federal environmental laws. 

We look forward to Governor-elect Snyder sharing with the people of Michigan his intentions regarding these issues, and look forward to the public having a substantial role in shaping the policies that will affect our public health, food quality and resources in the coming years.


NEWS ARCHIVE


Find your State Rep

Find your State Senator

Comments by Anne Woiwode, Michigan Chapter Director, at April 13 "We Are the People Rally" in Lansing


Background Information

• Holland Proposed Coal Plant Permit:

NRDC and Sierra Club vs. Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, filed May 12, 2011

Michigan Environmental Protection Act Petition submitted by NRDC and Sierra Club to MDNRE/MDEQ 2/4/11

NRDC, Sierra Club, et al, Supplemental Comments, 2/9/11
 

• Consumers Energy Karn Weadock Proposed Permit

NRDC Fact Sheet on the Consumers Energy Karn Weadock Coal Fired Plant, "The Proposed Consumers Coal Plant: an Unnecessary Economic and Public Health Risk"


Oprah MagazineLynn Henning in Oprah Magazine, Nov 2011

     
     

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