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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sierra Club launches sustainable agriculture testimonials, Western Michigan University student project

Rosemary Parker | rparker3@mlive.comBy Rosemary Parker | rparker3@mlive.com 
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on June 26, 2014 at 8:54 AM, updated June 26, 2014 at 8:57 AM

KALAMAZOO, MI -- How do Michigan farmers and consumers feel about food from local farmers?

Since last month Erin Denay has been posing that question at farmers markets across the state to create enough video snippets to roll out one a day during the  month of July, part of a collaborative project with Sierra Club, said Gail Philbin, assistant director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.

"We really want consumers and farmers already involved in the sustainable agriculture  scene to understand there are people supporting them," said Denay, 22, of Bay City. She is a senior at Western Michigan University majoring in environmental and sustainability studies and organizational communication.

Sustainable agriculture, she said, is farming that "revolves around the well-being of the surrounding environment, people, and animals while producing healthy, high-quality food that protects the quality of the land and water for future generations.

In the series of one-minute video testimonials produced by the Less=More sustainable agriculture coalition, Michigan residents talk about why meat, dairy, poultry and eggs that are locally grown under humane conditions are important to them, their communities and local economies, a news release from Sierra Club said.

"Sustainable agriculture is farming that revolves around the well-being of the surrounding environment, people, and animals," Denay said, " so as to produce healthy, high-quality food that protects the quality of the land and water for future generations."

"We want them to know we are here for them," Denay said, "and to draw more attention and tax dollars to them," the farms practicing sustainable agriculture methods.

Maynard Beery of Beery Farms in Middleville, for instance, told Denay that though he could not keep up with soaring demand for his grass fed beef "there is no way that I can compete with a 50,000 animal feedlot. They're happy if they wind up with $10 a head in profit and no, that's not going to support myself and my son."

Farm subsidies for which he  currently does not qualify would allow his farm to expand, he said.

The project also hopes to let people know there are 300 farmers markets in Michigan, and lots of choices when it comes to shopping for food. "We want to illuminate the opportunities to eat local, sustainable healthy food," Denay said.

What were the most promising findings of Denay's interviews?

"The appetite, pardon the pun, for local, healthy food is alive and well in Michigan," Philbin said.

The series kicks off July 1 with the release of the testimonial of Jill Johnson and Mary Wills of Crane Dance Farm in Middleville via Less=More's Twitter account, @MoreforMichigan, and its Facebook page.

The remainder of that week the videos feature Kalamazoo farmers and consumers, Denay said.

"Being involved with this project has made me so much more aware of the healthy, high-quality food that is being made available by small-scale sustainable farmers in Michigan communities," Denay said. "I want this testimonial series to really highlight the wonderful things they are doing and why they deserve our support so they can succeed and grow and continue to provide for their communities."

Sierra Club believes issues such as antibiotic overuse, the viability of local economies,  climate change, fair wages and working conditions for workers and animal welfare can be traced back to how food is grown.

"Many consumers are searching for a way to have some control over the food they eat because they are disillusioned or disgusted with the industrial food system," she said. "Growing your own food or buying from local farmers they know is a good way to do that."

Sierra Club is a member of the Less=More Coalition, producers of the video series. The group is made up of national, state and local organizations as well as consumers and farmers who support sustainable agriculture and seek to level the playing field for sustainable livestock farmers.

Specifically, the coalition is tackling inequities in the subsidy system that the coalition argues is weighted toward concentrated livestock operations.

In 2013, the coalition's report "Restoring the Balance to Michigan's Farming Landscape" noted that some farms continue to receive taxpayer-funded subsidies even when they have been fined for violations of environmental law and blasted the farm subsidy system for favoring concentrated animal feeding operations in the award of funds.

Less=More members include: Beery Farms of Michigan, LLC, the Center for Food Safety, Crane Dance Farm, LLC, ELFCO Food Cooperative, Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, Food & Water Watch, Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council, Groundswell Farm, Zeeland, Humane Society of the United States, Michigan Farmers Union, Michigan Small Farm Council, Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition, Michigan Voices for Good Food Policy, Michigan Young Farmers Coalition, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Socially Responsible Agricultural Project.

The coalition is also asking people to contribute their own food stories to the series. For more information on submitting a testimonial, email:Moreformichigansc@gmail.com

Friday, June 13, 2014

Gov. Snyder and lawmakers urged to take steps to meet EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan

Gov. Snyder and lawmakers urged to take steps to meet EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan
This guest post was written by Sue Browne, Regional Program Manager for the BlueGreen Alliance.
On Tuesday at the Michigan AFL-CIO offices in Lansing, labor and environmental leaders called on Governor Snyder and state and local lawmakers to take the lead in crafting a flexible state plan to help Michigan meet its emissions reduction targets, as laid out in EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The plan includes the first ever proposal of its kind to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants—while also expanding renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts that create jobs across the state.
Mike Schulte, a staff representative with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Bryan Grochowski of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Dave Holtz Chair of the Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter also advocated for renewing the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which is set to expire next year.
The RPS is not only saving consumers on their energy bills, but can also help the state to meet the emissions reductions targets laid out by EPA. “We can’t start soon enough on the important conversations about how to make these standards work best for Michigan,” said Mike Schulte with CWA. “It is important that Governor Snyder, lawmakers and community leaders begin the work of finding out which actions best build on our economic strengths while achieving the necessary reductions in carbon emissions.”

