Aug 21, 2015

Deep Well Injection in Michigan: Deepening Our Understanding and Exploring What We Can Do About It

Injection well
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has received applications for permits for deep well injection activity in more than a dozen counties. Is your county one of them? What does it mean for you and your family? Find out at our workshop Sep. 26!
What do you know about deep injection wells in Michigan? If the answer is "not much," then please consider joining us on Sep. 26 at Alma College for an important workshop about the environmental risks this activity (taking place in counties around the state) poses to our water quality and environment. 
WHATDeep Well Injection in Michigan: Deepening Our Understanding and Exploring What We Can Do About It
WHEN: Sat., Sep 26, 10am - 2pm
WHERE: Alma College, 614 W. Superior St., Alma; Room L4 of the DOW/KAPP Bldg.
Permits for injection wells containing hazardous substances posing a serious threat to water quality are increasing in Michigan, yet most people including local public officials know little about them. In an effort to educate Michigan citizens and local governments, Sierra Club has paired with Grobbel Environmental & Planning Associates to present a workshop on about the history, purpose and risks of injection wells in Michigan. 
Christopher P. Grobbel, PhD, is an environmental consultant based in Traverse City and  MSU professor of environmental planning and management, environmental impact assessment, environmental law, and sustainability studies. 
Christopher P. Grobbel, PhD, will present "Deep Well Injection in Michigan: Deepening Our Understanding and Exploring What We Can Do About It" on Saturday, Sep. 26, from 10am - 2pm at Alma College, 614 W. Superior St. The event takes place in Room L4 of the DOW/KAPP building. 
Grobbel will lay out the context for this activity in Michigan and then explore the environmental risk associated with it and how the public can get involved in the process. Grobbel's presentation will cover the history and regulatory framework of injections wells, the technology and geology involved in Michigan, and dangers such as spills and seismic activity.  
On or before Sep. 18: $25 general public/$15 students (with ID). The cost covers lunch and all conference materials.
After Sep. 18: $35 for the general public; $20 for studentsFinal registration deadline is Sep. 25. No walk-ins. 
To register, email me at or call 616-805-3063. I hope to see you on September 26th in Alma!

Jul 29, 2015

Sierra Club Seeking Communication Internship Applicants

Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Communications Internship

What is the Sierra Club?
The Sierra Club's members and supporters are more than 2.4 million of your friends and neighbors.  Inspired by nature, we work together to protect our communities and the planet. Founded in 1892, the Club is America's oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. Our mission is to: (1) Explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; (2) Practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; (3) Educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and (4) Use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.

Internship Responsibilities
In this internship, you will directly assist the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter staff in communicating to our members, the public and the media with a focus on environmental advocacy. Potential responsibilities include helping plan the Sierra Club’s online newsletter, tracking media hits, maintaining media email contact lists, writing articles about environmental topics, managing social media accounts, preparing social media reports for the chapter’s Executive Committee, website support, drafting press releases, helping create educational presentations, organizing events, assisting with public outreach, working with Sierra Club volunteers to carry out environmental campaign priorities, research, data entry and office work as needed.

The ideal applicant will have good writing and research skills, a knowledge or interest in environmental issues,
a knowledge or interest in communication and social media, and be proficient in Microsoft Office applications and Google Documents.  They will be able to take direction on projects and work independently.

Internship positions are available for spring (January-May), summer (May-August), and fall (August-December) semesters, and can be shortened or extended as needed. This internship is unpaid, but can earn you class credit. The internship is housed in our Lansing office, located at 109 E. Grand River Ave. Lansing, MI 48906. Internships can be arranged for between 15 to 25 hours per week, with flexible scheduling, primarily during business hours (9am-6pm).

To apply, send resume to and, with a brief (one-two paragraphs) statement describing your interest in this internship.

Mike Berkowitz
Legislative & Political Director
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter

109 E. Grand River Ave.
Lansing, MI 48906

Office: (517) 484-2372 Ext. 13 

Jun 23, 2015

TAKE ACTION: Tell Legislators to Vote for Clean Energy

The House and Senate Energy Policy Committees are reviewing Michigan's energy laws this year. Will they decide to double down on dirty coal, fracked natural gas, nuclear and other polluting sources or will they move boldly toward a clean energy future? We have a chance to get more renewable energy and efficiency built into Michigan's energy policy but we need your help to make this happen.

