Monday, October 7, 2013
A draft of the feasibility study ordered by Governor Snyder concludes that there are no technical barriers to increasing Michigan’s renewable energy standard. Read the article in Crain’s Detroit Business.
ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner told Crain’s Detroit Business that increasing Michigan’s renewable portfolio standard is critical if the state wants to create jobs and enjoy such environmental benefits as cleaner air and water.
Friday, September 13, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Manny Gonzales, ELPC; (312) 795-3706, email@example.com
While Step In Right Direction, Deal Does Not Go Far Enough to Protect Lake Michigan
CHICAGO – Today, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed a revised consent decree to limit the S.S. Badger’s toxic coal ash dumping in Lake Michigan. The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) believes the revisions improve the agreement, but plans to intervene in the Federal District Court proceedings to ensure that the S.S. Badger’s coal ash pollution in Lake Michigan will stop and receive no further extensions beyond 2014.
“These improvements are steps in the right direction, but it’s time to require a complete end to the S.S. Badger’s dumping of toxic coal ash pollution in Lake Michigan,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the ELPC. “We appreciate that ELPC’s and our colleagues’ comments have been taken into account, but the federal court should make clear that no further extensions be allowed beyond 2014 for S.S. Badger’s toxic coal ash dumping into the lake. Enough is enough. Let’s protect our Great Lakes.”
The S.S. Badger is the last coal-fired steamship operating on the Great Lakes. It has been dumping more than 500 tons of coal ash annually into Lake Michigan.
ELPC and a coalition of environmental and conservation groups filed joint comments on April 26, asking the Department of Justice and EPA to strengthen the proposed consent decree to stop the S.S. Badger from continuing the dumping of toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan.
“Our Great Lakes should not be a dump site for toxic coal ash pollution.” Learner said. “It’s time for the S.S. Badger to fully clean up its operations or discontinue them all together.”
For more information, go to ProtectOurLakes.org
Download a PDF of the revised SS Badger Consent Decree
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
According to a Feb. 2013 report from the Michigan Public Service Commission, Michigan’s current renewable energy portfolio is not diversified. Michigan is missing out on the solar opportunity.
Monday, August 12, 2013
August 12, 2013
Joyce Penner and David Skole:
Taking action on climate now is key for Michigan’s future
Last summer seemed like a climate change prediction come true. We experienced our warmest March on record, late April and early May frosts, and a June through August drought. The unseasonably warm spring and lack of summer rain destroyed our cherry and apple crops, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in agricultural losses. It didn’t take 100 years of historic data and complex general circulation models to demonstrate that something was out of the ordinary.
Unlike last year, this year’s spring got off to a cooler, soggier start. April was the wettest on record, and March through May was our coldest since 2008. Fortunately, our billion-dollar agricultural sector is faring rather well, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture reporting that our top soil moisture levels and various field, fruit and vegetable crops are all looking good.
To some, the contrast between this year and last year might seem proof that climate change is not real, but years of vigorously tested climate-related data suggest otherwise. Michigan is, in fact, changing.
Using a combination of field, atmospheric and historic data, we know that annual temperatures are increasing nationwide. We are 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer today than we were at the turn of last century. We’ve seen both an increase in our regional precipitation and shifts in the timing of when the rain falls. We’ve seen a longer frost-free season that decreases groundwater recharge and threatens our lake and river levels. We’ve seen a significant increase in extreme weather. Our record high temperatures now outnumber our record lows by 2 to 1, and floods and droughts are becoming much more commonplace. There is an overwhelming consensus among climate scientists that these changes are exacerbated by human actions, and without proper and immediate intervention, the negative impacts of climate change will continue to grow in the future.
While there is little we can do to change the natural variations within the earth’s climate cycles, there are steps we can take to limit the human contribution to climate change. We can clean our air and reduce heat-trapping gases by asking for state and federal carbon standards for existing power sources. We can create jobs and reduce our dependence on out-of-state-sourced coal by increasing our use of in-state renewable energy and supporting robust energy-efficiency efforts. We can allow our 19 million acres of public and private forest lands to act as efficient carbon sinks by calling for improved management of these majestic resources. We can, as empowered citizens, understand that taking measures to mitigate climate change today means a healthier environment for us and our children, financial savings and economic growth for our families and our state, and a rebirth of Michigan as a technological and industrial leader.
Whether we live in a major city or spend our days tending orchards, climate change is real and impacts us all. If we remain silent and fail to act on one of the most pressing issues of our time, climate predictions indicate that Michigan stands to lose much more than cherries.
Joyce Penner is the associate chairwoman for atmospheric science and Ralph J. Cicerone distinguished university professor of atmospheric science at the University of Michigan. David Skole is a professor of forestry at Michigan State University.
Find online at:
Thursday, September 27, 2012
CHICAGO – Howard A. Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, and a lead advocate for high-speed rail, congratulates Nippon-Sharyo and Sumitomo Corp. of America on being chosen, through a competitive process, to manufacture 130 next generation passenger rail cars. The bi-level rail cars were commissioned by four states—Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and California—and will be assembled in Rochelle, Ill.
“This railcar procurement award is very good news for Illinois job creation and for the entire Midwest’s rail supply chain businesses. Nippon-Sharyo will need to purchase everything from steel to bolts to couplings to seats, and Midwest manufacturers are poised to help deliver those goods. This high-speed rail investment will create jobs in Illinois, business in the Midwest, and modern rail transportation for all of us.
“Manufacturing 130 modern new passenger railcars in Illinois makes clear that high-speed rail development is good for jobs, good for economic growth and good for the environment. This advances the region’s position as a leading rail manufacturing center.
“Modern, fast, comfortable and convenient high-speed trains will improve mobility, reduce pollution, create new jobs and spur economic growth for Illinois and the Midwest.”
Monday, July 23, 2012
MICHIGAN (July 19, 2012) – More than 140 academics, scientists and experts in Michigan have signed an open letter in support of ramping up Michigan’s renewable electricity standard to 25 percent by 2025.
The letter — saying the idea is feasible and would yield both economic and health benefits — was signed by scientists, engineers, economists and health professionals from across Michigan (listed below).
“Innovative Michigan businesses realize clean energy is good for their bottom line. By refueling our economy with Michigan’s renewable energy, we can keep hard earned dollars in our state that would otherwise leave to pay for imported coal and oil,” said John Patten, director of Western Michigan University’s Manufacturing Research Center and professor and chair of the Department of Manufacturing Engineering.
Voters likely will decide this fall whether utilities should be required to use renewable resources — such as wind, solar, and biomass — to produce 25 percent of the electricity they generate. Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers is now certifying that supporters collected enough signatures to include the question on the November ballot.
“Keeping Michigan’s energy dollars in our state will create even more economic benefits. By boosting our use of renewable energy, we can keep in state more of the approximately $1.4 billion we spend every year to import coal to fuel coal-fired power plants that are polluting our environment and hurting our health,” said Sean Huberty, professor at Lansing Community College’s Alternative Energy Program.
The experts say increasing reliance on renewables would help the economy in several ways, including redirecting money spent on coal imports to homegrown fuel sources. The state spends about $1.4 billion every year importing coal for electricity generation, according to the letter.
Meanwhile, the state’s current renewable energy standard, which requires utilities to generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015, has a proven track record of economic success. It has already spurred at least $100 million in investments in the state.
“Generating 25 percent of our electricity from renewable energy will make Michigan competitive with other Midwest states in the growing clean energy industry. In Iowa for example, renewables already make up 20 percent of the electricity mix versus only 4 percent today in Michigan,” said Barry Solomon, founder and former president of the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics and director of Michigan Technological University’s Graduate Program in Environmental Policy.
Increasing the state’s reliance on clean energy has the added benefit of reducing air pollution, protecting the Great Lakes and other water resources, and reining in carbon emissions, according to the letter.
“Fishing is a vital lure for Michigan’s growing tourism industry, but mercury pollution limits safe consumption of the fish caught here. Using more renewable energy is one way to reduce toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants, the No. 1 source of mercury emissions in the Great Lakes region,” said Nicholas Schroeck, director of the Transnational Environmental Law Clinic at Wayne State University Law School.