The leaders urged Michigan lawmakers and Governor Snyder to craft a proposal that responsibly reduces carbon pollution from key sources, upgrades infrastructure, and expands clean energy and energy efficient technologies. They emphasized that doing so will build on the progress Michigan has already made in clean energy technology—spurred by state policies like the Renewable Portfolio Standard—while creating and maintaining middle class jobs and helping to revitalize the state’s manufacturing sector.
“We are working to ensure that Michigan’s leaders will get to work crafting compliance mechanisms that are best suited to the local and regional economies,” said Bryan Grochowski with SEIU. “We need solutions that will protect existing jobs—while reducing carbon pollution—and create new job opportunities, encourage investment, and jumpstart new technologies.”
The group said the Clean Power Plan is a step forward as America works to tackle the effects of climate change, while also ensuring power reliability and fostering economic stability.
Michigan’s clean economy is helping power the state’s recovery, employing more than 76,000 workers. As Michigan expands its clean energy production, the renewable energy industry could support nearly 21,000 jobs in manufacturing alone by 2020, if the industry sources components from local manufacturers. 

“Michigan has made great progress in clean energy technology and that’s been spurred by state policies like the Renewable Portfolio Standard,” said Dave Holtz with Sierra Club. “Clean, renewable energy has created and maintained middle class jobs and helped revitalize the state’s manufacturing sector. Our progress will stall if the state’s standard is allowed to expire in 2015.” In the third quarter of 2013, Michigan ranked fourth in the nation in clean energy jobs announced. Michigan’s clean energy sector supports 20,500 jobs and $5 billion in annual economic activity.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Official Price of the Enbridge Kalamazoo Spill, A Whopping $1,039,000,000

Mon, 2013-08-26 14:26CAROL LINNITT
Carol Linnitt's picture

Official Price of the Enbridge Kalamazoo Spill, A Whopping $1,039,000,000

Enbridge Kalamazoo oil spill
The largest onshore oil spill in US history - Enbridge'sruptured Line 6B that released nearly 3 million liters of tar sands diluted bitumen into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan - finally has an official price tag: $1,039,000,000 USD. That's according tonewly disclosed figures released by Enbridge in aRevised Application to expand another one of its pipelines, the Alberta Clipper.
The total cost, which includes clean up and remediation, was topped off with an additional $3,699,200 fine levied by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). According to the docket, Enbridge violated several laws involving pipeline management, procedural manuals for operations and maintenance, public awareness, accident reporting and qualifications among others.
The spill, which went unaddressed for over 17 hours, was exacerbated by Enbridge's failed response according to the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). At a hearing last year the NTSB's chair Deborah Hersman likened the company to a band of Keystone Kops for their bungled response, which included twice pumping additional crude into the line - accounting for 81 percent of the total release - before initiating emergency shut down. The disaster revealed numerous internal problems within Enbridge that were further described by the NTSB as “pervasive organizational failures.”
Communities along Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan experienced sickness from the fumes associated with the spilled dilbit, or diluted bitumen, that blanketed miles of intersecting wetlands and waterways. Dilbit is a mixture of heavy oil from the Alberta tar sands and corrosive liquid chemicals, including benzene known to cause cancer in humans, that allow the viscous crude to flow.
The particular composition of dilbit is in part responsible for the spill's high costs - nearly 10 times more than any other onshore spill - because of dilbit from the tar sands which sinks in water, rather than floating like conventional oil. Enbridge, despite several attempts to clear the riverbed of remaining oil, spent nearly 3 years working on clean up of submerged oil.
As recently as March 2013 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered Enbridge toperform additional dredging in the Kalamazoo to clean up unrecovered oil along the river's bottom.
At the time of the spill Mark Durno, a deputy incident commander with the EPA told InsideClimate News “submerged oil is what makes this thing more unique than even the Gulf of Mexico situation.” Because Enbridge did not disclose to federal and local officials the contents of the pipeline, it wasn't until a week later that responders knew what they were dealing with.
PHMSA records show that the defect that led to the 6 and a half foot gash in the side of Line 6B was detected at least three times before the incident, although neither Enbridge nor the federal regulator felt the damage required repair.
In a recently-released report addressing Enbridge's Line 9, pipeline safety expert Richard Kuprewicz claimed Enbridge “has a culture where safety management seems to not be a critical part of their operation.”
Currently Enbridge has several proposed pipeline plans including the Northern Gateway Pipelinethat would carry tar sands crude to the British Columbia coast and Line 9 that would transport tar sands crude to the eastern seaboard. Both lines would open the coasts to export opportunities. Local communities point to Kalamazoo and sinking dilbit as reasons coastal ports should not consider carrying tar sands crude on oil tankers bound for Asian or other shores.
Enbridge's most current application, a 'Certificate of Need for a Crude Oil Pipeline,' was presented to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission this month as a part of Enbridge's “ongoing efforts to meet North America's needs for reliable and secure transportation of petroleum energy supplies” via the Alberta Clipper.
The Alberta Clipper, or Line 67, will increase its capacity from 570,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 800,000 bpd should the application be approved. The application is the second phase of Enbridge's proposed capacity increase for the Alberta Clipper. The first application, filed October 8, 2012, initially proposed the line be increased to 570,000 from 450,000 bpd.
Currently the line carries crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta to terminal facilities in Superior, Wisonsin where the line meets up with Enbridge's Mainline System for distribution across the US.
Image Credit: EPA

