With Election Day just around the corner, I know many of you will be thinking about clean energy, climate change, and coal pollution when you cast your ballots.
I have to admit, I'm a little jealous of my friends in Michigan who get to vote on a fantastic opportunity for more clean energy in their state. Unfortunately, big fossil fuel companies are spending big at the eleventh hour to try and stand in the way of a clean energy future for Michigan -- and the nation.
Proposal 3, which will be on the Michigan ballot next Tuesday, calls for 25 percent of Michigan's electricity to come from renewable sources like wind and solar by 2025. The proposal urges using Michigan-made equipment and hiring Michigan workers, and explicitly states that utilities cannot raise electricity prices related to the cost of generating renewable energy by any more than 1 percent per year.
This would be an economic game-changer for Michigan and the entire Midwest, spurring investment and innovation in clean energy technologies that are shaping up to be the economic powerhouse of twenty-first century economies around the world. Proposal 3 is a great chance for Michigan to become a clean energy leader in the U.S. and beyond, and residents are already lining up in support of the measure. They know clean energy is the smart choice to power the state -- they're ready to move beyond dirty coal.
Right now, Michigan gets close to 60 percent of its power from dirty, outdated coal plants. The Michigan Nurses Association called Proposal 3 the most important public health initiative in decades, and as a mother, I couldn't agree more. A 2011 Michigan Environmental Council study found that the state's nine oldest coal plants cost a family of four an average of over $500 per year in expenses and damages associated with increased hospital admissions, premature deaths and treatments for asthma, respiratory ailments, and cardiovascular problems, among others.
That is $1.5 billion annually on health costs for Michiganders as a result of coal plant pollution! And that doesn't even take into account the billions of dollars Michigan is shipping out of state every year to purchase coal for power plants.
My coworkers and friends fighting for this measure say there is amazing people power working in support of Proposal 3 (that's Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune above with Proposal 3 volunteers in Michigan last week).
Proposal 3 is supported by a very diverse coalition of groups including the NAACP, Michigan small businesses, labor unions like the United Auto Workers, environmental and conservation groups, and faith groups like the Christian Coalition, just to name a few. Oh, and now Bill Clinton supports Proposal 3, too!
On the other side from our amazing grassroots support are the polluters pouring tens of millions of dollars into misleading ads against Proposal 3. Companies like DTE, Consumers Energy, Enbridge, the American Natural Gas Alliance, and others see clean energy as a threat to -- instead of an opportunity for -- their bottom line. These companies would rather Michigan residents remain chained to the dirty energy sources of the past, rather than investing in clean energy choices that will create jobs and not harm public health. They are spending tens of millions of dollars on misleading ads in a major effort to defeat this initiative, and as a result, the race is very tight.
The Detroit metro area --especially River Rouge and Ecorse -- pays the price for Michigan's dependence on fossil fuels. River Rouge is situated in Michigan's most polluted region. We highlighted this area in the recent Sierra magazine "Cost of Coal" profile.
For generations, families in that community have lived within sniffing distance of the River Rouge coal-fired power plant. Pollution from that plant causes 44 deaths, 72 heart attacks, and 700 asthma attacks every year in the surrounding community.
Proposal 3 would mean a move away from dependence on fossil fuels toward making investments in clean energy like wind and solar, which would bring 94,000 jobs to Michigan. Another study from the Michigan Environmental Council found that passing Proposal 3 would actually mean automatic savings of $16 every year for DTE (Detroit Edison) ratepayers on their electric bills. Those savings come from reorganizing an unfair pay structure put in place by DTE for renewable energy.
If you live in Michigan, please vote for Proposal 3 on Election Day. And if you've got family or friends living in Michigan, please tell them to do the same. Given the huge volumes of fossil fuel money pouring in to defeat the measure, we are going to need all hands on deck in order to win this one. Michigan can be a clean energy leader in the U.S. -- and jumpstart the economy of the Midwest -- if residents choose Proposal 3 to help create good clean energy jobs and protect public health.-----------------------------------------
Paid for with regulated funds by Sierra Club: Organizing for Renewable Energy in Michigan, 109 E. Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48906.