Michigan

Crain’s: Time to Step Up to Protect Thunder Bay Sanctuary

April 1, 2018
Time to Step Up to Protect Thunder Bay Sanctuary
By Howard Learner

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron is the nation’s only freshwater marine sanctuary. It’s popular — attracting tourists and school children interested in Great Lakes maritime history and learning more about “Shipwreck Alley” where more than 100 ships met their tragic fate. It has spurred economic growth in Alpena which hosts the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center.

Boat tours running from Alpena and up the shoreline to Mackinac City enable visitors to see preserved shipwrecks and the scenic bays and islands. Adventurous scuba divers can explore many wrecks.

Last year, the Trump Administration’s Department of Commerce announced a “review” directed to cut down the size of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary by 90 percent and potentially open up these Great Lakes waters to oil drilling. This proposal was a bad idea from the start. What are they thinking?

There was no controversy or problem waiting to be solved. Because both federal law and state law prohibit offshore oil drilling in the Great Lakes, that supposed justification for the Commerce Department’s review is puzzling. There’s broad Michigan support and pride for the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. People visit and like it.

There is a clear and direct solution in this case: the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (16 U.S.C. 1434 (b)) provides that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder can certify to the secretary of commerce that any proposed changes to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary are “unacceptable.”

It’s time for Snyder to publicly step up and inform Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that his federal agency’s misguided review to reduce the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary by 90 percent and potentially open it to oil drilling is “unacceptable.” It’s time to bring this bad idea to its well-deserved end.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center and 14 Great Lakes groups filed joint comments with the U.S. Department of Commerce urging that it not cut the size of this popular National Marine Sanctuary. Michigan Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and bipartisan Representatives Jack Bergman, Debbie Dingell, Daniel Kildee, Brenda Lawrence, Dave Trott and Fred Upton sent a joint letter to Ross stating:

“We write to express our strong opposition to reducing the boundaries of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary … The expansion of this sanctuary in Lake Huron in 2014, which was the result of a rigorous approval process with extensive public input, is critical to Michigan’s economy and heritage.”

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary has helped revitalize local economies in our state. The tourism and recreational opportunities supported by the sanctuary have generated over 1,700 jobs, $100 million in sales, and $39.1 million in personal income to residents, according to a 2005 study.

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary protects a treasure trove of 100 significant shipwrecks that sunk in the treacherous waters and are preserved by the cold fresh water. This National Marine Sanctuary draws visitors to explore “Shipwreck Alley” and offers a window into Great Lakes maritime history.

In 2014, following participatory processes with input from a broad range of stakeholders, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary was expanded from 448 square miles to include 4,300 square miles. That wasn’t controversial.

Protecting the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is good for jobs, good for economic growth and good for the environment as the Michigan Congressional delegation letter explains. The National Marine Sanctuary status helps preserve and protect this historical maritime commerce site for visitors today and for future generations.

Gov. Snyder should end the uncertainty about the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary by publicly informing the Commerce Department that its review and proposed changes are “unacceptable.” Let’s protect the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary for all.

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Michigan Radio, NPR: What Will Replace Coal?

Michigan Radio, NPR
What Will Replace Coal?
By Tracy Samilton

The President of the United States says coal is coming back, but in reality coal is going away.

The fight is over what will replace it.

Even utilities are dumping coal. In Michigan, DTE Energy wants to shut down three coal-burning power plants and replace them with a billion dollar natural gas plant.

But environmentalists think there’s a better way.

First of all, there’s no such thing as clean coal.

Even brand new coal plants dump a lot of carbon into the air. Carbon emissions are very bad for the planet, and it’s a fact that renewable energy sources like solar and wind emit zero carbon.

DTE Energy’s Irene Dimitry doesn’t disagree.

“We support renewables and want to make sure that people understand that we do,” Dimitry says. “We just need to do it in a paced, thoughtful, plan-ful way.”

Dimitry says DTE is closing three of its coal-burning plants in five years, but she says it’s not feasible for renewables to take their place. That’s where a plan for a new 1,100 megawatt natural gas plant comes in.

