Coalition Delivers 10,000 Michigander Letters Calling on DTE to Drop Its Gas Plan and Choose Clean Energy
Energy, health and environmental justice advocates and experts warn of health damage and economic cost of new gas plant proposals
Representatives from a diverse coalition delivered an urgent message today to DTE Energy and state utility regulators from more than 10,000 Michigan residents: DTE’s rush towards natural gas is a major step in the wrong direction. The PowerUP Michigan coalition joined with the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition to call attention to the public health, cost and economic impacts of a rush to build gas plants across the state, and to urge both the Michigan Public Service Commission and the Michigan DEQ to protect the public from the impacts of these proposals.
“Michigan Public Service Commissioners and DTE Energy have a responsibility to act in the public’s interest and make the most prudent decisions for Michigan’s energy future. We urge Gerry Anderson to listen to the thousands of Michiganders calling on DTE Energy to withdraw its misguided gas proposal and invest in solar, wind and energy efficiency to power the grid reliably, at lower cost and with more job creation and less pollution,” said Becky Stanfield, Senior Director of Western States at Vote Solar.
By April 27, Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) will decide whether to greenlight an 1100 MW gas plant costing $1 billion. More than a dozen experts presented evidence that a combination of energy efficiency, solar power, wind power, transmission, energy storage and demand response could serve the utility’s customers with lower cost, while creating more jobs and without decades of pollution consequences that come with a new gas plant. Energy experts highlighted MPSC’s obligation to represent the public interest, enforce the state’s law, and ensure major investments in the electric system are “the most prudent and reasonable” resource choices.
The organizations pointed out that the St. Clair proposal is a major example of a rush to build gas plants across the state. The Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition has been working to protect residents of Dearborn from emissions that would come from proposed gas plants in that community, while residents of Lansing have also been working to urge its Board of Water and Light to invest in clean power instead of gas.
“Our communities are sick from and tired of pollution that comes from DTE Energy’s smokestacks,” said Michelle Martinez, on behalf of the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition. “When will the company and the state of Michigan begin to prioritize our health over polluter profits? Environmental justice communities bear the brunt of the health impacts from polluting facilities. But the impacts from burning natural gas are no different in St. Clair County than in Dearborn Michigan: asthma, heart disease, cancer are all risks, especially for children, when we talk about burning dirty and dangerous fossil fuels in Michigan,” she continued. MEJC brought these concerns to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality at its public hearing on March 27, as the agency is considering the approval of a DTE natural gas facility in Dearborn currently.
Michigan stands to score economic development benefits by building a clean, modern, electric system. A recent analysis by BW Research found that a combination of wind, solar and energy efficiency would create 10 times the number of construction jobs and 4 times the number of permanent jobs compared to the proposed gas plant.
“We’ve installed hundreds of solar energy systems for residential, commercial, and nonprofit property owners across Michigan”, said Daniel Edelson, lifelong Detroiter and Commercial Energy Consultant for Strawberry Solar. “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, solar energy is our nation’s fastest-growing job market and we’re seeing the industry growth right here in our backyard. Due to rapidly falling costs for solar and batteries, Strawberry is racing to train new installers and expand our local workforce of Michigan-based, clean-tech professionals.”
Finally, the organizations reiterated the findings of expert witnesses who testified before the Public Service Commission that clean energy would result in lower electricity bills, saving customers as much as $1.2 billion.
“Our communities are unfairly having to pay for DTE’s bad investments in dirty energy,” said Shimekia Nichols, lifelong Detroit resident, mother of two, and communications coordinator for Soulardarity. “We are burdened by their false solutions with overly high energy bills and medical bills from illnesses produced by these giant coal and gas plants, owned by monopolies. We need and deserve clean and affordable energy, owned by the community members. It is time for state regulators to stand up for the citizens of Michigan, not DTE’s investors.”
The PowerUpMichigan coalition includes Ecology Center, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Environment Michigan, MI Air/MI Health, Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, Soulardarity, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Vote Solar.
“DTE’s proposal to build a billion-dollar gas plant undercuts the clean energy transformation they’ve promised and put Michigan families at risk. Thousands of Michiganders are urging DTE to be the leader they claim to be—and calling on the Commission to hold them accountable if they fall short,” said Ariana Gonzalez, Energy Policy Analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“A billion dollar fracked-gas plant is not the answer,” said Regina Strong, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Michigan. “The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign has supported local communities all across the state in their fight for better utility bills and the elimination of toxic pollution. Investment in such a large fracked-gas plant handcuffs DTE customers to the volatile gas prices that can drive utility prices higher, above whatever is needed to recover the costs for such a large investment in fracked-gas. Community members fought to close down dirty polluting coal-burning power plants, and they will do the same to stop DTE’s plan to tie them to a future linked to funding this plant. There are options that DTE is not seriously considering. It is past time for them to make a real commitment to renewable energy.”
“The MPSC has the power to reject this proposal and stand up for Michigan energy customers and we encourage them to do so,” said Nick Occhipinti, Government Affairs Director at the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “With viable clean, renewable energy options available now, building a new natural gas plant is a step in the wrong direction that will unnecessarily pollute Michigan’s air and water. Until DTE maximizes their use of renewable energy and energy efficiency, they are not using ratepayer money prudently.”
“DTE’s proposed new natural gas power plant is a big risk: for public health, for our children’s future, and for DTE’s ratepayers,” said Sam Gomberg, Senior Energy Analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “DTE should scrap this risky bet and invest in truly clean energy that will lock in affordable power for its ratepayers and show that its commitment to clean energy is more than just window dressing on a house of fossil fuels.”
“Michigan residents are already footing the bill for the highest electricity rates in the Midwest,” said Charlotte Jameson, Energy Policy and Legislative Affairs Director at Michigan Environmental Council. “And yet DTE’s current plan to build a massive natural gas plant could cost ratepayers up to $2 billion more over the life of the plant than alternative proposals that prioritize clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. The Michigan Public Service Commission should send DTE back to the drawing board to come up with a plan that saves us money on our utility bills by placing solar, wind, and energy efficiency front and center.”
“Retiring coal plants will improve public health, but replacing those plants with gas-fired power generation is not the answer,” said Mara Herman, Health Outreach Coordinator at the Ecology Center. “Every step of the natural gas lifecycle – from extraction and storage to transporting and burning – result in negative health impacts due to associated emissions of particulate matter, methane, and volatile organic compounds. There is simply no need to build another generation of fossil fuel-fired power plants, with the public health and safety risks that come as part of the package.”
“It is time for the MPSC and DTE Energy to recognize the connection between energy production and human health as we plan for the future,” said Kindra Weid, Registered Nurse and Coalition Coordinator for MI Air MI Health. “Burning fossil fuels has significant environmental and public health impacts, which is why investing in clean, renewable energy is the right thing to do to protect the health of Michigan’s residents — especially our most vulnerable populations.”
“DTE has a chance to be a leader in protecting public health and ratepayers’ bills, but its proposed gas plant instead commits Michigan to more costly, dirty fossil fuel investment. DTE can and must do better,” said Nathan Murphy, State Director for Environment Michigan.