Wednesday, July 15, 2015

WKZO Interview with Chapter Chair David Holtz on Enbridge Pipeline Task Force Report - July 15, 2015

Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Chair David Holtz was interviewed on WKZO Kalamazoo radio 590 AM. He took the opportunity to speak about the recent report from the Governor's task force on Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline that runs through the Mackinac Straits.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Michigan Legislature Update from Sierra Club - June 18, 2015

Michigan Legislature Update from Sierra Club
June 18, 2015
Submitted by Mike Berkowitz

The Michigan House has concluded session for their summer recess while the Senate is still debating whether or not to take a summer break.

Energy Legislation
-House: Energy Committee Chair Nesbitt held hearings on his bills (HB 4298-4304) but has not taken any further action on them yet. This legislation would repeal Michigan’s Energy Optimization Standard, classify waste incineration as a renewable energy form, and allow for the expansion of natural gas pipelines and infrastructure using ratepayer money.

We submitted written testimony opposing this legislation and have been actively lobbying against it.

-Senate: We are still waiting on Senate Energy Committee Chairman Sen. Nofs to introduce his legislation.



Pipeline/Energy FOIA Legislation
HB 4540 (Heise) blocks public access to information about “critical energy infrastructure” and “cybersecurity” through the Freedom of Information Act. The bill had two committee hearings but has not yet been voted on. Legislators on the House Oversight and Ethics committee are negotiating amendments to the bill. We are encouraging lawmakers to either oppose the bill or remove the “critical energy infrastructure” portion of the legislation and only make it apply to cybersecurity.

We submitted written testimony opposing this legislation and have been actively lobbying against it.



Fracking Waste Legislation
HB 4469 (Pagan) and SB 277 (Hopgood) would regulate low-level radioactive fracking waste in Michigan landfills. We are neutral on this legislation because it does not ban the waste or increase environmental protection substantively. It mainly focuses on increasing documentation and reporting from landfills that accept fracking waste. The bill sponsors are still negotiating the bill language with the DEQ and hope to get a committee hearing on it later this year.

We are encouraging other legislators to introduce a bill that would completely ban radioactive fracking waste and/or substantively increase environmental standards.


No Stricter Than Federal Legislation
HB 4246 (Farrington) would prohibit the Governor and his/her agencies from issuing any regulation that is more stringent than federal law unless specifically authorized by the legislature. This bill had two Regulatory Reform committee hearings but has not been voted on. Gov. Snyder vetoed similar legislation two sessions ago.

We submitted written testimony opposing this legislation and have been actively lobbying against it.



Modifying the Natural Resources Trust Fund
SB 206 (Booher/Casperson) would tie the hands of the Department of Natural Resources when it comes to managing land, while also changing the Natural Resources Trust Fund to focus more heavily on developing land. This legislation had one committee hearing with major pushback from us, the MI Environmental Council, and the DNR. The legislation has temporarily stalled since that hearing but we are prepared in case it comes back up.



If you have questions about any of these items, legislation not included in this update, or want to find out how you can get involved with our legislative work, please email Mike.Berkowitz@sierraclub.org.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

To protect Great Lakes, Lansing must keep pipeline safety info public

David Holtz12:12 a.m. EDT June 11, 2015

We need to know more about the oil pipelines that run under our Great Lakes, not less. But companies like Enbridge Energy Partners are supporting a move by Michigan’s Legislature to keep documents about the safety of oil-bearing pipelines out of the public eye.
As House Bill 4540 was introduced, oil industry representatives were offering testimony in Lansing, and beforehand Enbridge’s lobbyist was working to line up support from environmentalist groups. The law they support would ensure that Michigan citizens cannot know what companies like Enbridge are doing, or how they are doing it.
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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Michigan Chapter Update - June 7, 2015


Michigan Chapter Update
June 7, 2015

In this Issue:

  • Pipeline Secrecy Bill: Your Voice Still Needed
  • Palisades Nuclear Plant Owner Seeks "Regulatory Relief" 
  • Shut Down of Enbridge Line 5 at Mackinac Straits Called For 
  • Aaron Mair Elected as Sierra Club President
  • Less=More Working to Address Lake Erie Toxic Algae Bloom
  • Help the Less=More Campaign and Sustainable Agriculture in Michigan
  • Chapter Retreat in August Includes Live Wildlife
  • Cecilia's Pathetic Plea for a Laptop
  • Enjoy and Explore: Sylvania Wilderness


PUBLIC OPPOSITION HOLDS UP PIPELINE SECRECY BILL: YOUR VOICE STILL NEEDED!


