On November 4th, the Ecology Center hosted a Health and Energy Legislative Education Day in collaboration with its partner organizations including MI Air MI Health, Moms Clean Air Force, and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation-Michigan Chapter. The event was created because health professionals provide a unique perspective of translating the community level impact of policy level decisions. These health practitioners also play a critical role in policy advocacy to ensure that health is always a part of the consideration in making policies.
Over forty health professionals and students gathered at the Capitol to advocate for the inclusion of health as a consideration in shaping Michigan’s energy future. The group consisted of nurses, public health professionals and students from University of Michigan School of Public Health and Michigan State University College of Nursing.
A press conference was held on the steps of the Capitol building and included three registered nurses explaining the health impacts Michigan is currently facing due to our reliance on coal. In addition, the health advocates met with more than 25 legislators and staffers in Lansing to speak out against current energy packages, express their concerns as residents of the state and as health practitioners who work alongside communities.
Since then, state elected officials have altered proposed energy legislation. While some progress has been made in regards to incentivizing energy efficiency and an amendment was added for Michigan to have a goal of using 30% renewables by 2025, there are significant improvements that still need to be made. For starters, the 30% is only a goal and not a mandate or standard that utility companies must meet. House Bill 5205 has been amended to remove the burning of tires as a renewable energy source, but still sets a dangerous precedent by classifying incineration of hazardous waste as renewable energy. Michigan has been criticized for its awkward performance in protecting and promoting population health, with high rates of premature death, asthma, cardiovascular disease, and other pollution-related health problems. Should the bill pass, Michigan residents will remain vulnerable to the air pollution caused by some of the dirtiest and most-polluting sources of energy, which bring more challenges to the current health spectrum.
With world leaders gathering in Paris to discuss taking real steps to address climate change, we need our leaders here in Michigan to step up. Now is the time to contact your legislators and voice the importance of strong energy efficiency and renewable energy standards that will protect the environment and health of Michigan residents.