PLEASE review the talking points below, and then call any of these State Representatives and Senators on the Energy Committees and tell them to vote in support of renewable energy and efficiency:

Committee Leadership
Sen. Mike Noffs (R-Battle Creek) Committee Chair, (517) 373-2426
Sen. John Proos (R-St. Joseph) Majority Vice-Chair, (517) 373-6960
Sen. Hon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor) Minority Vice-Chair (517) 373-7800

Southeast Michigan
Sen. Joe Hune (R-Hamburg) (517) 373-2420
Sen. Dale Zorn (R-Monroe) (517) 373-3543
Sen. David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights) (517) 373-0994
Sen. Steven Bieda (D-Warren) (517) 373-8360

Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) (517) 373-1760
Sen. Mike Shirkey (R-Hillsdale) (517) 373-5932

West Michigan
Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton) (517) 373-0793

Committee Leadership
Rep. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) Committee Chair, (517) 373-0839
Rep. Gary Glenn (R-Midland) Majority Vice-Chair, (517) 373-1791
Rep. Bill LaVoy (D-Monroe) Minority Vice-Chair (517) 373-1530

Southeast Michigan
Rep. Wendell Byrd (D-Detroit) (517) 373-0144
Rep. LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit) (517) 373-2276
Rep. Derek Miller (D-Warren) (517) 373-1772
Rep. Julie Plawecki (D-Dearborn Heights) (517) 373-0849
Rep. Robert Kosowski (D-Westland) (517) 373-2576
Rep. Jason Sheppard (R-Clayton) (517) 373-2617
Rep. Michael Webber (R-Rochester Hills) (517) 373-1773
Rep. Marilyn Lane (D-Fraser) (517) 373-0159
Rep. Bradford Jacobsen (R-Oxford) (517) 373-1798
Rep. Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Twp) (517) 373-0843

Rep. Tom Barrett (R-Grand Ledge) (517) 373-0853
Rep. Brett Roberts (R-Clark Lake) (517) 373-1775
Rep. Rick Outman (R-Six Lakes) (517) 373-0834

West Michigan
Rep. Holly Hughes (R-Montague) (517) 373-3436
Rep. David Maturen (R-Marshall) (517) 373-1787

Northern Michigan
Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) (517) 373-0850
Rep. John Kivela (D-Marquette) (517) 373-0498
Rep. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) (517) 373-0156
Rep. Peter Pettalia (R-Presque Isle) (517) 373-0833
Rep. Triston Cole (R-Kewadin) (517) 373-0829

Please share this link with anyone who might be willing to help!

Thank you,

Mike Berkowitz
Legislative & Political Director
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter

109 E. Grand River Ave.
Lansing, MI 48906
Office: (517) 484-2372 Ext. 13 
Cell: (248) 345-9808

Sierra Club's Clean Energy Talking Points

·         The Sierra Club opposes Rep. Aric Nesbitt’s energy legislation (House Bill 4297) which would eliminate our state’s energy efficiency program and classify waste incineration as renewable energy.
·         The Sierra Club supports Democratic energy legislation (HB 4518-4519, HB 4055 and SB 295-297) which would increase Michigan’s Renewable Energy Standard to 20% by 2022 and increase the efficiency standard to 2%.

·         The Sierra Club opposes Sen. John Proos' energy legislation (Senate Bill 438) which would sunset Michigan’s Energy Optimization standard in 2019, repeal Michigan’s Renewable Energy Standard, establish a definition for “clean energy” that includes polluting fossil fuels, implement a voluntary green pricing program, eliminate net metering, and destroy the distributed energy market.

