Thursday, December 04, 2014

Take Action to Protect our Great Lakes Environment

We treasure the spectacular beauty of our waterways and natural landscapes in Michigan and with one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water, it is a truly unique area. But while our residents and visitors love the wonderful environment, it is something that must be guarded and protected.

We are under threat from climate change. We've seen toxic algae blooms, unprecedented flooding, and severe storms. Climate disruption is here and it’s affecting us now. It isn't a faraway concept affecting only our grandchildren. Regardless of political leanings, we must be smart and follow the science.  A great way to start is to move away from coal and toward more renewable energy sources. 

As our weather events become more intense, we will see more flash flooding.  Our own climatologists warn of harder, heavier rain storms.  This new type of torrential rain overwhelms our storm water and sewage systems, resulting in partially treated sewage overflowing into our rivers and streams, lowering the quality of our water. Toxic algae blooms become far worse.  Combined with fertilizer runoff from cities and farms, we then see crisis events such as the poisoning of drinking water in Toledo this past summer. The solution is to take action.

We need to dramatically reduce carbon pollution. The federal government already recognizes this priority. The Clean Power Plan, which sets statewide targets for reducing carbon emissions, will mandate that Michigan come up new ways to generate power. It is a good beginning but Michigan needs leadership and vision to make this happen..

We need to hold ourselves accountable and follow best practices.  Other states have taken the lead and are reducing emissions by creating higher requirements for renewable energy use. Michigan now lags behind a majority of states in this field. We also need to retire and retrofit dirty, aging coal plants.

Transitioning away from coal would easily help us fulfill our share of reducing emissions. We in Southeast Michigan live in a coal burning land. Nationwide, burning coal produces 37 % of electricity.   But our own DTE Energy still gets 75 percent of its electricity from coal. This is a tremendous burden on our climate.

Coal is so last century.  It is expensive, dirty, and holds our economy back. It must be dug up and transported, and then produces toxic smoke and ash. Coal is rust-belt technology.  Our electricity rates have also been trending upward because of our reliance on coal.

The City of Burlington, Vermont now uses 100% renewable energy.  Michigan should show leadership and move more quickly to cleaner energy.  Let’s retire our coal plants.  We can create new jobs, reduce carbon pollution, and all breathe easier.

 Co-written by Jim Nash and Craig Covey


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