“Because the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine, and because storage is not yet commercial viable at a large scale, we really need a plant that can operate 24-7 and insure reliability for our customers,” Dimitry says.

Right now, natural gas is cheap and plentiful, and it produces about 60% fewer carbon emissions than coal. Still, DTE can’t just build the plant; it needs permission from the Michigan Public Service Commission.

To do that, it has to analyze the alternatives and show the plant is the best choice. So, a fancy computer program ran 50 different simulations. Dimitry says all concluded the plant is necessary.

Not so fast, says Margrethe Kearney of the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

Kearney says if a fancy computer program is told to maximize renewables, and maximize programs that reduce demand for electricity, the two combined beat out the natural gas plant.

“Everything that our experts ran shows that, yes, it’s feasible, absolutely, it’s cost effective,” Kearney says.

Kearney thinks DTE is stuck in an old mind set, one that viewed natural gas as a necessary bridge to replace coal until renewables are ready for prime time.

“Renewables are a legitimate available resource, and by not recognizing that, we’re keeping Michigan in the dark ages,” says Kearney.

She adds that, at the very least, DTE could build a smaller plant or defer building one to give alternatives time to develop.

But she thinks there’s a disincentive for DTE Energy to do that, because the utility doesn’t pay for the plant; rather, its customers do.

“It’s not just that the customers pay for it,” Kearney says. “Part of what the customers are paying is a return on that investment, so DTE is going to make around 10% in profit on that investment, DTE shareholders.”

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AP News: Michigan’s Consumers Energy to stop burning coal by 2040

Michigan’s Consumers Energy to stop burning coal by 2040

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Consumers Energy will phase out electricity production from coal by 2040 to slash emissions of heat-trapping gases that cause global warming, the Michigan utility’s president and CEO told The Associated Press.

The utility plans to generate 40% of its power from renewable sources such as wind and solar energy by then, Patti Poppe said in an interview ahead of the public announcement Monday. She said the utility will also will rely on natural gas, hydropower and improved efficiency to meet customer needs.

Consumers Energy and DTE Energy Co., which supply most of Michigan’s electricity, are among many U.S. providers moving away from coal even as President Donald Trump’s administration boosts fossil fuels and seeks to unravel former President Barack Obama’s policies that promoted cleaner power.

“We believe that climate change is real and we can do our part by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and we also believe it doesn’t have to cost more to do it,” Poppe said. “We believe we’re going to be on the right side of history on this issue.”

Coal is becoming less competitive as the cost of producing renewable energy steadily falls, she added.

Environmental groups praised the move after the utility officially announced the move Monday. But they also urged the utility to make the transition from coal to renewable sources in less than 22 years.

….

Consumers Energy owns two wind turbine farms and buys power from a third. It co-owns with DTE a hydroelectric plant on Lake Michigan. The utility says it is upgrading its natural gas infrastructure around the state.

Along with its renewable energy plan, Consumers Energy also announced a five-year plan for reducing its environmental footprint that includes saving 1 billion gallons of water, reducing waste sent to landfills by 35% and restoring or improving 5,000 acres of land.

The utility says its customers include 6.7 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents.

DTE last year pledged a carbon emissions cut of more than 80% by 2050 by phasing out coal, boosting wind and solar energy, and building a 1,100-megawatt natural gas plant. The company described the new gas facility as essential to providing reliable and affordable power while reducing carbon emissions.

Environmentalists contend DTE and Consumers Energy should make bigger commitments to renewables instead of gas.

“Gas prices are unpredictable. They’re low now but there’s no certainty they will be in the long term,” said Margrethe Kearney, staff attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “There’s zero fuel costs for wind and solar.”

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Michigan Utility to Independent Generators: We Don’t Need You Right Now

 

Michigan Utility to Independent Generators: We Don’t Need You Right Now

By Andy Balaskovitz

A major Michigan utility says it doesn’t need new generation from renewable energy developers, and it shouldn’t be forced to pay for it.

Michigan has become the latest battleground over a decades-old federal law known as the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act, or PURPA.

