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E-M:/ Utility dereg. plan flawed, lacks environmental and public health protections



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Enviro-Mich message from Vicki Levengood <vlevengood@voyager.net>
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE		Contact: Dave Dempsey -- 517-371-2651
November 27, 1998			Vicki Levengood -- 517-333-5786


Environmental, consumer, and public health advocates agree:
Utility-backed bill is “the worst pro-polluter legislation of the
decade.”

Groups call on Senate to add vital environmental protections to
industry-sponsored bills to deregulate Michigan utilities

Lansing, MI--Environmental, public health, and consumer advocates across
the state today decried the utility-sponsored bill that stands to
increase pollution and polluter profits at the expense of Michigan’s
citizens and Michigan’s environment.

On a 3-2 vote, the bill to deregulate Michigan’s utilities was voted out
of committee on Monday, and now moves to the floor of the State Senate. 
If passed into law, the bill would make Michigan the only state in the
country to abandon environmental and public health safeguards in the
process of restructuring the electric industry.

The bill as written is primarily backed by the state’s largest utilities
-- Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison -- and opposed by dozens of
public advocacy groups across the state, who represent the interests of
consumers, children, and the elderly, or work to protect the state’s
air, land, and water.

Michigan Environmental Council’s Dave Dempsey calls the pending bill
“one of the worst pieces of legislation I’ve seen in my 16 years as an
environmental advocate in Lansing.” Dempsey pointed out that the current
version of the bill, S.B. 1340, was released only Nov. 17.
 
“Polluters and their lobbyists are pushing the lame-duck legislature to
break 100 years of utility regulation in less than six weeks,” said
Dempsey. “Ramming this bill through against massive objections in one
7-hour hearing -- hastily called and jammed with lobbyists -- is not
democracy.  It is an abuse of power.”

Michigan’s electric power industry is the biggest source of many
critical air and water pollutants.  In 1996, the state’s coal-burning
power plants emitted:

· 4,240 pounds of mercury – a toxic substance that attacks the brain
· 171,599 TONS of nitrogen oxides – which contributes to smog
· 336,637 TONS of sulfur dioxide – which causes acid rain and deposition
· 67,475,200 TONS of carbon dioxide – which contributes to global
warming

Coal-burning power plants also produce significant emissions of fine
particulates, or soot, which causes asthma and other respiratory
problems, and has been linked with mortality among the elderly.

“Legislation allowing ratepayers to choose which electric company they
want to provide their electricity has the potential to be a positive
move,” said Julie Metty, Policy Specialist for the Michigan United
Conservation Clubs, "but the legislature is ignoring this opportunity to
reduce the environmental risks associated with electricity generation.” 

According to Metty, virtually every other state which has passed utility
restructuring has included specific funding for energy conservation. 
Metty points to surveys that show overwhelming public support in
Michigan for requiring utilities to provide such programs.  But, unlike
the restructuring plans in most states, this legislation:

· Does not provide funding for energy efficiency -- cheaper than
building new power plants and significantly reduces air pollution from
coal burning;
· Does not require electric companies that want our business to tell how
they generate their electricity, or how that generation impacts our
environment;
· Does not require electric companies that want our business to get some
of their power from wind, solar, and other renewable sources.

“Without these safeguards, electric industry restructuring will mean the
restart of old dirty power plants and the purchase of “cheap”
electricity from dirty coal plants in neighboring states,” warns Elliot
Levinsohn, Air Quality Specialist for the American Lung Association of
Michigan.  “That means more toxic pollutants will foul our air,
contributing to more emergency room visits by people with asthma,
greater health risks, and possible early death for some of Michigan’s
most vulnerable citizens.”


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