Protect the Great Lakes for Oil Spills
Thanks to an outpouring of outrage and concern across the state, the  Pipeline Secrecy Bill, HB 4540 has been stalled in the House Oversight and Ethics committee! Massive energy corporations, including Enbridge and Michigan's utilities, are putting a tremendous amount of pressure on legislators to pass this bill. Supporters of HB 4540 seek to shut down the public's right to know potential health, safety and environmental risks posed by oil and gas pipelines, power plants, transmission lines, and refineries.
In today's edition of the Michigan Chapter Update you'll read about Sierra Club's work to move our state to clean energy and off dirty, polluting fossil fuels. Your right to know what is happening with these kinds of facilities is being threatened by HB 4540.

This bill is clearly a test case - if HB 4540 passes in the Great Lakes state we expect it to show up throughout the country. Communities and citizen organizations are fighting back nationwide against property rights violations, environmental threats and health concerns raised by the massive acceleration in pipeline building and natural gas boom. Let's stop this bad idea from becoming law in Michigan to protect our economy, our communities and our children's future!

Take action now to stop the Pipeline Secrecy bill proposed in the Michigan House! With your help, we can stop this legislation!  Visit this link to tell your representatives to protect the safety of their constituents and the environment!


PALISADES NUKE OWNER SEEKS "REGULATORY RELIEF" TO EXTEND PLANT LIFE BY DECADES


Palisades Nuclear Plant in Covert, MI
Owners of the Palisades Nuclear Plant are seeking "regulatory relief" to keep this plant running despite a litany of serious problems. 
Photo  BeyondNucelar.org
Palisades Nuclear Plant, considered by experts to pose one of the greatest risks to public health and the environment of any such plant in the country, is seeking unprecedented "regulatory relief" from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) which would allow the plant to extend its operations for decades beyond its current retirement date.

The power plant, located on the shores of Lake Michigan in Covert Township, Michigan, has a  long, troubled history of safety and environmental concerns. The current owner,Entergy Nuclear has failed to provide upkeep and maintain safety standards for Palisades, including failing to test the safety of its reactor pressure vessel, the nuclear heart of the plant. Now, Entergy has applied for further and unprecedented "regulatory relief," which includes lowering the safety standards of its  already-embrittled reactor and extend its operation date.
The plant hosts grave risks, where an accident at Palisades could ruin a significant portion of Michigan's agricultural industry and contaminate drinking water for millions who live in the Great Lakes region. A  coalition of environmental organizations, including Beyond Nuclear and Don't Waste Michigan, has intervened to urge that the NRC deny Entergy's proposal for regulatory relief.
You can take action: ask Michigan's US Senators Stabenow and Peters to request that Palisades Nuclear Plant safety be investigated by the Government Accountability Office and investigate the raiding of Palisades' decommissioning fund. In addition, the plant should be banned from storing its hundreds of tons of dangerous radioactive waste in defective containers just 150 yards from Lake Michigan's waterThe Sierra Club policies call for wastes to be stored in Hardened On-Site Storage at a less risky location.

Contact  Senator Debbie Stabenow at (202) 224-4822 and  Senator Gary Peters at (202) 224-6221 to voice your concerns about this plant's danger and demand action!

Want to do more? Contact  Mark Muhich to find out more about formation of a Michigan Chapter Nuclear Free Committee.


REPORT: SHUT DOWN ENBRIDGE STRAITS PIPELINES PENDING FULL ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW


O&WDM Press Conference, May 2015
MI Chapter Chair David Holtz (second from right) on
Mackinac Island with (from left) Gary Street of For
Love of Water (FLOW), Kate Madigan of Michigan
Environmental Council (MEC), volunteer Deb Hansen,
and Jim Lively of the Groundwork Center for Resilient
Communities.  
On a cold, rainy day on Mackinac Island, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Chair David Holtz joined with tribal and environmental representatives to call Governor Rick Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette and DEQ Director Dan Wyant to  shut down Enbridge's two 62 year old crude oil pipelines running through the Straits of Mackinac pending a full look at environmental threats and alternatives. report prepared for  (FLOW)For Love of Water by engineers and scientists was publicly released at the May 27th event at the beginning of the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference.

Gary Street, former Director of Engineering, Dow Environmental–AWD Technologies, spoke at the press conference on behalf of the expert team which prepared the report. Street explained that conditions in the Great Lakes themselves have changed dramatically in the past sixty years, creating problems never anticipated when the pipelines were designed and built. In particular, the report cites the presence of zebra mussels on the pipeline, an invasive species which entered the Great Lakes through ballast water after the St. Lawrence Seaway was opened up in 1959. Zebra mussel excrement has a corrosive effect on exposed steel, according to scientific studies, and  video footage of the Line 5 pipelines taken in 2013 by the National Wildlife Federation clearly shows them covered in growth and debris, including zebra mussels.

"It’s clear from these scientific findings that Line 5 should be shut down and an open, public process immediately begun to consider the best way to avoid a catastrophic oil spill into the Great Lakes, home to 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water," said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW. "The public has a right to know the risk and to expect leadership from the governor and his task force led by Attorney General Bill Schuette and DEQ Director Dan Wyant." The Task Force, which has been meeting behind closed doors since June 2014, has not yet announced a date for release of their recommendations.

Street, Kirkwood and Holtz were joined by Aaron Payment, Tribal Chairman, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, andBruce Wallace, national board chair of the National Wildlife Federation. The Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities(formerly known as Michigan Land Use Institute) and the Michigan Environmental Council were also instrumental in the press conference and release of the report. Read the   full press release and  FLOW's report. If you would like to join or support this work, please contact  David Holtz or  Anne Woiwode.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 9.59.09 AM.png
Aaron Mair of New York was elected
President of Sierra Club's national Board

NEW SIERRA CLUB PRESIDENT SEEKS TO EXPAND DIVERSITY


The Sierra Club's newly elected president Aaron Mair hopes to  challenge the historical norms and goals associated with the American environmental movement. As the first-ever African American president of the Club, Mair sees the need for a more diverse crowd to possess a greater say in grassroots activity and overall goals at Sierra Club for years to come.
For Mair, this perspective stems from over three decades of environmental justice work. 31 years ago, he began grassroots environmental justice organizing, including rallying a community in Arbor Hill, New York, a city where a toxic incinerator was causing respiratory illnessesamong local residents. Two of these residents were Mair's own daughters. "Nature knows no difference between black and white," Mair said. "… It's about the people bringing about change. The climate movement isn't about politicians; it's about the grassroots."
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune shared in this optimistic attitude, similarly hopeful about expanding the voices within Sierra Club. "With [Mair's] leadership, we're making progress toward becoming an organization that empowers everyone affected by climate disruption, including those on the front lines of environmental injustice," Brune said. "This is a historic moment for the Sierra Club."

Less= More is fighting CAFO pollution.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Vanuga, USDA/NRCS

LESS=MORE WORKING TO ADDRESS LAKE ERIE TOXIC ALGAE BLOOM


It's that time of year when factory farm operators empty lagoons that have held the waste of thousands of animals all winter and spread it on fields to dispose of it in a supposedly ecologically sound manner. Unfortunately, this waste—a toxic brew of pathogens, antibiotics, and chemicals in addition to manure—often gets into nearby waterways due to spills, leaks or the occasional intentional dumping. When that happens, it sets up a chain of events that can lead to disasters like  last summer's Lake Erie algae bloom, which involved the growth of a toxin that poisoned the drinking water for more than 400,000 people in Toledo, Ohio, and southern Michigan for two days in August.

The story of how dangerous levels of microcystin ended up in the water supply of Ohio's fourth-largest city is in large part the story of how we grow our food today. We like cheap food and most of us buy meat, dairy, poultry and eggs at the supermarket or restaurant that come from heavily-subsidized, industrial-scale livestock facilities.Phosphorus in the animal waste from these facilities as well as crop fertilizer from operations growing corn to feed these animals in southern Michigan runs off into local waterways that lead to Lake Erie where, in warm temperatures, it can nurture microcystin.

Even if we go out of our way to buy local, sustainable products from farmers markets and local sources,  our tax dollars still go to support polluting factory farms and the crops that fuel the animals. Sierra Club has been battling this kind of pollution since the late 1990s, fighting for stronger laws, regulations and enforcement of animal factories. And we spearheaded Less=More, a coalition that seeks to end subsidies to polluting factory farms and shift support to sustainable agriculture.

HELP THE LESS=MORE CAMPAIGN AND SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE


What happened in Lake Erie wasn't a fluke. It will happen again there or somewhere else, because industrial agriculture dominates our food landscape. We're working hard to change that reality, and you can help. Get involved in  Less=More today!
  • Get educated. Learn more about  our campaign to end factory farm subsidies and check out our documentary,  Local, Healthy Food: The Real Bargain for the story of food in Michigan.
  • Show your support. Join  Less=More online and help us keep the pressure on state agencies to shift subsidy support to sustainable farming by donating to the Less=More campaign.
  • Stay in the loop. Follow us on  Facebook and Twitter  @MoreforMichigan
  • Sierra Club Michigan's volunteer Agriculture Committee is dedicated to the principle of building a sustainable food system without factory farms. It works to support farms that improve the soil, conserve biodiversity and habitats, and produce safe, healthy food, where workers are treated with respect, animals are treat humanely, and vibrant communities are maintained.Interested in learning more? Contact  pdmac@mac.com
  • Questions? Contact  Gail Philbin.


WILLIAMSTON BASED "NATURE DISCOVERY" BRINGS WILD ANIMALS TO ANNUAL RETREAT


Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 10.17.49 AM.png
Join us to see Jim McGrath present
Michigan's wild, native species!
This year's annual retreat will include various recreational activities to appeal to all age groups, including wildlife presentations from  Nature Discovery based out of Williamston, Michigan. The organization works to educate audiences about indigenous wildlife and the importance of protecting biodiversity.

A wildlife expert will focus on the diverse group of animals that the state of Michigan hosts. This will include over 40 species of turtles, frogs, salamanders, and other species native to the state. Presentations include live predator/prey relationships, real representations of each animal's habitat and how each occupies its niche.
The activity allows the audience to participate by closely inspecting the animals as well as asking questions about their traits and the most effective ways that humans can ensure their protection. The presentation will show retreat participants how climate change affects these especially vulnerable creatures.
Don't forget to  register for the retreat soon so that you can enjoy this activity andmany more!

Visit our  eBay page to help us provide scholarships for those who want to attend this year's retreat. Contact  Cecilia Garcia for more information. 


CECILIA'S PLEA FOR A LAPTOP


cecilia.JPG
Help Cecilia Get Back to Work with a New Computer!
Cecilia Garcia, dedicated member of our Michigan Chapter staff takes care of our everyday logistics, including organizing our annual retreat, managing member concerns and just about everything else. Unfortunately, what Cecila also deals with is an archaic laptop that gives her daily struggles.
We're asking supporters to  spare a few dollars if possible to help this overachieving member of the team purchase a new laptop that will speed up efficiency in the office and make her life a little easier.

As a non-profit, Sierra Club works to serve both the environment and the people who occupy it. However, we need the critical tools to continue carrying out these missions. It's everyday people who make our everyday work fighting for environmental protection a success!
Thanks for helping out and allowing Cecilia to do what she does best!
Contact Jan O'Connell at 616-956-6646 or jan.oconnell@sierraclub.org to help, OR just send a check made out toSierra Club Michigan Chapter to 109 E. Grand River Ave, Lansing, MI 48906. Donations to the Sierra Club are not tax-deductible because they support our effective citizen based advocacy and lobbying efforts!  You can also  click here to make a secure donation online.

EXPLORE AND ENJOY! SYLVANIA WILDERNESS


Sierra Club is committed to "exploring, enjoying and protecting the planet." The Michigan Chapter Update includes features on exploring and enjoying places in Michigan. Chapter Conservation Director Anne Woiwode talks about one of her favorite places:  Sylvania Wilderness in the Ottawa National Forest

Sylvania Wilderness, photo by John Rebers
Sylvania wilderness is a paddler's paradise, with thirty-
four named lakes. Photo by John Rebers
The Sylvania Wilderness, on the Wisconsin border near Watersmeet, sits on the divide between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basins, making the crystal clear waters in the extraordinary complex of lakes found there almost chemically identical to rainfall. With no motors allowedwithin the wilderness boundaries, paddlers enjoy an exquisite sense of solitude on the thirty-four named lakes found in the 18,327 acre wilderness. Sierra Club was instrumental in securing Congressional designation of Sylvania and nine other Michigan Forest Service wildernesses in 1987, and the wisdom of that designation becomes more apparent every year.

Please plan your trip carefully - make sure you obtain up to date  maps, carry a compass and be prepared with whatever gear you will need for your planned activities, with a margin for error to protect against unforeseen mishapsdominated by ancient red and white pines surround the lakes, and at times visitors will delight in rare orchids and wildflowers. Common loonsclaim these lakes as their own, so during the summer months you can almost guarantee that you'll hear their haunting calls. Wolves, eagles, and ospreyare also found in the area.

Visitors can enjoy this area all year round with skiing and snow shoeing as an option in the winter, as well as hiking trails. Most visitors enjoy the area from kayaks or canoes, starting their adventure at the carry down boat ramps on Clark Lake or Crooked Lake. Nearby outfitters are available to provide gear and guidance on enjoying Sylvania. Fishing is allowed with a state permit and special regulations for the area available at the Entrance Station. A limited number of well dispersed campsites are found within the wilderness in order to protect the delicate ecosystem, and must be reserved. Drive in camping is also available outside of the wilderness at the Clark Lake campground. Part of Crooked Lake is outside the wilderness and a handful of homes and a small non-motorized resort occupy part of the northern lobe of the lake. You may encounter small motorized boats outside the wilderness boundary on Crooked Lake.

Visiting Sylvania wilderness should be on the list for everyone who wishes to know parts of Michigan that are virtually unchanged from the time of first human habitation. Our efforts under state and federal laws to protect exquisite areas like this pay off for generations yet to come, but vigilance is essential to defend and protect them into the future.

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Lansing, MI 48906 
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Header photo Near Andrus Lake, Upper Michigan, by Beverly Wolf.