The law essentially requires utilities to buy power from small, independent producers when doing so will save money for ratepayers.

In multiple states recently, that’s opened the gates for a flood of utility-scale solar projects, which can now routinely sell power at utilities’ avoided cost rate — defined as the incremental cost a utility pays for not generating the electricity itself. Utilities have begun to push back, lobbying for state and federal reforms.

Michigan regulators spent months reviewing how much independent producers should be paid and in November settled on a new, lower rate. One of its largest utilities, though, argues even that number is too high.

Consumers Energy told regulators in December that it doesn’t project a need for new generation capacity in the next decade, and that as a result it should be allowed to sign PURPA contracts at an even lower rate. Developers say they couldn’t build projects with such low compensation.

Solar and clean energy advocates have also scoffed at Consumers’ projection, which assumes the company will continue to operate four coal-fired units through 2030. Critics also note that Consumers plans to build 625 MW of its own wind and solar, even though the Michigan Public Service Commission hasn’t formally approved those plans. Meanwhile, the utility projected growing capacity need as recently as September 2016.

In November, the MPSC approved new avoided cost rates for Consumers, which has 33 PURPA contracts in place across its service territory. The rates hadn’t been updated for about two decades. It also ruled that if the utility’s capacity needs are met for the next decade it could enter PURPA contracts at a far lower “planning resource auction” rate.

The commission suspended its ruling on Dec. 20 based on formal opposition from hydroelectric and biomass owners. The same day, Consumers filed a motion asking that its PURPA rate be reset to the lower figure, and since then at least three developers have objected, saying those lower rates would jeopardize upwards of 800 MW worth of solar projects. Michigan had roughly 100 MW of solar capacity installed statewide at the start of the year.

“These issues need to be resolved quickly. There is a market for renewable energy that’s being paralyzed here,” said Margrethe Kearney, staff attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “That is going to damage the market and disadvantage ratepayers who want more renewable energy.”

California-based Cypress Creek Renewables says Consumers is stalling 700 MW and $3 billion in investments in Michigan “over the next few years.” And Geronimo Energy filed testimony stating 70 MW worth of plans are on hold.

Six other utilities have pending cases before regulators to set PURPA avoided cost rates, including DTE Energy, which is also seeking permission to build a nearly $1 billion natural gas plant to make up for generation lost by retiring coal units. Critics of that plan say new PURPA contracts could help make up for the capacity shortage.

“It means people want to come to Michigan and build solar at a cost that is lower than (the price) DTE and Consumers could do it,” Kearney said, even though not all of that capacity is likely to be built. “That’s a good sign of a healthy market.”

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PRESS RELEASE: Energy Experts Urge DTE Energy to Choose Affordable Renewables Over Billion-Dollar Gas Plant

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 12, 2018

MEDIA CONTACTS
David Jakubiak, Director of Media, ELPC, djakubiak@elpc.org, (312) 795-3713
Zadie Oleksiw, Communications Manager, zadie@votesolar.org (202) 836-5754
Sam Gomberg, Senior Energy Analyst, SGomberg@ucsusa.org, (773) 941-7916

Energy Experts Urge DTE Energy to Choose Affordable Renewables Over Billion-Dollar Gas Plant

Analysis Shows Solar, Wind and Energy Efficiency Will Provide More Affordable, Reliable Power for Michigan Customers

DETROIT, MI –  Groups including Vote Solar, Union of Concerned Scientists and the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) are urging Michigan regulators to require DTE Energy to evaluate renewable energy sources before building its proposed billion-dollar natural gas power plant. The groups presented two separate analyses today to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) showing that using renewable energy like wind and solar would cost less for DTE Energy customers than building a gas plant, with the savings estimates ranging from $339 million to $1.2 billion.

“Using DTE’s own analysis tools, our analysis shows that this billion-dollar gas proposal is simply not the best way to provide reliable, affordable, and clean electricity for Michigan customers,” said Becky Stanfield, Senior Director of Western States at Vote Solar. “The bottom line is that solar, wind and efficiency can do the job for less, and DTE should not be locking Michigan energy customers into paying for this costly gas option. More clean energy investment is also better for the state’s economy, building on a growing industry that already employs more than ninety-thousand Michiganders.”

