Big Public Health Victory in Michigan as Coal Plant is Nixed
The Sierra Club won a hard-fought victory on December 2 when Consumers Energy, which provides electricity to 6.5 million of Michigan's 10 million residents, announced plans to cancel a proposed $3.5 billion coal plant near Bay City.
"This is a tremendous victory for Michigan, clean energy jobs, and families struggling to pay electric bills," says Michigan Sierra Club Director Anne Woiwode. "For years, the people of Michigan have spoken loud and clear: No more dirty coal. More clean, renewable energy."
Consumers Energy, the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy, also plans to shutter seven of its existing coal-fired units around the state by 2015. The announcement came after years of organizing and pushback on the proposal by neighboring communities and environmental groups.
Sierra Club activists rallied outside CMS Energy's shareholder meeting last year (left, right, and above), where the Club, Clean Water Action, Progress Michigan, and the Ecology Center delivered 8,000 petition signatures opposing the Bay City plant.
"This is a big victory for Sierra Club members and our allies who have have fought this coal plant for years," says Sierra Club organizer Tiffany Hartung. "Hundreds of Michiganders have spoken at hearings, sent letters to the editor, attended rallies, and submitted comments. The cancellation of this proposed $3.5 billion coal plant clears the way for clean energy job investments in Michigan."
For over two years the Sierra Club and local community groups have kept up a steady drumbeat of opposition to the Bay City coal plant, turning out in large numbers for public hearings and generating countless comments for each permit Consumers Energy sought. Below, a Coal Baron skit at the first air permit hearing on the Bay City plant.
Originally created by tribal activist and former Michigan Chapter staffer Lee Sprague, the Coal Baron would show up at coal rallies in a top hat and tuxedo. At far left in the photo above is Sierra Club volunteer Raymond Pfeiffer, also active with the local group Citizens Exploring Clean Energy, which formed to fight the Bay City plant. Pfeiffer traveled to Washington, DC, to lobby on coal ash and organized caepools of CECE volunteers to attend coal plant hearings throughout Michigan.
The Sierra Club kicked off its CMS/Consumers Energy campaign just before Thanksgiving in 2009 when activists rallied outside CMS headquarters and urged then-CEO David Joos not to be a turkey. That's Michigan Sierra Club activist and former Clean Water Action staffer Dan Owens, below. (The identity of the gobbler above is unknown at this writing.)
If built, the Bay City plant would have released 2,152 tons of sulfur dioxide and 63.4 pounds of mercury per year. Sulfur dioxide pollution is linked to asthma attacks, severe respiratory problems, lung disease, and heart complications. Mercury exposure puts pregnant women and their babies at risk for learning disabilities, developmental disorders, and lower IQs.
"This coal plant would have left Michigan families breathing polluted air and drinking contaminated water," says Mary Anne Hitt, director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "This is a big win for Michigan families and for clean energy."
The announcement scrapping the Bay City plant marks the 159th coal plant proposal that has been defeated since the beginning of the Beyond Coal Campaign in 2005.
"This is great news for the people of Michigan, and another important victory for Beyond Coal," says New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose Bloomberg Philanthropies recently donated $50 million to the Beyond Coal effort. "We are clearly witnessing the end of our dependency on coal and the move toward a cleaner energy future."
That's longtime volunteer leader Mark Muhich above at right. Muhich is a former Texas Chapter leader, originally from Jackson, Michigan, where CMS Energy's headquarters are located. Mark and other Jackson members helped organize against CMS in their home town against the plant
Other Michigan Chapter volunteers who played a key role in the Bay City campaign include Jim Matherly, below left, also a leader with Citizens Exploring Clean Energy, and Bob Simpson, below right at lectern, who testified at several public hearings about the plant.
Learn more about what the Sierra Club is doing to move America beyond coal.