Author: Liz Starke, Climate & Energy Coordinator
One of the core strategies of the Ecology Center's Climate & Energy team is strategic collaboration.
As the outreach coordinator for that team, I recently got inspired by a whole new group of incredible community organizers and campaign strategists at my first Clean Energy Now (CEN) coalition meeting. CEN is a coalition of environmental non-profits seeking to transition Michigan utilitues away from coal and to renewable energy as quickly as possible, attributing the urgency of this work to many environmental and human health concerns linked to burning coal.
Through CEN, I learned about yet another way in which burning coal attributes to human health concerns: sulfur dioxide emissions (SO2). Sulfur dioxide is known to cause asthma, emphysema and bronchitis, and even premature death. Exposure to SO2, even for just 5 minutes, can have significant health impacts -- specifically, it can aggravate asthma and existing heart disease, and lead to hospitalizations and premature deaths.
The Environmental Protection Agency has federal standards to limit the amount of SO2 coal plants can emit, but, unfortunately, DTE Energy's coal plants in River Rouge and Trenton Channel (both in Wayne County) still do not meet these federal standards. Even though this is jeopardizing the health of people in communities near these coal plants, the Michgian Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) hasn't stepped in to make DTE comply with these standards and reduce emissions.
We believe energy providers like DTE and Consumers Energy can do better to provide energy for Michigan residents that doesn't come at the cost of increased asthma and premature death.
A public hearing has been scheduled in River Rouge on the evening of March 11th to talk about DTE's emissions permits for these plants. Alongside Michigan's Sierra Club, we're encouraging our supporters to attend this hearing so MDEQ and EPA know that it's unacceptable to let DTE emit these dangerous SO2 emissions and jeopardize our health.
The Sierra Club is providing buses from Ann Arbor to River Rouge on March 11th, and we'd love it if you joined us. If you'd like to reserve a (free!) spot on the bus, you can get more info and sign up here.
I'll be on the bus because I know that this is a good opportunity to stand in solidarity with communities that are adversely and disproportionately impacted by environmental pollutants.
I live and work in Ann Arbor (as do many DTE executives, by the way). It's a relatively affluent area, and I am not subjected to living next to a coal plant or an incinerator or a refinery where air quality is a challenge every day. Still, I want to stand up for those who do have to live next to the dangerous consequences of our fossil fuel addiction, and advocate for a better future in which renewable energy is abundant, we can all breathe clean air, and public health is a priority. Will you join me?