·         In 2008, the Michigan Legislature passed the Clean, Renewable, and Efficient Energy Act (Public Act 295).
o   The law put in place a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) that requires Michigan’s utility companies to generate 10% of their electricity from clean and renewable sources by 2015.
o   The law also created an Energy Efficiency Program which requires Michigan’s utility companies to help their customers use energy more efficiently by 1% every year.
·         PA 295 of 2008 has been a success, but we need to do more.
o   Utility companies in Michigan are on track to meet the 10% goal. Despite that success, most utilities have made it clear they will do nothing more than they are required to, even though renewable energy is cheaper and cleaner than fossil fuel options. Without a more aggressive renewable standard, progress toward clean energy in Michigan will come to a standstill at the end of 2015.
o   Since 2008, we’ve seen a dramatic reduction in the cost of renewable energy, with the latest wind energy contracts coming in at less than half the cost of new coal and comparable to natural gas.1
o   Michigan’s Energy Efficiency program has provided the cheapest source of new power (over 6 times cheaper than coal) by shaving off demand for energy. For every $1 invested in energy efficiency, customers are saving more than $3.55.2
o   However, a spending cap in the 2008 law on the energy efficiency program prevents utilities from meeting their full customers’ demand.
o   According to the Michigan Public Service Commission’s (MPSC) 2013 report, Michigan could achieve a RES of 30%, given the resources we have in the state today.1
·         Increasing Michigan’s use of renewable energy and energy efficiency will create jobs, spark investment and launch new businesses in our state.
o   Homegrown renewable energy and efficiency are strong economic drivers, attracting investment and creating jobs that can’t be shipped out of state or overseas.
o   Expanding our use of clean energy will build on our manufacturing strength and will allow us to retool and reopen closed manufacturing facilities.
o   Michigan spends $22 billion a year importing fuel into the state, for both transportation and power. We get 100% of our fuel for coal and nuclear energy and 80 percent of our natural gas from other states. 4
o   Solar, wind and efficiency are fuel free; once installed, the cost of energy is zero. That is all money that then gets spent in Michigan instead of sent out of state to import fuel.

·         Renewable energy and energy efficiency help rein in rising energy costs.
o   Moving to clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency will make electricity costs more affordable for Michigan families, who recently experienced double-digit rate increases because of the state’s reliance on coal imported from other states and foreign oil.
o   Renewable energy costs less than all other forms of energy.  While the costs of new coal and nuclear energy range from $108-$133 per MWh and natural gas averages $67 per MWh, wind energy costs between $43-59 per MWh, while energy efficiency costs $11 per MWh.1
o   According to the MPSC’s 2013 report, we could reduce our consumption of electricity by one-third over the next 10 years through energy efficiency.
·         Using more renewable energy and energy efficiency will reduce pollution, mitigate climate disaster, and give Michigan cleaner air and water.
o   Increasing our use of renewable energy and energy efficiency will give us cleaner air and water, protect our Great Lakes, reduce illness, and save lives.
o   Michigan’s coal plants emit dangerous levels of toxic pollutants like mercury, arsenic and chromium. Coal plant pollution also triggers 68,000 asthma attacks and causes 180 premature deaths every year in Michigan.5
o   Coal plants are the biggest point-source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, exacerbating climate disruption.6
o   Natural gas is not an acceptable alternative because Fracking threatens our water and releases methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas emission.
o   The Sierra Club opposes classifying waste incineration as renewable energy. Waste incineration does not produce renewable energy: it burns and destroys recyclable materials and emits high levels of pollution and carbon dioxide.

1MPSC Report on the Implementation of PA 295, February, 2013,and “Readying Michigan to Make Good Energy Decisions – Renewable Energy”, September 2013,
2MPSC Report on the Implementation of PA 295, February, 2012
3Hill Group Study, February 2012
4US Energy Information Website
 5 Michigan Environmental Council Report of Public Health Impacts of Coal-Fired Plants in Michigan, 2011
6US Environmental Protection Agency Website

May 12, 2015

TAKE ACTION: Tell Legislators to Vote "NO" on Pipeline Secrecy Bill

Sierra Club activists,

The House Oversight and Ethics Committee is reviewing a dangerous piece of legislation that we have a chance to stop. House Bill 4540 that would amend Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act to permanently block public access to energy system safety records in Michigan. This would include high-risk pipelines like the one running through the Straits of Mackinac operated by the controversial Canadian oil conglomerate Enbridge, Inc.

We need your help to stop this legislation!

