pollution

New Coalition Calls for Action Against Diesel Pollution in Michigan

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A new coalition called the Alliance for Healthy Air is calling for the Michigan legislature to pass legislation that would crack down on diesel pollution.

The coalition says that diesel pollution from vehicles can be easily reduced by as much as 90% by retrofitting existing vehicles with pollution control technology. In order to advocate this goal, the coalition is asking that Michigan legislature set an example by retrofitting all state vehicles and is also calling on the City of Detroit to make a similar commitment. In addition, the group seeks a 70% reduction in diesel pollution by 2020.

Informing their work is research that shows that diesel pollution is a threat to public health. In a press release announcing the effort, the group writes that:

In Wayne County, the lifetime cancer risk from diesel pollution is 429 times greater than the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable cancer level of 1 in 1,000,000. The high particulate levels in Detroit have led to extremely high children’s asthma rates: one in five children in Detroit have asthma, and asthma hospitalizations for children are three times the statewide average. Wayne County’s risk factor is the highest in Michigan and ranks 80 out of 3,109 counties nationally.

Headlines: Obama Unveils Vehicle Mileage, Emissions Standards; Senate Democrats Block Funds to Close Guantanamo Bay Prison

Democracy Now Headlines: Obama Unveils Vehicle Mileage, Emissions Standards; Senate Democrats Block Funds to Close Guantanamo Bay Prison

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Senate Dems Block Funds for Gitmo Closure

Senate Democrats are refusing to finance the closure of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay until the Obama administration submits a detailed plan. On Tuesday, Democratic leaders said they would reject an $80 million request to relocate Guantanamo’s 240 prisoners and vowed to block the transfer of any prisoners into the United States. The move follows a similar action by House Democrats last week. It could mean delaying President Obama’s promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison by at least several months.

Senate Approves Credit Card Bill

The Senate has voted to impose new regulation on the credit card industry. The measure would give credit card companies a nine-month deadline to comply with new rules including a 45-day notice and an explanation before raising customers’ interest rates. They’d also be forced to post agreements on the internet and allow online bill payments without added fees. The measure is weaker than original versions that included an amendment to cap interest rates at fifteen percent. Other defeated proposals would have protected consumers from spending money they don’t have and limited how companies impose new fees. Meanwhile the New York Times reports banks are now considering a series of measures to recoup their anticipated lost profits from the new rules. The moves include imposing new annual fees and curbing cash-back and rewards programs to sterling borrowers. The House is expected to vote on the credit card bill as early as today. A final version could be held up by an amendment added to the Senate bill that would allow people to carry loaded guns in national parks. House leaders say they might vote separately on that proposal.

Admin Mulls New Regulatory Body for Financial Products

The Obama administration is reportedly mulling proposals for a new regulatory commission overseeing financial products and services including mortgages, credit cards and mutual funds. The proposed commission would be tasked with ensuring loans and other financial products are structured and marketed fairly.

Obama Unveils Vehicle Mileage, Emissions Standards

President Obama has unveiled new national emissions and mileage requirements for cars and light trucks. The rules aim to cut emissions by 30 percent and require passenger cars to average thirty-nine miles per gallon by 2016. On Tuesday, Obama noted the rules are the first to impose federal regulations on car emissions in the United States.

President Obama: “For the first time in history, we have set in motion a national policy aimed at both increasing gas mileage and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution for all new trucks and cars sold in the United States of America.”

The White House estimates the regulations would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 900 million metric tons over the lifetime of more efficient vehicles. Appearing with Obama at the White House, California Governor Arnold Schwarzeneger praised the new rules.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzeneger: “We are very happy this has happened because it means a reduction of one-third of greenhouse gases and one-third of oil consumption. As you have heard the President said–this is reducing oil consumption by 1.8 billion gallons of oil. This is staggering. It’s the equivalent of taking 55 million cars off the road.”

U.S.-Russia Panel Says Missile Shield Wouldn’t Work

A joint American-Russian commission has concluded the proposed U.S. missile defense system in Eastern Europe would be ineffective against the types of Iranian missiles it would purportedly aim to stop. The Bush administration launched the program under the pretense it would protect Europe against Iran, but it’s widely seen as a far-strike weapon. The commission of U.S.-Russia scientists bolsters that perception. In their report for the EastWest Institute, the scientists say Iran is highly unlikely to produce a nuclear-tipped missile, and the proposed defense shield wouldn’t be able to stop one anyway. The scientists say Iran is years away from producing a nuclear warhead and could only do so with major and highly visible foreign assistance. It also notes Iran would be further unlikely to launch an attack because doing so would assure its own destruction through U.S. retaliation. The Obama administration has so far continued with the missile program but hinted it could be open to its cancellation.

Sri Lanka Blocks Aid Workers from Reaching Displaced

In Sri Lanka, the government continues to prevent aid workers from reaching some 300,000 people displaced in the fight with Tamil Tiger rebels. Earlier this week the Sri Lankan government declared victory after a twenty-six year war. The Times of London reports Sri Lanka is blocking the UN from reaching government run-camps housing refugees. There are fears camp populations will be hit with an outbreak of contagious diseases including hepatitis and dysentery.

Palestinian Authority Installs New Cabinet

In the Occupied Territories, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has sworn in a new cabinet to head the Palestinian Authority. Former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was re-instated to his old post, along with several other members of the Fatah faction. Fayyad denied reports of renewed talks between Palestinian officials and Israeli leaders despite ongoing Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad: “I don’t think it’s really the right time to be talking about negotiation, when in fact there are understandings and agreements that have been reached that require immediate implementation. I don’t think Mr. Netanyahu set the right tone by clearly avoiding any reference to the possibility of a solution concept that has become a matter of the national consensus, namely the two-state solution.”

Meanwhile in Gaza, Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum rejected the cabinet as illegitimate amidst ongoing national unity talks brokered by Egypt.

Fawzi Barhoum: “The formation of the government by Abu Mazen in the West Bank will reinforce the political chaos, judicial and legislative, which he is carrying out over there in the West Bank. This is considered to be a deliberate sabotage of the internal Palestinian dialogue and threatens the negotiations slated to take place in the future in Cairo.”

2 Americans Killed in Afghan Attack

In Afghanistan, two Americans have been killed in a roadside bombing near Kabul. The Pentagon says the victims were a U.S. soldier and a military contractor.

Pentagon: Blackwater Contractors Weren’t Allowed to Carry Weapons

In other news from Afghanistan, the Pentagon says four US contractors with the company formerly known as Blackwater weren’t authorized to carry weapons when they fired on an approaching vehicle in Kabul earlier this month. At least one Afghan civilian was killed and another two wounded in the attack. The contractors were off-duty at the time and had been reportedly drinking. The contractors now say Blackwater officials had supplied them with the guns in violation of their military contract.

Spanish Lawmakers Vote to Restrict Foreign Probes

In Spain, lawmakers are trying to block their judiciary’s war crimes investigations of foreign governments including the United States. On Tuesday, Spain’s Congress voted to limit judges’ jurisdiction to cases with a clear Spanish connection. Spain’s National Court is currently investigating 13 foreign cases under the principle of universal jurisdiction. They include the torture of U.S. prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. The Spanish vote follows weeks of pressure by foreign governments seeking to curb the investigations. It’s unclear whether the vote will apply to the current cases or only to future ones.

Obama Envoys Disclose Speaking, Consulting Fees

Newly-disclosed financial statements show two top Obama administration envoys received hundreds of thousands of in consulting and speaking fees last year. Dennis Ross, who serves as special advisor for Iran, received more than $200,000 in speaking fees from pro-Israeli government groups. Ross refused to disclose how much he earned for appearances on the cable news network Fox News. Meanwhile, Obama’s envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, reported $1.7 million in income last year. Holbrooke’s earnings included more than $300,000 as a consultant for Coca-Cola and $10,000 for serving as a director on the board of the bailed-out insurance giant AIG.

U.S. Priest Slain in Guatemala

A U.S. priest who helped expose abuses by the Brazilian military dictatorship during the 1970s has been killed in Guatemala. The Reverend Lawrence Rosebaugh died Monday in a robbery attack by masked gunmen. He was 74 years old. In 1977, Rosebaugh hand-delivered a letter to First Lady Rosalynn Carter detailing his abuse at the hands of Brazilian forces, helping to bring international attention on the Brazilian dictatorship.

Uruguyan Writer Mario Benedetti Dies at 88

And the Uruguyan writer Mario Benedetti has died at the age of 88. A popular novelist and playwright, Benedetti was also an outspoken political commentator, criticizing U.S. intervention in Latin America and the Cuban embargo.

Headlines: Obama To Introduce New Car Emissions and Mileage Requirements; Red Cross Warns of “Unimaginable Humanitarian Catastrophe” In Sri Lanka

Democracy Now Headlines: Obama To Introduce New Car Emissions and Mileage Requirements; Red Cross Warns of 'Unimaginable Humanitarian Catastrophe' In Sri Lanka

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Ex-Bush Envoy May Become Unelected “CEO” of Afghanistan

The New York Times reports President Bush’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, could soon assume a powerful, unelected position running the Afghan government. Under a plan being discussed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Obama administration, Khalilzad could essentially become the unelected CEO of Afghanistan, taking away power now held by the democratically elected Karzai. Karzai’s ties to the United States have deteriorated recently in part because of his vocal criticism over the rising number of civilian casualties due to U.S. air strikes. Zalmay Khalilzad was born in Afghanistan but is now a U.S. citizen. He served as President Bush’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations. The Obama administration claims it is not behind the idea of inserting Khalilzad into the Afghan government but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special envoy Richard Holbrooke have been involved in the discussions. Two months ago the Guardian of London reported the Obama administration and European allies were preparing to plant a high-profile figure in the heart of the Afghan government in a direct challenge to Karzai.

Obama To Introduce New Car Emissions and Mileage Requirements

President Obama is scheduled today to issue new national emissions and mileage requirements for cars and light trucks. The rules aim to cut emissions by 30% and require passenger car required to average 39 miles per gallon and light trucks 30 mpg by 2016.

The White House estimates the regulations would save 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 900 million metric tons over the lifetime of the more efficient vehicles, equivalent to taking 177 million cars off the road or shutting down 194 coal-fired power plants. Daniel Becker of the Safe Climate Campaign, praised Obama’s plan. He said: “This is the single biggest step the American government has ever taken to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.” The cost of new vehicles is expected to rise by at least $1,300 by 2016.

Netanyahu Refuses To Endorse Two-State Solution, Presses Obama on Iran

At a White House meeting Monday, Israel’s new Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu refused to endorse a two-state solution or to agree to President Obama’s request to halt the construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank. Obama and Netanyahu held a press conference Monday after their private meeting.

President Obama: “Now, Israel is going have to take some difficult steps as well. And I shared with Prime Minister the fact that, under the road map, under Annapolis there’s a clear understanding that we have to make progress on settlements, that settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward. That’s a difficult thing to recognize, but it’s an important one. And it has to be addressed. I think the humanitarian situation in Gaza has to be addressed.”

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel doesn’t want to govern the Palestinians but he did not endorse an independent Palestinian state.

Binyamin Netanyahu: “I want to make it clear that we don’t want to govern the Palestinians. We want to live in peace with them. We want them to govern themselves, absent a handful of powers that could endanger the State of Israel. And for this there has to be a clear goal. There has to be an end to conflict. There’ll have to be compromises by Israelis and Palestinians alike. We’re ready to do our share. We hope the Palestinians are ready to do their share as well.”

After the meeting Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat criticized Netanyahu’s comments.

Saeb Erekat: “Unfortunately, Mr. Netanyahu failed to mention the two-state solution, failed to mention the agreement signed, failed to mention his commitment to stop settlement activities. And the only thing he mentioned was Palestinians entitled to govern themselves by themselves. How can I govern myself by myself as a Palestinian with his occupation going on on my neck on the hour every hour? With his roadblocks segregating our towns and villages and refugee camps?”

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Obama also discussed Iran on Monday.

Binyamin Netanyahu: “But if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, it could give a nuclear umbrella to terrorists or worse it could give terrorists nuclear weapons. That would put us all in great peril. So in that context I very much appreciate Mr. President your firm commitment to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear capability and also your statement you’re leaving all options on the table.”

President Obama told Netanyahu that his administration may back a new set of sanctions against Iran.

President Obama: “We are engaged in a process to reach out to Iran and persuade them that it is not in their interest to pursue a nuclear weapon, and that they should change course. But I assured the prime minister that we are not foreclosing a range of steps, including much stronger international sanctions in assuring that Iran understands that we are serious.”

Campaign Launched to Disbar 12 Former Bush Admin Attorneys

Efforts have been launched to disbar 12 former Bush administration attorneys connected to the administration’s torture program. On Monday a coalition of advocacy groups called the Velvet Revolution filed disciplinary complaints with state bar licensing boards on the grounds that the attorneys violated the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture and American law. The attorneys targeted are: John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Stephen Bradbury, Alberto Gonzales, John Ashcroft, Michael Chertoff, Alice Fisher, William Haynes, Douglas Feith, Michael Mukasey, Timothy Flanigan, and David Addington.

Obama Seeks $46 Million For Military Base in Colombia

President Obama is seeking $46 million to establish a new military facility in Colombia. The funding request has been opposed by several advocacy groups. John Lindsay-Poland of the Fellowship of Reconciliation said: “This base would feed a failed drug policy, support an abusive army, and reinforce a tragic history of U.S. military intervention in the region.”

The Pentagon has been looking for a new site in Latin America ever since Ecuador notified Washington last year that it would not renew the lease on the U.S. base in Manta, Ecuador.

Bill Clinton To Be Named UN Special Envoy To Haiti

Meanwhile former U.S. President Bill Clinton is expected to be named today the new United Nations special envoy to Haiti.

Supreme Court Blocks Suit Filed By Man Detained After 9/11

The Supreme Court has blocked a lawsuit against former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI director Robert Mueller filed by a Pakistani man. Javaid Iqbal was among thousands of Muslim men rounded up after Sept. 11 . According to his lawsuit he was held in solitary confinement, subjected to numerous beatings and denied medical care. He eventually pleaded guilty to identity fraud and was deported to Pakistan.

Nigerian Military Attacks Niger Delta Region

In news from Africa, the Nigerian military continues to carry out attacks in the oil-rich Niger Delta in an effort to oust militant groups from the region. The military has reportedly attacked largely civilian areas with gunboats and helicopters. As many as 30,000 civilians are displaced without adequate food or water and aid agencies have been barred from the region. On Monday militants vowed to blockade key waterways in the Niger Delta to try to prevent crude oil exports. For years the militant groups have fought for fair distribution of oil wealth to local communities in the impoverished region.

Asari Dokubo of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force: “We will not stop, I will not stop. I will continue, we will continue to proceed by any means necessary. If they bring peace, we will hold on to peace. If they bring war, we will hold on to war, because we cannot be treated like this and we cannot just be raising our hands and falling and dying. No, we are going to put up a fight.”

The state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. has joint-venture partnerships with major oil companies including Shell and Chevron in the Niger Delta. Next week Shell will stand trial in New York for its alleged role in the 1995 state execution of the Nigerian writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists.

Shell Accused of Being Most Carbon Intensive Oil Firm In World

A group of environmental organizations have accused Shell of being the most carbon intensive oil company in the world. In a report issued today – to coincide with the company’s annual shareholder meeting – Shell is criticized for its reliance on Nigerian crude oil which is associated with huge levels of gas flaring, liquefied natural gas which is highly energy intensive, and oil from Canada’s tar sands. Shell revealed to investors last year that 30% of its total resources are tar sands.

BBC: Ethiopian Troops Re-Enter Somalia

In other news from Africa, the BBC is reporting Ethiopian troops have re-entered Somalia, barely three months after leaving. This comes one day after Islamist militants seized Mahaday, a strategically important town north of Mogadishu.

