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Governor Urged to Step in, Slow Coal Rush as 2nd Plant Looms and U.S. Cracks Down
Groups urge Granholm: Order DEQ to regulate CO2 before it's too late
LANSING – Gov. Jennifer Granholm must order the Department of Environmental Quality to regulate carbon dioxide pollution and to stop the permitting process for coal plants immediately until strong safeguards that protect public health and reduce greenhouse gases are in place, citizens groups urged in a letter today.
The letter, sent on behalf of Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, the Michigan Environmental Council and other groups, was sent to Granholm amid a growing movement at all federal levels to crack down on CO2 and other greenhouse gas pollution. At the same time, the DEQ has moved in the opposite direction, opening the door for a second new coal plant project, in Holland. The DEQ has already begun the process that could lead to the construction of a coal plant in Rogers City. Altogether, Michigan faces a coal rush of up to eight new plants – more than any other state.
"Gov. Jennifer Granholm has been an energy leader and this is her opportunity to slam the brakes on Michigan's one-of-a-kind coal rush, protect the health of our families and create 21st century green energy jobs," said Anne Woiwode, state director of the Michigan Sierra Club. "The writing is on the wall for coal. Gov. Granholm has long recognized this— and she can now provide the leadership our state needs to jumpstart our move away from coal and toward clean, renewable energy."
"Unless we change direction now and end the coal rush, Michigan will stand alone while the rest of the nation moves away from coal, creates renewable energy jobs and joins the fight against global warming," said Cyndi Roper, Executive Director of Michigan Clean Water Action. "The federal government has affirmed that carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant and every new plant should have a limit on the dangerous gases it releases into our air – and Michigan should follow suit and do the right thing. Michigan has the opportunity to open the door to repower, refuel and rebuild America by investing in clean energy technologies that will create jobs, protect our health and safeguard our quality of life."
In mid-November, an Environmental Protection Agency panel rejected a federal permit for a dirty coal plant in Utah because the agency had no valid reason for not regulating carbon dioxide pollution. Because the decision raised concerns over the plant's carbon dioxide emissions, it puts the 100 coal plant proposals across the nation into question. The EPA decision also opens the door for future protections against the pollutants released from dirty coal plants. Carbon dioxide pollution from coal plants is one of the biggest contributors to global warming in the United States, producing almost 40 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. Experts, including the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL) say global warming is negatively impacting the Great Lakes.
In Michigan, eight coal plants could be built; at least four have begun the permitting process. Those four would emit more than 15 million tons of CO2 yearly, and more than 750 million tons of CO2 over their expected 50-year lives. Michigan must reduce CO2 emissions 80 percent by 2050 to avert catastrophic climate change, a goal that would be significantly hampered if new coal plants are built.
Before the EPA ruling, the Supreme Court decided in 2007 that CO2 is a pollutant and must be treated as such under the federal Clean Air Act.
The letter to Granholm said the DEQ is duty-bound to tightly control CO2 emissions under existing federal and state laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Michigan Environmental Protection Act and Michigan air pollution laws.
"Failure to comply with a growing list of federal regulations and rulings will open Michigan to costly and unnecessary legal challenges that we cannot afford," Progress Michigan Executive Director Dan Farough said. "Concerned citizens across Michigan have shown they are ready to fight each coal plant, one project at a time, to protect our future. Michigan must crack down now on CO2 pollution and focus on growing renewable energy and fighting the climate crisis."
Economic studies have indicated that investing in energy efficiency and alternative energy production would create many more Michigan jobs as building all of the eight coal plants currently proposed. According to studies by the Renewable Energy Policy Project and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Michigan could create 46,000 new jobs by investing in renewable energy and efficiency.