PLEASE review the talking points below, and then call the State Representatives on the House Oversight and Ethics Committee and tell them to vote NO on House Bill 4540:

Rep. Ed McBroom (R) Committee Chair, (517) 373-0156
Rep. Martin Howrylak (R) Majority Vice-Chair, (517)373-1783
Rep. Joseph Graves (R) (517) 373-1780
Rep. Lana Theis (R) (517) 373-1784
Rep. Rose Mary Robinson (D) Minority Vice-Chair (517) 373-1008
Rep. Kristy Pagan (D) (517) 373-2575

Please share this link with anyone who might be willing to help!

Thank you,

Mike Berkowitz
Legislative & Political Director
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter

109 E. Grand River Ave.
Lansing, MI 48906
Office: (517) 484-2372 Ext. 13 
Cell: (248) 345-9808

May 12, 2015

To: Chairman McBroom and members of the House Oversight and Ethics Committee

RE: House Bill 4540

On behalf of our 60,000 members and supporters in Michigan, the Sierra Club urges a NO vote on HB 4540 (Heise), a bill that would amend Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act to permanently block public access to energy system safety records in Michigan. This would include high-risk pipelines like the one running through the Straits of Mackinac operated by the controversial Canadian oil conglomerate Enbridge, Inc.

Enbridge’s twin Line 5 pipelines through the Straits of Mackinac have been the subject of intense public interest since it was publicly revealed in early 2014 that the 60-year old lines pose a serious threat to the Great Lakes and northern Michigan communities and businesses.  A pipeline spill here would contaminate the Great Lakes and collapse the northern Michigan tourist economy.  Michigan citizens need to know more, not less, about the safety of Enbridge’s pipelines and all pipelines in Michigan. This bill won’t make us safer: it will do the opposite.  It was the oil and gas industry’s failures to comply with safety regulations and protocols that caused the largest inland oil spill in America in Marshall, Michigan, along with dozens of other spills across the nation.  The industry’s failures are what pose an immediate threat to property, communities and the environment, not the public’s right to know about those failures.

HB 4540, as introduced, would preclude property owners from finding out basic details about the pipelines that run through their property. Basic information “about the production, generation, transportation, transmission, or distribution of fuel or energy” would be exempt from Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act under this proposal.  That means state-level bureaucrats that have been given information by a pipeline company that has access to your property (e.g. Enbridge, or natural gas pipeline companies proposing the Vector and ET Rover pipelines) would not be allowed to tell you what materials are getting pumped through the pipeline on your property, where that product is going, or what plans the company has in the event that the pipeline ruptures on your property.  HB 4540 would potentially also block citizens from finding out information about the electric power plants and oil refineries putting pollution into their water, their air, and their communities. Michigan’s laws should protect Michigan’s property owners and public health.  But HB4540 would, instead, put property owners and the public health at risk.

In addition, this legislation is unnecessary because federal rules already address national security issues when it comes to pipelines.  Moreover, Michigan’s FOIA law already has a provision that exempts from disclosure records that would jeopardize our safety and security. The exemption proposed in HB 4540 for "critical energy infrastructure" is excessive since information that would make infrastructure vulnerable to a terrorist attack is already exempt from disclosure.

Not only is this legislation unnecessary, the language in it is so broad it could have major unintended consequences. Exempting information that "could be useful to a person planning an attack on critical energy infrastructure” could block access to all aspects of pipeline and electricity infrastructure/operations, including information that has nothing to do with safety or security. At a minimum, this definition and clause must be limited to already existing language from federal rules.
HB 4540 would result in Michigan citizens having less access to information about interstate pipeline safety than citizens of other states. Michigan citizens should not be treated as less trustworthy than residents of neighboring states.

The current FOIA appeal process is already overly burdensome. The process includes an appeal to the head of an agency, which typically confirms the denial, and then another appeal to the circuit court. People should not have to go to circuit court in order to see public records that may shed light on pipeline safety, maintenance, and potential environmental catastrophes. HB 4540 would make the process even more burdensome for Michigan’s citizens.

For these reasons, we urge you to vote NO on HB 4540. Votes pertaining to this bill will be included in the Sierra Club’s legislative scorecard.


Mike Berkowitz
Legislative and Political Director
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter