Michigan Chapter Update
Ides of March 2015
In this Issue:
- DNR Decision on Graymont Land Sale Skirts Public Comment Commitment
- Sign up TODAY for Oil and Natural Gas Activism Introductory Workshop
- Energy Debate Heats Up at Capitol
- Sierra Club announces Notice of Intent to Sue Lansing BWL
- Seeds of Better Food System Planted at 'Farming Our Future' Conference March 9
- Hundreds Turn Out to DEQ Hearing on Sulfur Dioxide in River Rouge
- Explore and Enjoy! Ludington State Park
Register TODAY for an Introduction
DNR Decision on Graymont Land Sale Skirts Public Comment Commitment
As has been noted in previous Chapter Updates, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has received an application from the Graymont Corporation to purchase and lease about 12,000 acres of state land in the eastern Upper Peninsula. The land and minerals would be used to mine limestone. This would be by far the largest and most complex land and minerals sale in DNR history. Sierra Club opposes the large-scale sale of public lands for private development.
The decision on this application may come as soon as March 19. However, the application has gone through so many revisions, so quickly, that the public has not had an adequate opportunity to comment on the proposed action. Graymont has submitted nine versions of the application, with five coming since January 5, 2015. This means that by the time the public has seen and read an application, there has often already been a new one submitted.
The most recent application was released to the public on March 10, less than 10 days before a proposed decision. Sierra Club believes that regardless of the merits of the proposal, the public deserves to have a reasonable period of time to review and comment on the final version of the application. We are asking DNR Director Keith Creagh to allow the public at least 30 days to review a final application before he makes a decision.
Please let DNR Director Keith Creagh know by March 18th that you think that 10 days is not enough time for the public to review such a large, complex land transaction by emailing your thoughts here: DNRGraymontProposalComments@michigan.gov
"I Have a Right to Breathe Clean Air in my Own
Energy Debate Heats Up at the Capitol
This year, the state law that set standards for renewable energy and efficiency expires so lawmakers are beginning to debate what our energy policy should look like going forward. House Energy Committee Chairman Aric Nesbitt has proposed a plan that would call burning trash a "renewable energy" source, even though it destroys recyclable materials and emits high levels of pollution and carbon dioxide. The Republican legislator's plan would also terminate our state's energy efficiency program which helps people save money by decreasing their energy use. Despite people saving $4 on energy costs for every dollar invested in the program and supporting 46,000 jobs in the efficiency industry, Chairman Nesbitt wants to do away with it.
In contrast, House and Senate Democrats proposed a plan that would build on the success of the current bipartisan Renewable Energy Standard goals with a new target of 20 percent by 2022 . Their proposal would also raise Michigan's energy efficiency standard to two percent a year, further reducing energy costs for residential and industrial utility customers while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.
In the next month, we are going to see two more energy policy proposals, one from Governor Rick Snyder and another from Senate Energy Committee Chairman Mike Nofs. [UPDATE: As we go to press, Governor Snyder was scheduled to give his energy address on Friday, March 13th - watch for Sierra Club's response to this.] Pundits predict that these proposals will increase our dependence on natural gas, an unsustainable fossil fuel that puts the Great Lakes and our community health at risk from fracking.
Timing is critical for supporters of truly clean, renewable and efficient energy policies to urge your legislators to support the strongest possible standards for Michigan's clean energy future. That's why we need you to click here to tell your lawmakers to expand clean energy instead of dirty, polluting energy sources!
Sierra Club Notice of Intent to Sue Lansing Utility over 3,500+ Violations
"The people of Lansing own this utility, and they deserve to know how it's operating," said Anne Woiwode, Conservation Director for the Sierra Club's Michigan Chapter. "Lansing Board of Water & Light officials have known about these violations for years, but have failed to address them. It's time to face this pollution problem and create a responsible plan to transition away from these polluting, aging coal plants."
Air pollution from burning coal triggers respiratory problems like asthma attacks, nervous system disorders, and cardiovascular problems. Over time, exposure can lead to permanent lung damage and even premature death. The Lansing neighborhoods in close proximity to the LBWL plants experience the highest asthma hospitalization rates, according to the Ingham County Health Department.