Under a new resource planning law updated by state legislators in 2016, Michigan utilities must seek a “certificate of need” if they want assurance that they can pass the costs of building a plant of this size on to its customers.  In order to gain that approval, they must demonstrate that their proposed investment is the “most prudent” way to serve its customers’ electricity needs.

“DTE did not meet its burden to show that their proposed gas plant was the best option for Michigan customers” Sam Gomberg, senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Under Michigan’s electricity planning law, the Commission should send the company back to the drawing board.”

DTE Energy petitioned the MPSC for the certificate on July 31, asking to build an 1100 megawatt (MW) natural gas-fired power plant in St. Clair County, replacing older coal-fired units in the area, which are retiring between now and 2023.

“DTE is overlooking flexible, reliable, renewable resources that can deliver affordable energy to their customers,” said Margrethe Kearney, senior staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center.  “DTE failed to seriously look at solar and wind power, battery storage, energy efficiency, and demand response, which would give DTE the flexibility it needs to integrate clean, cost-effective renewables that are good for Michigan’s economy and environment.”

The Commission will review testimony presented by a range of experts from across the country, including those representing Vote Solar, Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

“DTE’s analysis was based on outdated and inaccurate assumptions about the costs and performance of solar power,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Our hope is that the Commission will put the interests of customers first, and ask DTE to start over with numbers that better reflect reality.”

Hearings on DTE Energy’s gas plant proposal will take place in February and a final order on the MPSC’s decision is expected April 2.

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Howard Learner in Lansing State Journal: Michigan Cities Can Lead on Climate

December 17, 2017

Michigan Cities Can Be Agents Of Change On Climate

By Howard A. Learner

While President Trump stepped back by withdrawing the United States from the landmark Paris Climate Accord, mayors in Michigan and across our country have committed to step up and fill the void. Now is the time for these municipal declarations of support for the Paris Accord to become real solutions to climate change problems. In short, take effective actions to reduce carbon pollution in ways that achieve environmental and economic development goals together.

Ann Arbor, Detroit, East Lansing, Flint, Grand Rapids and other Michigan municipalities have pledged to fill the void left by President Trump and seize opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.  Growing local solar energy, storage and energy efficiency creates jobs, saves money, attracts investment and avoids carbon pollution. Local energy production keeps energy dollars in our communities, instead of paying to import electricity generated by coal, gas and uranium. Clean electric vehicles and buses in municipal fleets reduce fuel and maintenance costs, and avoid pollution. Improving energy efficiency in city buildings saves taxpayer money, reduces pollution and lessens maintenance costs.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center is proud that many Michigan cities are saying they want to be part of global climate change solutions.  We will work with cities to adopt high-value actions to reduce carbon pollution in ways that are tailored to Michigan and set strong goals. Here are three ways that all of our cities can transform their public commitments into meaningful climate actions:

  • Achieve 100 Percent Renewable Energy for Municipal Electricity Needs by 2022. The Midwest has abundant wind power, and solar energy and energy storage capacity are accelerating as prices fall while technologies improve. Michigan cities can achieve 100 percent renewable energy by using locally produced solar energy plus storage and wind power, purchasing clean renewable energy from third parties, and securing renewable energy credits from new wind and solar projects.
  • Clean Up Municipal Fleets – All New Purchases Should Be Electric Vehicles (except in special cases).  Michigan has always driven our transportation sector and can help lead in reducing greenhouse gas pollution from cars and trucks.  Michigan cities should buy electric vehicles (EV) or other zero-emission vehicles for non-emergency fleets.  Cities can create demand to drive the EV market forward while reducing pollution. EVs have fewer moving parts and lower maintenance costs than internal combustion engine vehicles. EV operating costs are lower and more predictable. Using wind and solar energy to power EV charging stations accelerates a cleaner transportation system.  Ann Arbor has joined 29 other cities to jointly explore purchasing 114,000 EVs.
  • Rapidly Improve Municipal Building Energy Efficiency. Smart energy efficiency investments produce cost savings and less pollution. Why wait – many payback periods are short and the savings come fast.  Replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs is a no-brainer cost-saver and pollution-reducer.  Antiquated HVAC systems and old appliances waste money and allow more pollution. Smart energy efficiency products, technologies and controls are available. The time has never been better for cities to reduce their energy bills and cut pollution through energy efficiency improvements.

Michigan cities are leading by saying that they’ll step up with climate actions while President Trump moves backward and isolates our nation from global solutions. Cities can seize climate action opportunities by moving forward with these three specific initiatives for clean energy, clean transportation and energy efficiency that will produce significant pollution reduction results. Let’s work together to turn words into deeds, achieve economic and environmental benefits together, and help advance the Paris Climate Accord goals.

Howard Learner is the executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Midwest’s leading environmental progress and economic development organization.

http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/opinion/contributors/viewpoints/2017/12/17/learner-michigan-cities-can-agents-change-climate/955768001/

Toledo Blade: Congressmen, ELPC, Demand Faster Action on Asian Carp

 
Congressmen Demand Faster Action on Asian Carp
by Tom Henry

Twenty-six members of Congress — including U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green), Tim Walberg (R., Tipton), and Debbie Dingell (D., Dearborn) — have joined numerous other elected officials in demanding more aggressive action from the Army Corps of Engineers against destructive Asian carp threatening to enter the Great Lakes near Chicago.

A bipartisan letter submitted Friday said the congressmen are firmly holding the Corps to an early 2019 deadline for completing the most crucial report to date for a long-term fix, called the Brandon Road Lock & Dam Study.

It affects the future of the Brandon Road lock near Joliet, Ill., and the series of Chicago-area waterways that artificially connect the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins. That connection, made in the early 1900s, has made it possible for invasive carp moving north along the Mississippi to someday enter the Great Lakes via Lake Michigan.

The letter, submitted on the final day the Corps was accepting formal comments to its tentatively selected plan, mirrors one submitted earlier by several U.S. senators from the Great Lakes area, including Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), co-chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D., Mich.), and senators from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and New York who are members of that task force.

“Current estimates show it will take as long as eight years to have a barrier installed at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam — a time frame which is unacceptable,” Miss Kaptur said. “With the Asian carp on the doorstep of our region’s most vital natural resource, we have a small window of opportunity to stop this invasive species. Once the Asian carp are in the Great Lakes, it will be too late to stop the destruction they will cause.”

The Corps is looking at fortifying electric barriers and taking other measures to thwart the movement of carp and other exotics. But it has said it is unlikely to act on several measures before 2025, a timeline that senators and now congressmen have said is unacceptable.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a 2018 gubernatorial candidate, likewise joined the fray late last week by telling the Corps in his formal comments that it should close the Brandon Road lock while also recognizing its obligation to meet previously agreed-upon deadlines.

While the Corps has tentatively selected a plan that uses electrical fences, noise, and water jets to keep out invasive species, Mr. DeWine and the large contingent of congressional members believe that doesn’t go far enough — especially after reports in June of a silver Asian carp found 9 miles from Lake Michigan, beyond the electric barriers.

The attorney general said the Corps should implement the lock closure alternative, which will be the most effective and cheapest to construct.

The Chicago-area decision affects Ohio because Lake Erie is the epicenter of the Great Lakes region’s $7 billion fishery, valued at more than all commercial and recreational fishing in U.S. waters along the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Gulf of Mexico.

More fish are spawned and caught in Lake Erie than the other four Great Lakes combined.

Researchers have said Ohio’s tourism and recreation industries would greatly suffer if Asian carp found their way to western Lake Erie.

Mr. DeWine also encouraged the Corps to work on plans for a multibillion-dollar, complete hydrologic separation of the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins to block the spread of Asian carp.

A contingent of five major environmental groups — the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Prairie Rivers Network, and the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club — also demanded a more aggressive response from the Corps via 21 pages of joint comments submitted Friday.