The endorsers of the Open Letter on Clean Energy and Green Jobs from Michigan Scientists, Engineers, Economists, and Technical and Health Professionals are based at a wide variety of institutions, including universities and colleges, government agencies, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. The endorsers’ signatures include their institutional affiliation for identification purposes only, and the listing below should not be construed to imply any institutional endorsement.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
ELPC Executive Director Howard A. Learner takes a look at the state of the green economy in Michigan in a guest column published at AnnArbor.com.
Wind and solar development create manufacturing and technical jobs, rural economic development and pollution-free energy. The Environmental Law & Policy Center’sSolar and Wind Energy Supply Chain report shows that Michigan is home to 241 clean energy technology supply chain businesses and 10,000 related jobs.
Michigan is a solar business leader with companies including Patriot Solar Group (Albion), which manufactures trackers for solar panel installations, and Hemlock Semiconductor(Hemlock), one of the world’s largest manufacturers of polycrystalline silicon for solar cells and modules. Some of Michigan’s old-line manufacturing companies like Dowding Industries – Astraeus Wind Energy (Eaton Rapids) are re-tooling to supply growing markets for clean energy equipment.
Read the editorial
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Jay Greene of Crain’s Detroit Business blogs about the recent letter to Congress from Michigan Scientists.
Some 117 scientists and researchers from 11 universities and colleges in Michigan have penned a letter to the state’s 17-member congressional delegation urging them to prevent proposed legislation that could reverse tough new regulations on mercury emissions and other air toxins adopted last December by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standard will help “protect and clean the air we breathe, assure that local fish are safer to eat, and protect and preserve the wildlife and natural spaces we love from harmful pollution originating in Michigan and elsewhere,” said the April 5 letter signed by the Michigan university professors and researchers. To read, click here.
Read the blog.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
For Immediate Release
April 5, 2012
CONTACT: STEPHANIE CEPAK (517) 333-1606
Michigan Scientists Urge Congress to Support Clean Air
117 college scientists, researchers back E.P.A.’s mercury rule
ANN ARBOR – University and college scientists and researchers have signed a letter calling on Michigan’s congressional delegation to support the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS) recently filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The scientists and researchers, 117 in total, represent a broad range of academic backgrounds and work at private and public colleges across Michigan.
“Humans and wildlife that eat fish can be exposed to hazardous levels of methyl mercury. Because residents of Michigan and the rest of the country are exposed to this pollutant, there needs to be a federal control on the emissions of mercury,” said Joel Blum, John D MacArthur Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan.
The future of Michigan’s own mercury emissions rule is unclear because a state advisory committee recommended rescinding it once a federal rule is filed. The scientists support the Michigan rule, but know it doesn’t go far enough to protect the health and well-being of residents.
“As part of a team of researchers, I have found mercury remains a major pollutant of concern in the Great Lakes,” said Nil Basu, Assistant Professor in U-M’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health. “All of us have detectable levels of mercury in our body.”
Much of the mercury deposited in Michigan comes from coal-fired power plants in other states, which is why a federal standard is even more crucial to protecting the public health of Michigan families. For every
$1 spent on reducing toxic emissions by upgrading power plants, the EPA estimates there is $6 to $9 in economic benefits, mostly related to lowered health care costs.
“State fish advisories like Michigan’s promote a policy that allows significant mercury contamination to remain in place while relying on the vulnerable populations to change their fish-consumption behavior,”
said Jerome Nriagu, Professor in U-M’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health. “The regulators are helping to perpetuate an unequal burden of mercury exposure in communities of the Great Lakes.”
Altogether, signers included nearly 60 scientists and researchers from the University of Michigan and more than a dozen from Michigan State University. Signers also included scientists and researchers from Wayne State University, Hope College, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College, Eastern Michigan University, Calvin College, Michigan Technological University, Grand Valley State University, and Ferris State University.
Blum, Basu and Nriagu participated in a statewide telephone news conference Thursday discussing the letter, along with Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center.
The letter was delivered this week to Michigan’s two U.S. Senators and 15 U.S. Representatives. The letter is below.