Red Cross Warns of “Unimaginable Humanitarian Catastrophe” In Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan leader Mahinda Rajapaksa has declared the country to be “liberated” from Tamil Tiger rebels after a 26-year war. Sri Lankan television stations broadcast footage today of a body purported to be that of Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. While many Sri Lankans have been celebrating the end of the Tamil Tigers, the Red Cross is warning northeastern Sri Lanka still faces an “an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe.” Most aid groups are still barred from the region where 8,000 civilians have been killed since January.

Sri Lanka Detains Three Doctors Who Spoke To Media

The Sri Lankan government has detained three Sri Lankan doctors who were treating civilians inside the conflict zone. During the war, the doctors had provided detailed information about government shelling and civilian casualties to outside media and human rights organizations. Two of the doctors have been reportedly taken to the Terrorist Investigation Division in Colombo.

U.S. to Push Immigration Checks to All Local Jails

The Washington Post reports the Obama administration is expanding a program initiated by President Bush aimed at checking the immigration status of virtually every person booked into local jails. By matching inmates’ fingerprints to federal immigration databases, authorities hope to pinpoint deportable undocumented immigrants before they are released from custody. The measure could result in a tenfold increase in undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of crimes and identified for deportation over the next four years.

Bill Introduced To Guarantee Sick Days For Workers

And on Capitol Hill, Democratic Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro has introduced legislation to guarantee paid sick days to American workers. The bill would require companies with 15 or more employees to allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick leave days a year. Sen. Edward Kennedy is expected to introduce the Senate version of the Healthy Families Act later this week. Of the world’s 22 wealthiest nations, the United States is the only one not to guarantee paid sick days for workers.

Superfund Lawyer with Ties to Major Polluters Nominated to Run DOJ Environmental Division

President Barack Obama has made a controversial pick to head the Department of Justice’s Environmental Division. Last week, President Obama nominated Ignacia S. Moreno to be Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division in the Department of Justice.

Ignacia has an extensive corporate background and is currently the corporate environmental counsel for General Electric. General Electric is the United States’ #1 Superfund polluter and just recently lost an eight-year case in which it attempted to show that parts of the Superfund law are unconstitutional.

Before joining General Electric, Moreno defended General Motors in another Superfund case while a lawyer at Spriggs and Hollingsworth. In the 1990s, Moreno worked for the Clinton administration and attempted to weaken the dolphin-safe tuna law.

This is all problematic because Moreno’s position would be to enforce federal environmental laws, including protections of such as the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Superfund. It’s hard to see how she would be a good choice to hold companies accountable, especially when she specifically argued that one of the laws was potentially unconstitutional.

This is made all the more disappointing when you consider that it is coming on top of news that the Obama administration has ruled that 42 out of 48 mountaintop removal coal mining permits are “environmentally responsible”.

Elevated Cancer Risk for those in Michigan Living near Unlined Coal Ash Dumps

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A new report from the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice finds that Michigan residents living near unlined coal ash dumps have a 1-in-50 chance of getting cancer from their drinking water.

Unlined ash dumps can be found in Ingham, Marquette, Monroe, and Ottawa counties. Of the seven sites in Michigan, only three have groundwater monitoring. The plants are operated by major energy producers in Michigan, including Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison.

The problem can be traced to the United States reliance on coal-fired power plants. Each year, such plants dispose of nearly 100 million tons of toxic ash in more than 200 landfills and wet ponds. The practice gained national attention in December of 2008 when one such disposal site burst in Kingston, Tennessee. Coal ash can be responsible for pollutants including arsenic, lead, selenium, boron, cadmium, and cobalt.

The analysis is based on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data collected by the government. Under the Bush administration, the data was largely kept from public release as the administration dragged its feet. The report cautions that the actual number of polluted sites may be significantly greater than what the EPA is reporting.

Kent County’s Air Quality Ranks Poorly in Study

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Michigan–and Kent County–rank poorly in a new study of air pollution by the American Lung Association. The organization’s annual “State of the Air” report found that 60% of people in the United States live in areas with high levels of air pollution.

The American Lung Association warns that “breathing polluted air can seriously harm your health and even shorten your life.”

