Clean-energy focus in Governor’s message spurs optimism

Health advocates and environmental groups support cleaner power

A coalition of health-care professionals and environmental advocates from across Michigan, including the Ecology Center, are saluting Gov. Rick Snyder for highlighting clean energy as a priority for 2015.

In his state of the state speech last week, Snyder called for action to make energy in the state "affordable, reliable, environmentally sound and also adaptable." According to news reports, Snyder and the legislature are expected to set new targets for green power and energy efficiency later this year. The governor also announced the creation of a state energy agency.

“We need to reduce the amount of coal pollution generated by Michigan utilities,” according to Alexis Blizman, legislative and policy director at the Ecology Center. The Ecology Center joined with groups including MiAir/MiHealth, Moms’ Clean Air Force, and the Michigan chapter of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation to support the governor’s recognition of the need for cleaner energy in the state.

“As numerous government studies have shown, energy efficiency remains the cheapest way to reduce energy consumption, and by consuming less energy, we’ll reduce our reliance on electricity from dirty coal plants that threaten public health and pollute our air, land and water,” Blizman said

Burning coal to produce electricity sends a host of toxic pollutants, including mercury, nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, into the atmosphere. Coal pollutants have been found to contribute to heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases. Michigan’s asthma rate is 10 percent higher than the national rate, according to the Asthma Initiative of Michigan.

“Michigan’s overreliance on coal has significant negative health impacts on our children, seniors and families and by transitioning to clean renewable energy, we can reduce asthma exacerbations and lung disease complications,” according to Kathleen Slonager, a registered nurse and executive director of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of Michigan.

“As a healthcare professional who serves on the front lines, I’ve seen the dangerous impacts of our energy policy on the health of Michigan children, families and seniors,” according to physician Lawrence Hennessy, with the Okemos Allergy Center. “Michigan gets more than half of its electricity from burning coal and the pollution from coal plants has been linked to 68,000 cases of asthma and 180 premature deaths in Michigan each year.”

Kay Winokur, vice president of quality and professional services at Beaumont Hospital - Royal Oak, also spoke out in favor of cleaner energy. “By increasing our use of renewable energy like wind and solar and reducing energy waste, we will ultimately save lives,” she said.

EcoLink — January 2015
An online publication of the Ecology Center

Comments and questions are welcome.
Please send to EcoLink Editor.