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Enviro-Mich message from Rob Perks <rperks@peer.org>

The following is a re-print of articles regarding Michigan appearing in
the current issue of PEEReview, the quarterly newsletter publication of
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.  
To order the newsletter or to find out more about PEER, visit

The Clean Corporate Citizen Oxymoron
In the "news of the weird" category, Michigan's Department of
Environmental Quality (DEQ)
presented its Clean Corporate Citizen (or "C3") award to one of the
state's biggest polluters, the
Wisconsin Electric Company's Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette.  The
C3 program is
designed to reward companies with a solid record of  environmental
compliance by granting
faster permit approvals and other regulatory breaks. 

According to PEER members within DEQ, rules were bent, on orders from
the office of
Governor John Engler, to give the award to the Presque Isle Power Plant
which happens to be
among the dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the Great Lakes region.   

"This plant deserves a Clean Corporate Citizen award like Attila the Hun
deserved the Nobel
Peace Prize," commented Rob Perks, PEER's National Field Director.  In
fact, according to the
state's own figures the Presque Isle Power Plant  

     > ranks as one of the state's greatest single sources of
particulate matter, emitting
     hundreds of tons of it into the atmosphere.  The smallest and
lightest of these particles
     (PM10s) cause severe, long-term respiratory problems when inhaled;

     > emits more than 17,000 tons of nitrous oxide annually, making it
the state's 4th  largest
     single emitter of N0x, which is known to cause severe respiratory
health effects.  This air
     pollutant, one of the main constituents of smog, is responsible for
the reddish-brown haze
     that hovers over Marquette on most days; and

     > releases more than 16,000 tons of sulfur dioxide every year,
making it the state's 7th 
     largest single emitter of SO2, the main component of acid rain.  It
is also Michigan's 7thlargest                      emitter of carbon
monoxide (509 tons per year). 

DEQ employees indicated to PEER that there are several other
environmental problems
associated with the Presque Isle Power Plant, one of which is the
facility's old fly-ash dump that
has polluted Marquette's groundwater with heavy metals.  Despite this
history of violations, the
C3 designation confers permitting waivers and environmental exemptions
upon the facility.
Paradoxically, DEQ's recognition of Presque Isle Power Plant diminishes
the environmental
record of other more deserving facilities, such as Marquette's own
Municipal Power Plant which
is one of the cleanest in the Great Lakes region. 

Following PEER's revelations about Presque Isle's dubious environmental
record, DEQ Director
Russ Harding announced a review of the C3 criteria.  PEER is pushing for
an outside review of
Michigan's air program.  "DEQ's shenanigans give the citizens of
Michigan reason to hold their
nose as well as their breath," Perks concluded.

Foot in Mouth Disease
Appearing before a state Senate committee and then later at a public
hearing this March, Russell
Harding, Director of Michigan's DEQ came under fire over DEQ's weak
approach to wetland
protection, as detailed by his own agency's employees in the PEER white
paper See No Evil {see
centerfold or our website for information on how to order}.  In a failed
effort to deflect that
criticism, however, Harding slandered PEER's founder Jeff DeBonis
claiming that "the founder
of that group" was fired by the U.S. Forest Service for fraud.  

In actuality, Jeff DeBonis retired after 13 years as a timber sale
planner with awards following
his founding of the Association of Forest Service Employees for
Environmental Ethics.  When
DeBonis threatened suit, Harding publicly retracted his statements and

Ironically, Harding grudgingly admitted at the hearings that PEER's
criticism in See No Evil had
been "fair" and "legitimate," and that his agency is responding by
beefing up wetlands
enforcement and reviewing other changes urged by the report.  

The incident has prompted calls for Harding's removal by editorialists
and environmental groups
throughout the state who cite a string of other heavy-handed attempts to
silence critics of the
agency's record.  Harding's unwarranted personal attack on DeBonis also
amply illustrates why
agency employees fear reprisal and need an organization like PEER to
serve as their messenger.  

Information provided by: 

Rob Perks
National Field Director
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
2001 S Street, NW, Suite 570
Washington, DC  20009
(202) 265-PEER

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