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Court upholds UP ethanol plant review but project likely dropped

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) had assessed the project’s implications for forest resources, wetlands and air quality. That review “adequately supported its finding that the plant would not have significant impact on the environment,” the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.
But Sierra Club forest ecologist Marvin Roberson called the promised federal grant “a boondoggle then and it’s even more of a boondoggle now. “It takes so much wood that we thought it was a lousy use of our forest resources,” said Roberson, who is based in Marquette County. “It’s not just an environmental issue or just an economic issue. Are we going to use a whole boatload of our resources and produce very little energy?” he said.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Menu for success — renewables, efficiency

June 4, 2014

Menu for success — renewables, efficiency

Cherryland Electric Cooperative’s Tony Anderson (May 5 forum) says no single energy source can protect our environment and pocketbooks; our “energy plate’s” main course must be coal, natural gas, or nuclear, with energy efficiency and renewables sprinkled on top.
His recipe is upside down; sticking with it will cook our goose. In fact, the goose is in the oven: Michigan’s energy recipe is 49 percent coal, 25 percent nuclear power, and 20 percent gas, with just 5 percent renewables (headed for 10 percent, thanks to state law) and 1 percent efficiency per year sprinkled on top. Those main ingredients have problems.
Coal’s costs far outweigh its benefits. Prices are high because fuel transportation and mining costs are growing very expensive. And importing it annually exports $1.2 billion to coal states.
Pollution from Michigan’s nine oldest coal plants annually cost us $1.5 billion in health care. Also their mercury emissions make some fish in every lake and river dangerous dining. Coal’s high carbon emissions cause climate disruption, which is linked to historically low Great Lakes water levels and destruction of cherry and apple crops.
Natural gas is cleaner than coal, with half the carbon, but fracking goes far beyond traditional extraction. It drills deeper vertically and farther horizontally, permanently poisons 100 times more fresh water, and injects toxic stews into the ground. There were 170 contaminated water sites, including well water, in the northern Michigan area reported in 2009. There have been at least 10 accidental and deliberate fracking fluid spills and oil and gas accidents since 2010 in our immediate area. Some heavily fracked states have endured unsafe drinking water, higher toxic air pollution levels, and soil and water contamination.
Nuclear ties up huge financial and natural resources, and poses grave safety and health problems in any serious accident. South Haven’s Palisades plant reported seven leaks since 2012; six caused shutdowns.
Renewables cannot be just sprinkles on top. New wind power is far cheaper than new coal, is just as reliable, pollutes nothing, and keeps more hard-earned dollars cycling through Michigan’s economy rather than headed to Wyoming.
Solar power prices are half what they were a few years ago; energy efficiency measures are the cheapest form of power; Gov. Rick Snyder’s renewables and efficiency reports find room for big servings of both — far healthier fare with the same tab.
We don’t have to consume dirty energy that hampers our health, economy, and Great Lakes. Our state’s elected leaders should increase Michigan’s renewable energy standard and prod those monopolies to foster new, clean-energy developments that replace lost tax revenues and produce new jobs.
This is no fantasy: Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana are following a regional energy plan that uses wind power and efficiency to move almost entirely away from fossil fuels and hydroelectricity by 2030.
Renewables and efficiency must be our main course. For dessert, we’ll enjoy strong economic and public health, plenty of jobs, and national leadership in the unstoppable, global, clean-energy economy.
About the author: Rebecca Estelle-Skeels is chair of the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club’s Clearwater Conservation Committee. which covers Kalkaska, Antrim, Otsego, Crawford, Missaukee and Roscommon Counties.