Legislators allow renewable energy standard to lapse

Coalition to push for action early next year

A coalition of Michigan environmental organizations including the Ecology Center are fighting to see that the legislature acts quickly in 2015 to renew and expand the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, first enacted in 2008, which required utilities to generate 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2014, will lapse at the end of the year.

Instead of taking action to set new targets, some legislators actually proposed a new definition of renewable energy to including burning hazardous waste like tires to generate electricity; that bill passed in the House.


“While we were relieved that the Senate did not take up that harmful and ill-conceived legislation, we’re very disappointed that the legislature punted again and didn’t take action to put new renewable and efficiency standards in place,” according to Alexis Blizman, legislative and policy director at the Ecology Center.


“The state’s own reports show that renewable energy in Michigan is significantly less expensive than new coal-fired power, and that energy-efficiency programs are even more effective at meeting energy needs at a fraction of the cost of new power generation.”


With a strong focus on the health impacts of power generation, the Ecology Center is working with MI Air MI Health, a coalition of health and environmental groups, and Moms Clean Air Force, a national coalition.


Earlier this month, the groups hosted a legislative breakfast and press conference at the capitol to focus on the importance of health when considering energy policy. Many health professionals who have been part of the Ecology Center’s first group of Health Leader Fellows program attended the event and used their time to educate legislators about the importance of adopting clean energy policies.


During the sessions, Michigan Senator Gretchen Whitmer addressed the dangers of burning hazardous waste to generate electricity.


The proposal “makes a mockery of the efforts of health care professionals, families and hundreds of Michigan businesses to reduce dangerous pollution by using more real renewable energy such as wind and solar,” Whitmer said. “At a time when we’re seeing great success in the clean energy sector, it’s so disappointing that my colleagues are considering dangerous, irresponsible and absurd energy policy that allows some of the dirtiest, most-polluting sources of energy, including the burning of tires and railroad ties, to be counted as renewable.”


“As a healthcare professional who serves on the frontlines, I’ve seen first-hand the dangerous impacts of our energy policy on the health of Michigan children, families and seniors,” according to registered nurse Dave Errickson, a health fellow for MI Air MI Health. “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.”