“Now is the time for all effective and necessary action steps,” Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, said. “Further delays risk Asian carp getting into Lake Michigan while the Army Corps is fiddling. Prevention solutions now are wise investments.”

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Great Lakes Now: ELPC’s Learner Tells US Army Corps to Stop Fiddling, Act Fast on Asian Carp Report

Pace of Asian Carp Plan “taking far too long”
Michigan Senators Critical of Timetable

by Gary Wilson

The debate about how to stop Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes hit another milestone last week as the Army Corps of Engineers’ extended comment period on a potential solution came to a close.

The controversy is now in its second decade.

The opportunity to comment was expanded to accommodate a previously unscheduled session in New Orleans. The extension angered Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters who say the “process is taking far too long.”

The Corps has been seeking public input on its plan, known as the Brandon Road Lock study, since September. If implemented, the plan would provide a suite of options to keep carp out of the Great Lakes.

in a letter to the Corps, Stabenow and Peters questioned why the New Orleans meeting wasn’t scheduled earlier.

The Brandon Road Lock, 50 miles from Lake Michigan, near Joliet, Illinois, is thought to be a choke point for stopping Asian carp.

But the final Army Corps report isn’t due until August of 2019, and Stabenow and Peters want that date moved up by eight months to January.

The senators expressed frustration that the Trump administration had delayed release of the report early in 2017.

Illinois Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti called for the report to be delayed in a column published in the Chicago Tribune in early 2017. Shipping interests in Illinois have lobbied against the Army Corps plan.

In their letter, Stabenow and Peters also questioned the Corps’ economic analysis of the impact of Asian carp on the Great Lakes.

“The (Army Corps) should not ignore the impact of Asian carp on several important industries – including recreation and tourism – or the economic impacts to the other Great Lakes besides Lake Erie,” the senators wrote.

Lake Erie’s fishery is the largest in the Great Lakes and thought to be the most vulnerable to an Asian carp invasion.

In a similar letter to the Army Corps, 28 members of the U.S. House from the Great Lakes region called for the original project timeline to be followed.

“Fiddling”

Input from environmental groups followed previously held positions but also sought to spotlight economic impacts.

Howard Learner said in a statement released to Great Lakes Now that the Army Corps’ proposals are a “starter.”

But Learner said they are “short of what’s needed to avoid the economic and ecological disaster if our public officials don’t prevent Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes.”

He accused the Corps of “fiddling,” which would lead to additional delays.

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Traverse Magazine: Howard Learner Guest Column: Protecting the Great Lakes & the Thunder Bay Nat’l Marine Sanctuary

December 2017

Protecting the Great Lakes and the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
By Howard A. Learner

The Great Lakes are our great natural treasure. This is where Midwesterners live, work and play. Protecting the Great Lakes has strong bipartisan support. Safe clean drinking water is not partisan at all. We all care—a lot.

President Trump won the 2016 election in the Great Lakes states, but his policies are puzzling in light of Michiganders’ clean water priorities. His administration is proposing to allow offshore oil drilling and cut down the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron along the Alpena-to-Mackinaw City shoreline. His proposed budget slashes the sensible Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 million to zero. The EPA is rolling back common sense Clean Water Act standards that protect safe clean drinking water.

These are headscratchers, criticized by both Republican and Democratic leaders and by business, civic and environmental groups alike.

The Great Lakes are a global gem. They contain 21 percent of the world’s fresh water supply, provide drinking water for 42 million people, provide a rich aquatic habitat for many species, support the $7 billion fishing industry, and offer recreational opportunities for millions of people.

Military analysts say future wars will be fought over water. Fresh water availability is our region’s competitive advantage. Michiganders recognize this remarkable value. We can’t afford to spoil the Great Lakes.

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced a review for reducing the size of, and allowing offshore oil drilling in, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron.

Thunder Bay protects a treasure trove of 100 significant shipwrecks. Following participatory stakeholder processes in 2014, this National Marine Sanctuary was expanded from 448 to 4,300 square miles.

