At the offices of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) a new statewide coalition of groups came together on Tuesday to announce a campaign to stop the construction of several new coal-powered power plants that are being proposed in Michigan. This coalition is calling itself Clean Energy Now and consists of Clean Water Action, the Ecology Center, Environment Michigan, Grand Traverse Band of Chippewa Indians, Michigan Interfaith Power and Light, Michigan Land Use Institute, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Midland Cares, Progress Michigan, Sierra Club, TART Trails Inc., and WMEAC.
Representatives from four of the groups spoke at WMEAC, which was in conjunction with eight other press conferences being held all across the state. Jan O’Connell with the Sierra Club spoke first and stated, “We are launching Clean Energy Now to oppose the proposal to start new coal plants in Michigan. At least 7 companies have proposed new coal burning plants.” O’Connell referred to a map that shows where existing and proposed coal plants are in the state. She states that coal plants will keep Michigan dependent on outside energy. This issue is currently before the state legislature and it could be voted on before the Christmas break. A new website www.nocoalrush.com was also launched to allow people to contact legislators and support the position put forth by the coalition.
Mary Mehan from Michigan Interfaith Power and Light said, “We don’t want lobbyist to determine the outcome of this policy.” She laid out the five main talking points of the new coalition that would provide for a sound energy plan:
1. Enact a strong renewable energy standard that requires energy providers to generate 20% of their electric power from renewable sources by 2020.
2. Enact strong statewide utility funded energy efficiency programs that result in at least 1% energy savings per year.
3. Protect consumers from having to absorb the skyrocketing future costs of coal burning.
4. Implement a long-term energy plan that guarantees energy efficiency and renewable energy are used before any more outdated coal plants are built.
5. Develop new standards for controlling the emissions of CO2.
Karel Rogers with WMEAC spoke next and said, “coal plants are not a 21st century investment. Michigan’s energy needs are dropping, while new plants are being proposed.” She emphasizes that renewable energy investment will create jobs and cites examples in Pennsylvania and Colorado. She also sourced a study done by the Blue Green Alliance on renewable energy and job creation.
Marta Johnson with Clean Water Action spoke last and said, “This moratorium on coal will contribute to reducing global warming, which means we protect the Great Lakes.” She said that coal production contributes to asthma, impacts air and water quality and increases the presence of mercury in the water.
The only news media present besides Media Mouse was WGVU radio. Several people asked questions related to the issue of job creation from investing in renewable energy. When asked if any of the current legislators have signed on to the Clean Energy Now campaign, the response was that some have informally. There are however, planned lobby days on November 28 and December 5.
The question was also raised about how much money have companies seeking to build new coal-fired power plants given to lobby the state legislature, no one present seemed to know. According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network’s Top 200 Lobbyist report for Summer 2007, the four companies that have proposed coal plants – Northern Michigan University (#106 – $33,816), Wolverine Power (#80 – $40,701), Consumers Energy (#19 – $109,329) and L.S. Power (#72 – $45,462) -are in the top 106 of the Lobbyist list.
Another question that was posed to the group was “if the coal lobbyists are successful and approve the plant construction, does Clean Energy Now have any contingency plans to prevent the companies with moving forward?” The response was that the coalition was just focusing on the current legislative push and that they hoped to pressure the state to not grant the companies licenses to build the 4-7 possible coal-fired power plants.