Mid-Michigan Initiatives on Climate Change

December 19, 2007
As the earth heats up and the polar ice melts, President Bush may be siting on his haunches, but all over the country other citizens -- politicians, states, localities, ordinary people -- are responding. There is civic movement on the issue of climate change.

The Progressive Connection has been investigating what concrete actions on climate change are happening in our community. Here is what we found.

Most of Michigan's electricity currently comes from polluting coal-burning power plants, and the purchase of out-of-state coal drains billions from the Michigan economy.

In January, 2007 Governor Granholm brought out the Michigan 21st Century Energy Plan, which supports Michigan's energy independence and economic development by reducing reliance on fossil fuels, increasing energy efficiency and using more of the state's renewable energy resources.

At the very same time the governor released her plan to promote green energy, Michigan's largest electric power companies have come out with proposals to build seven more coal burning power plants. They are making these proposals even as Michigan's demand for electricity has leveled off and even though other states have rejected construction of new coal-burning power plants (Kansas, Texas). New coal plants in Michigan are vigorously opposed by Clean Energy Now -- a coalition of eight Michigan environmental groups -- under the rallying cry "no coal rush." The coalition argues that wind energy, a leading renewable resource in Michigan, is both clean and cheaper than coal in the present market.

Meanwhile, in the Michigan legislature the House Energy and Technology Committee is about to report out a package of energy bills that will go a long way to determine Michigan's energy future. Environmental groups and utilities are furiously lobbying over these bills. At issue are how much effort Michigan will put into improving energy efficiency, how much renewable energy will be tapped, and what kind of planning will be required before companies can get approval to build new coal-fired generating plants. Citizens who want to help tip the balance in favor of a "greener" package of bills can contact Jan O'Connell at jan.oconnell@sierraclub.org, or 616-956-6646, or Gayle Miller at gayle.miller@sierraclub.org.

While the Michigan House deliberates on the state's energy future, mid-Michigan local governments have signed on to the Mayors' Agreement on Climate Protection. This agreement (now involving over 700 cities) commits individual municipalities to implement the Kyoto targets for reducing greenhouse emissions. In January 2007 at the "State of the City" address Lansing Mayor Bernero announced that Lansing would sign the agreement. In February East Lansing also signed the agreement. In September Meridian Township also joined in. Ingham County Commissioner Curtis Hertel is currently encouraging Ingham County to make a commitment similar to the Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement. All these units of mid-Michigan government are now gearing up by hiring staff, appointing committees, etc. to follow through by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. The Sierra Club Cool Cities Committee actively supports this effort. To find out more and help push for follow through, citizens can contact either Judy Kindall, CoChair of the local Sierra Club Cool Cities Committee at 332-3091 or kindel@msu.edu, or Amanda Hightree, amanda.hightree@sierraclub.org, 484-2372, the second CoChair of the committee.

Lastly, word is out that Lansing's Board of Water and Light, which serves both Lansing and East Lansing residents, is planning to construct a new electric generating plant. The type of plant has not been selected. This major decision directly affects East Lansing and Lansing residents who will buy the BWL electricity. Citizens who want the BWL to improve energy efficiency and use renewables before coal can contact Meridian Trustee John Veenstra for more information at 339-1427.

In short, if you care and worry about climate change, and you want to contribute practically to a constructive response, there is much happening in Mid Michigan and much you can do.

Bill Rittenberg
East Lansing
© Copyright 2007 Lansing Area Progressive Network.