HIGH OZONE DAYS IN KENT COUNTY

Ozone (O3) is an extremely reactive gas molecule composed of three oxygen atoms. It is the primary ingredient of smog air pollution and is very harmful to breathe. Ozone attacks lung tissue by reacting chemically with it.

  • Ozone Grade: F
  • Weighted Average: 12.2
  • Orange Ozone Days: 35
  • Red Ozone Days: 1
  • Purple Ozone Days: 0

PARTICLE POLLUTION – 24 HOUR IN KENT COUNTY

Particle pollution refers to a mix of very tiny solid and liquid particles that are in the air we breathe. Its produced by either mechanical or chemical processes including burning fossil fuels in factories and power plants.

  • Grade: F
  • Weighted Average: 6.5
  • Orange Particle Days: 18
  • Red Particle Days: 1
  • Purple Particle Days: 0

PARTICLE POLLUTION – Annual

  • Grade: Pass
  • Design Value 12.8

GROUPS AT RISK IN KENT COUNTY

Air pollution disproportionately affects certain groups, whether they be people of color or children. In Kent County, there are many populations who are at an increased risk.

  • Pediatric Asthma: 14,936
  • Adult Asthma: 41,744
  • Chronic Bronchitis: 14,665
  • Emphysema: 6,880
  • Cardiovascular Disease: 151,982
  • Diabetes: 32,290
  • Total Population: 604,330
  • Population Under 18: 164,289
  • Population 65 & Over: 62,419

Overall, Michigan ranked poorly in the study. The Detroit/Warren/Flint area was in the top 10 worst cities for both pollution incidents over 24-hour periods and particle pollution. No cities in Michigan were listed among the cleanest cities.

Michigan Coal Waste a Problem; Will be Exacerbated by New Coal Plants

Coal Waste Spill

Coal power plants–which are somewhat notorious for their carbon emissions and pollution of air and waterways–also produce millions of tons of waste annually. This waste is contaminated with toxic metals and is dumped into landfills, storage ponds, or old ponds, where it sits waiting for disaster to strike. This is exactly what happened last year when a waste pond operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority spilled over a billion gallons of toxic sludge across the surrounding community.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, existing coal plants produced 126 million tons of contaminated waste in 2005. Power companies want to open an additional 70 coal-fired plants–including several in Michigan–which would generate 15 million tons of coal waste.

While the Obama administration has said that it intends to regulate coal waste, it’s still a major problem as no regulations currently exist despite very real environmental and health concerns. According to the EPA, certain types of coal ash disposal sites pose a cancer risk nearly 1,000 times the acceptable level.

The Natural Resources Defense Council recently conducted a study looking at coal waste and found that Michigan is one of the “Filthy 15″ states (it ranks 12th) in which proposed plants would produce large amounts of toxic metals. The proposed plants would generate 686,879 tons of contaminated coal waste annually, including 634 tons of toxic metals.

When it comes to existing plants and coal waste, Michigan doesn’t rank much better. In 2005, it reported 2,129,700 tons of contaminated coal waste. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimated that there were 2,524 tons of toxic metals contaminating its coal waste.

West Michigan’s Ottawa County is home to one of the plants with the highest amount of toxic metals.

For those wishing to take action on the issue, the Natural Resources Defense Council has an e-mail action to demand that the EPA strictly regulate coal waste disposal. It would also be worth getting involved in current organizing in Michigan against the proposed coal plants.

West Michigan School 1 of 62 to be Monitored by EPA for Air Quality

School Pollution Investigation

It doesn’t seem like Michigan gets much positive coverage in the national press. Lately, we’ve seen coverage of the troubled auto industry, our state’s high unemployment rate, the shooting of an unarmed college student, and a teenager killed by police using Tasers.

Unfortunately, the latest mention–that a West Michigan school will be one of sixty-two monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)–doesn’t help the state’s image.