The Sierra Club estimates that LBWL is polluting more sulfur dioxide per unit of electricity than the whole fleet of coal plants operated by DTE Energy. DTE was ranked number one among the top 100 nationwide power producers for sulfur pollution per unit of electricity, based on the methodology used in a 2014 report by CERES, an independent corporate accountability non-profit dedicated to sustainability.
"It's staggering to think that these coal plants pollute at a rate that outpaces one of the worst corporate polluters in the country," said Regina Strong, director of the Beyond Coal Campaign in Michigan. "The board of commissioners should choose to replace these coal-burning plants with Michigan-based renewable energy that doesn't endanger our air."
For a computer modeled map showing the Eckert coal burning plant emissions reach, click here. Find out more by contacting Beyond Coal campaign organizer Brad van Guilder at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seeds of a Better Food System Planted at "Farming Our Future" Conference Mar. 9
Farming Our Future Conference Michelle Jackson
Small Ville Learning Farms project
More than 140 consumers, farmers and members of advocacy groups turned out for Farming Our Future: The Forces and Faces of 21st Century Agriculture, a conference hosted by the Less=More coalition on March 9 during Agriculture and Natural Resources Week at Michigan State University. The event gave a platform to urban and rural sustainable agriculture practitioners, researchers, lawyers, and other experts to explore the state of farming today and answer the question: How did we get to the point where the way we raise our food can actually endanger our health rather than promote it?
Keynote speakers and panels, including one featuring Detroit farmer Michelle Jackson (pictured speaking) explored how to chart a path away from our current food system based on industrial agricultural practices that pollute the water, air and land and endanger our health. Michelle Jackson talked about her work to educate young people about where their food comes from through her Small Ville Learning Farms project. Speakers spotlighted emerging trends like an increasing number of women and people of color in farming and urban backyard agriculture and encouraged networking among participants. They also urged greater citizen engagement in the many processes and programs that determine who gets to farm and how they farm.
"We need people to speak up at hearings when state agencies are changing rules that govern who gets to farm, as the Michigan Agriculture Commission did last year to the detriment of some backyard urban farmers," said Gail Philbin, Sierra Club Michigan director. "There is a host of things that go on behind the scenes—like the subsidies for factory farms that Less=More is targeting-- that affect the kind of food we have access to as consumers."
BREAKING NEWS: As warm weather is melting snow, manure wastes from factory farms is running into Michigan's lakes and streams and across private property. See the Less=More response to a massive spill in Kalamazoo County last week.
For more information about Less=More, visit www.MoreforMichigan.org. To sign up to get email updates about the coalition's work, email email@example.com.
Explore and Enjoy! Ludington State Park
Sierra Club is committed to "exploring, enjoying and protecting the planet." The Michigan Chapter Update includes features on exploring and enjoying places in Michigan. In this edition, Rebecca Hammond takes us to Ludington State Park, in the western lower peninsula on Lake Michigan.
Ludington State Park has a reputation for being crowded, but you won't find crowds in winter. The Islands and Peninsulas Trail is as lovely as any in Michigan. Ignore the cottages lining the far side of big Hamlin Lake. The feeling is remote. Try the challenging Ridge Trail, with its view over Lake Michigan, its tortured, tenacious pines standing atop teepees of roots, its glimpses of the lighthouse and Nordhouse Dunes beyond it, and you have yourself a HIKE. Stop in one of Ludington's two CCC stone shelters, even make a fire and warm up. This park has Lake Michigan, inland lakes, the Big Sable River, flat trails, steep dune trails, and is a must-see.
Exploring, enjoying, and protecting are three touchstones of the Sierra Club, even its motto. What if we linked them? Maybe each instance of exploring and enjoying could naturally lead to some time spent protecting, whether that would be outreach to officials who are acting in opposition to a healthy Michigan or who just need encouragement to continue good work they are doing already. Maybe it would mean cleaning up the nonstop plastic trash found on lake hikes, or pulling garlic mustard, or writing a check. Maybe it's a logical final step in exploring and enjoying, a third way to ground oneself here in Michigan, our beloved land of lakes and rivers.
There's nothing like a hike to calm the soul. Whether following that up with some type of activism is seen as a next step or as a return on investment of time or as reciprocity for the peace found in nature is not so important. Connecting the dots, giving back in various ways, stepping up, taking direct responsibility for this land can feel as right as exploring in the first place. It completes a circle.
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