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary draws visitors to explore Shipwreck Alley and offers a window into Great Lakes maritime history. The sanctuary is not controversial. It’s America’s only fresh water Marine Sanctuary.

Federal law and Michigan law prohibit offshore oil drilling in the Great Lakes. The Commerce Department’s review is puzzling.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center is leading the charge to protect the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Our joint comments submitted with 14 Great Lakes groups explained why this popular National Marine Sanctuary must not be chopped.

Michigan Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and bipartisan Representatives Jack Bergman, Debbie Dingell, Daniel Kildee, Brenda Lawrence, Dave Trott and Fred Upton sent a joint letter to the Commerce Department expressing …

“[S]trong opposition to reducing the boundaries of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary … The expansion of this sanctuary in Lake Huron in 2014, which was the result of a rigorous approval process with extensive public input, is critical to Michigan’s economy and heritage. The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary has helped revitalize local economies in our state.”

Let’s protect the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and preserve this historical maritime site today and for future generations. That’s good for jobs, economic growth and the environment.

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Detroit Free Press OpEd: Hey Michigan, use VW Settlement Money to Buy EV Buses for Schoolchildren

 

Hey Michigan, Use VW Settlement Money to Buy EV Buses for Schoolchildren

OpEd

By Toby C. Lewis and Janet McCabe

In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder and state officials have an opportunity to help kids get a healthier start to their school day by purchasing clean electric school buses to replace dirty, diesel-powered school buses that cause asthma attacks. The state is about to get access to $65 million from a Volkswagen settlement that can only be spent on a few items to reduce air pollution, including electric school buses to replace the aging, dirty diesel fleet.

Over the course of nearly seven years, Volkswagen sold close to 600,000 diesel cars in the U.S. with engines programmed to trick emissions standards, contributing many tons of pollution to the environment. As part of a national settlement, the company is providing nearly $3 billion to states to support pollution-reducing projects.

A lot of Michigan kids can benefit from riding cleaner school buses. An estimated 660,000 children in communities across Michigan are climbing onto about 17,000 diesel-powered school buses every day.

There are three reasons why electric school buses make sense:

Healthier children: Children’s lungs are still developing and they breathe more rapidly than adults, making kids particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of exposure to diesel pollution. About 10% of Michigan children currently suffer from asthma, a disease that leaves lungs sensitive to irritation from the complex mix of fine particles, nitrogen oxides and other air pollutants in diesel fumes. These fumes seep into the cabins of school buses. Researchers at the Universities of Michigan and Washington have found that diesel school buses are responsible for millions of missed school days in the U.S. each year.

Healthier communities: A diesel bus driving around our cities and towns emits a chemical cocktail at ground level, near our schools, playgrounds and homes. The average school bus makes 85 stops per day. With an electric school bus, there’s no danger from running or idling engines, because no emissions come out of the tailpipe. In fact, there isn’t a tailpipe at all.

A healthier economy: States understand that a strong economy depends more and more on a healthy environment, which includes shifting to renewable energy resources. Because school buses operate according to school schedules, they can recharge their batteries overnight, when demand for energy is low. Electric school buses can also serve as local battery packs to provide extra juice back to the grid when it’s needed most. That reduces the demand on all energy sources providing power to the grid and creates a more sustainable power system with more clean energy as the source.

Electric school buses are not science fiction. There are already more than 100 on the road in North America, and American companies known for their diesel technology, like Cummins and Blue Bird, have announced investments in electric technologies for school buses.

Funds from the Volkswagen settlement are expected to be released once state agencies submit spending proposals. Governors putting VW money towards electric school buses would drive the market forward and costs down. School buses represent the largest category of mass transportation in our country, larger than transit and rail combined. We urge Michigan to help move this market to zero emissions and demonstrate leadership for health, the environment, our energy future, and most importantly, our children.

Toby C. Lewis is associate professor of pediatric pulmonology and environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan and attending physician at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.

Janet McCabe served as the U.S. EPA’s acting assistant administrator for Office of Air and Radiation during the Obama administration and is currently a senior law fellow at the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

READ OpEd HERE

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