The Skywriter

Guest blog: Michigan activists smack down dirty energy


Guest blog: Michigan activists smack down dirty energy


By Jesse Worker, former 1Sky organizer and clean energy organizer for Clean Water Michigan. -- Luis

Within just two weeks in April, the massive risks of fossil fuel reliance to our security, economy and environment were exposed in two tragic disasters in West Virginia and the Gulf of Mexico. The astounding arrogance in Massey Energy’s disregard for safety regulations and BP’s unwillingness to share information on the extent the Deepwater Horizon leak has rightfully fueled the public outrage at these catastrophes.

While disasters such as these can lead to large-scale political action (take note, Obama), organizers and activists have been in a constant fight against the dirty energy plants that endanger their communities. As 1Sky activists organized Dirty Energy Hunts across the country, several groups in Michigan have succeeded recently in protecting Michiganders from new coal plants.

Rhonda Anderson, community activist from Southwest Detroit and organizer for the Sierra Club, did not need the coal mine and oil well disasters to wake her up to the injustice imposed by dirty energy plants on local communities. Ms. Anderson has been on the front lines to raise awareness of the disparate impact of dirty energy pollution on the communities of Southwest Detroit, Ecorse, and River Rouge. These three communities are within close proximity of multiple coal-fired power plants, including in River Rouge, Trenton, and Wyandotte, as well as a Marathon oil refinery. There are elevated levels of chronic diseases, such as asthma, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, from being one of the most polluted areas in the state. Not only do these dirty energy plants pollute local communities, they stand in the way of clean energy jobs that could provide a much-needed stimulus to Detroit-area communities.

It is with this in mind that the Clean Energy Now! (CEN) came together to halt the construction of dirty, costly and unneeded new coal plants in Michigan. CEN includes environmental groups such as Sierra Club and Clean Water Action -- where I work -- as well as tribal, faith, hunting and angling, and community-based organizations. At the outset of 2010, there were six proposed coal plants in Michigan. In the past two weeks, that number has been reduced to four as Governor Granholm denied the air permit for proposed 600MW plant in Rogers City and Consumers Energy suspended plans to build an 830MW plant in Bay County.

Besides the health and environmental impacts and the disincentive to clean energy jobs, the denial of the Wolverine plant also pulled the rug from under Dirty Coal’s claims that coal is cheap. An analysis of the plant proposal showed that ratepayers would be paying a whopping $76.95 more per month in order to finance the plant -- a 60% increase!

These are huge victories for the many groups that have come together for a clean energy future. In the wake of these tragic disasters, Americans are calling on President Obama to push for a stronger climate bill in the Senate and to ensure that the EPA has the authority to crack down on oldest, dirty coal plants like the ones polluting the skies in Southwest Detroit. And yet, even as we respond to large-scale disasters, we must remember that dirty energy is constantly assaulting the health and economies of local economies. Let’s connect our climate activism in Washington with the work that communities in Michigan and across the country are doing, fighting on the front line to stop new dirty energy plants and clear the way for a clean energy future.

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