Our Letter to Michigan’s Congressional Delegation Dear Michigan Senators and Representatives:
As university and college scientists and educators living and working in the great state of Michigan, we commend the standards adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency imposing limits on mercury emissions and other hazardous air toxics. The federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS) will help protect and clean the air we breathe, assure that local fish are safer to eat, and protect and preserve the wildlife and natural spaces we love from harmful pollution originating in Michigan and elsewhere. Scientific studies clearly demonstrate that mercury and other air toxic emissions are hazardous to human health. We are concerned that some Members of Congress are seeking to overturn, weaken or delay these vitally needed standards. We urge you to vote against any action diminishing the U.S. EPA’s MATS.
Mercury and other air toxics covered by MATS are potent neurotoxins that impact the health of humans, wildlife and ecosystems (e.g. services, provisioning, etc.). Our children are most vulnerable to these impacts, with fetal exposures to mercury resulting in deleterious impacts to language, memory, visual-motor skills, and attention. In adults, exposure to mercury can damage the nervous system, with newer research showing possible impacts on the immune and cardiovascular systems. Most of mercury’s harms to human health come from consuming contaminated fish. Once deposited on the surface waters of our state, mercury is converted to methylmercury where it is consumed and biomagnified up the food chain.
Ecologically-relevant and sub-lethal concentrations of methylmercury can affect the growth, survival and reproduction of fish, birds, and other animals. Large predatory fish, particularly those found in Michigan’s inland waters such as walleye, northern pike and largemouth bass, are most vulnerable to these effects. Recreational anglers and their families, including tribal groups and others consuming these fish, can accumulate harmful amounts of methylmercury. There is also increasing and compelling evidence that mercury deposition can impact the terrestrial ecosystem, namely songbirds, bats, and other insectivores.
Michiganders have long understood the harms to public health caused by mercury and other air toxics. Reflecting the findings of scientists, the Michigan state government has taken some helpful actions. The Michigan Department of Community Health, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Department of Natural Resources have collaborated in issuing statewide fish advisories for every lake in Michigan.
Moreover, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality adopted rules going into effect in 2015 to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants in our state. We commend the state’s actions and urge the Michigan Congressional Delegation to understand the need for federal standards to reduce mercury and air toxics pollution from power plants nationwide.
These efforts in our state fall short of addressing sources of mercury and other air toxics from other states that also harm Michigan’s people and animals. Most (greater than 50%) of the mercury deposited in our state comes from coal-fired power plant emissions, with a substantial amount coming from coal-fired power plants in other states. The U.S.
EPA’s MATS provides an important path to protecting the air and water in our state by limiting the emissions from these coal-fired power plants in Michigan and beyond. Also, the federal standards address a wider range of toxic emissions and facilities in Michigan than the state standards. The U.S. EPA estimates that annually MATS will prevent hundreds of deaths in our state and result in over one billion dollars of health benefits to Michiganders.
We, Michigan university and college scientists, urge you to support U.S.
EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in the interests of improving public health, protecting wildlife, preserving natural beauty, and supporting the economy of the state we call home.
Joel Blum, Professor- UM Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Nil Basu, Assistant Professor- UM School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health Sciences
Timothy Dvonch, Assistant Professor- UM School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health Sciences
Howard Hu, Professor – UM School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health, Epidemiology and Internal Medicine
Jerome Nriagu, Professor- UM School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health Sciences
Thursday, February 16, 2012
ELPC Deputy Director Kevin Brubaker, who leads ELPC's high-speed rail efforts, was aboard the Midwest's first high-speed rail train to leave Union Station.
On Feb. 15, 2012, high-speed rail travel arrived in the Midwest. The first high-speed train outside the Northeast United States departed Chicago’s Union Station at 7 a.m., traveling through Indiana and southwest Michigan to its destination in Kalamazoo, Mich. The 138-mile journey, which included a stop in New Buffalo, Mich., was completed in 2 hours, 8 minutes.
Kalamazoo is the highway point on the Chicago-Detroit passenger rail corridor. Eventually, officials say that 5.5-hour trip will be trimmed to 3.75 hours.Other high-speed rail corridors in the Midwest will include routes from Chicago to St. Louis and the Twin Cities.
Read more from CBS 2 Chicago and MLive.com.