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E-M:/ Sierra Club Joins Manistee in fight against Power Plant






For Immediate Release:                                                                                   Contacts:

September 15, 2004                                                                   Anne Woiwode – 517-484-2372

   Monica Evans – 231-325-6812


Sierra Club to Join Fight to Protect Manistee from Massive Power Plant

When Bush administration leaves community at risk, Manistee residents pay the price


Lansing, MI – The Bush Administration’s energy policies have forced a dilemma on the citizens of Manistee. Their effort to protect their community from a massive coal fired power plant could cost residents more than $100 million.  Today, the Sierra Club took steps to join the city of Manistee in fighting a huge takings lawsuit that puts residents of Western Michigan at risk from the dangerous effects, such as mercury pollution, of a proposed coal-fired power plant in Manistee. 


“The Bush administration has failed to protect Lake Michigan and its communities from mercury pollution,” said Monica Evans, chair of the Sierra Club’s Traverse Group, “Towns like Manistee must stand up for themselves because the administration is not protecting communities at risk..”


Texas-based Tondu Corporation planned to fuel the facility with coal shipped into Michigan from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, as proposed by Vice President Cheney’s energy policy, even though Michigan has excess power capacity, and pollution produced by the power plant would aggravate health concerns and increase the exposure of anglers and their families throughout the state to mercury contamination in fish. 


The city, however, took action to protect itself by denying approval for Tondu’s new power plant.  Tondu Corporation then filed a lawsuit against the city of Manistee, seeking damages against the city of $100 million if it is not allowed to construct its new polluting facility.   The Sierra Club, represented by the Chicago law firm of Jenner & Block LLP, filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit today on behalf of the city.


The construction of the proposed plant would be a step back in Manistee’s plans to remake itself into a tourist resort and retirement haven.  If built, the plant would expose Manistee residents and tourists to enormous amounts of toxic pollution:  eight million pounds of sulfur dioxide, four million pounds of nitrogen oxide and dangerous amounts of toxic mercury. 


The plant would burn an estimated 1.8 million tons of coal that would be transported via rail and barge all the way from Wyoming – helping support the massive increases in western coal mining called for in Vice-President Cheney’s secret energy plan.  According to Monica Evans, chair of the Sierra Club’s Traverse Group, “The state of Michigan has excess power and doesn’t need another polluting coal plant—especially one that puts our children at risk of mercury poisoning, which causes developmental disorders.” 


Many Manistee residents oppose the plant because of the health risks posed by mercury pollution.  According to a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report, coal-burning power plants are the single largest source of mercury pollution in the U.S.  One in six women of childbearing age has mercury levels in her blood high enough to put her baby at risk.  Although EPA estimates show that the technology exists to reduce mercury pollution by 90% or more, the Bush Administration has proposed a plan that would permit three times more mercury pollution than strict enforcement of Clean Air Act allows - for decades longer. 


An increase in mercury pollution isn’t the residents’ only concern.  While the increase in mercury can be expected to harm the regions lucrative sport-fishing industry, so will the expected fish kills resulting from the proposed plant.  The plant will require large quantities of cold water from Manistee Lake which would kill eggs and fish caught in the plant’s intake pipes.  The discharge of heated water from the plant would likely cause additional fish deaths and possibly create “dead zones” in the lake.  Coal dust run-off from the plant, containing contaminants such as sulfuric acid, mercury, selenium, and chromium, would also add to contamination. 


Additionally, pollution from small particles (“particulate matter”) emitted by coal-fired power plants is linked to aggravated asthma, respiratory problems, and chronic bronchitis as well as increased levels of smog and haze.  Particulate matter can be carried by air for hundreds of miles, creating acidic lakes and streams, changing the nutrient balance in coastal waters and river basins, depleting nutrients of soil, negatively impacting sensitive forests and farm crops, and affecting the diversity of ecosystems.


“There is a better way,” said Evans. “We can protect the air we breathe and the water we depend upon—for our families, for our future.”


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Anne Woiwode, Director

Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter

109 East Grand River Avenue,  Lansing, MI  48906

ph: 517-484-2372 fx: 517-484-3108 e: anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org

website:  http://michigan.sierraclub.org