In today’s edition of USA Today, the newspaper features teacher Terry Babbitt of Norton Shores’ (near Muskegon) Lincoln Park Elementary School. Lincoln Park Elementary was one of several hundred schools identified by USA Today in an investigation last year into air quality in the nation’s public schools. According to the investigation, students at the school might be exposed to high levels of chromium and other toxic chemicals. Babbitt says that he welcomes the investigation

The USA Today investigation prompted the program, which will begin in over the next three months:

“The series prompted the EPA to launch its most comprehensive study ever of the impact of pollution outside the schools. In most cases, the agency plans to install monitoring equipment on school grounds.”

According to an examination of the 62 schools chosen for monitoring, USA Today reports that 28 appear to have air more toxic than the air at Meredith Hitchens Elementary in Ohio. That school was closed after the Ohio EPA found levels of carcinogens 50 times above what the state considered acceptable.

As if general exposure to air pollution wasn’t enough reason to investigate and attempt to remedy the situation, USA Today points out that children are uniquely vulnerable to threats from toxic chemicals because their bodies are still developing and they breathe more air in proportion to their body weight than adults.

Granholm Advocates Expensive, Unproven Carbon Sequestration Technology

Governor Granholm has Advocated Expensive and Unproven Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technology for a Controversial Holland Power Plant

Last week, environmental activists praised Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm’s State of the State Address for statements suggesting that she was opposed in some capacity to several proposed coal plants in the state.

However, a week prior, Granholm made another important statement on coal and Michigan. In a press release circulated by the City of Holland, Granholm expressed support for a “carbon sequestration” project at a new coal plant being proposed in Holland:

“The state of Michigan supports this effort to demonstrate the long-term capability of carbon capture and sequestration technology and will assist the city of Holland in its effort to gain approval and federal funding for this important initiative.”

Holland is currently seeking funds from the federal government to research and develop a mechanism for removing carbon from the plant’s emissions and then depositing the carbon underground.

Carbon Sequestration: A Problematic Technology

The technology is called “carbon capture and sequestration” and it has been proposed by “clean coal” advocates as a possible solution to global warming that would allow coal plants to continue to operate.

However, the technology is unproven and there have been no commercially viable applications. The technology is expensive and it may have unintended consequences, both when injecting carbon into the ground and with greater concentrations of other emissions being released into the air. Beyond that, while it addresses emissions, it does not deal with other environmental problems or pollution associated with coal power.

Greenpeace: Carbon Capture and Sequestration a “False Hope”

In a report on the technology last year, the environmental group Greenpeace called carbon capture and sequestration a “false hope.” The report–“False Hope: Why Carbon Capture and Storage Won’t Save the Climate“–said that the technology is nothing more than an attempt at “greenwashing” an “irremediably dirty energy source.”

Greenpeace writes:

“The report exposes CCS technology’s woeful inadequacy on numerous points. CCS wastes energy, for one thing, as it uses between 10 and 40% of the plant’s power output just to function. It is also expensive, and could possibly double the cost of constructing a coal-fired power plant, which in turn could lead to the raising of electricity costs for consumers. And despite its exorbitant cost, there is actually no guarantee that storing carbon underground is totally safe or effective – even a very low leakage rate could completely undermine the benefits of CCS. But most importantly, CCS simply can’t deliver on a large scale until 2030, according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, whereas the scientific consensus about climate change holds that our greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2015 if we’re to avoid the worst effects of man-made global warming.”

Environmental Groups Praise Granholm’s Comments on Coal

Environmental Groups Praise Granholm's Efforts To Limit The Construction Of New Coal Power Plants

Progress Michigan–a liberal advocacy group–issued a press release yesterday praising Governor Jennifer Granholm’s comments on the future of coal-fired power plants in Michigan.

According to the group, Granholm’s energy plan was the equivalent of a “crackdown on coal.” The plan requires that:

  • All new and expanded coal-fired power plant developers go back to the drawing board and consider cleaner alternatives to coal plants.
  • Michigan will more stringently apply Section 165 of the Clean Air Act that will make plants follow strict anti-pollution standards.
  • Energy projects must consider cleaner alternatives before they can proceed with permitting.
  • Michigan will reduce the use of fossil fuels in power plants by 45% within twelve years.

The press release included reaction from Clean Water Action and the Sierra Club who both praised the plan.

There have been proposals to build seven new coal plants in Michigan.