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In The News Public Health professionals urge State Senate to protect residents with strong energy legislation

Lansing – Public Health professionals from across Michigan today endorsed clean energy legislation under consideration by the State Senate that takes crucial steps toward improving the health of Michigan’s air and water.

Bills already passed by the House require utilities to generate at least 10 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2015 and establish significant energy efficiency programs requiring utilities to reduce demand by 1 percent per year starting in 2012.

Both measures need to be included in the Senate legislation because they help slash dangerous emissions of pollutants from coal-fired power plants that contribute to heart disease, crippling asthma, cancers, respiratory ailments and greenhouse gasses that accelerate global warming. Coal plants also spew mercury, which contributes to public health advisories on fish in everyMichigan inland lake.

Pending State Senate action can strengthen the House package and further protect the health of Michigan residents; or it can backpedal on modern energy solutions by encouraging more polluting coal power plants. Energy efficiency will mean improved health, and is predicted to save Michigan ratepayers billions of dollars over the next decade if it is adopted into law.

“We expect our State Senators to side with public health and modern, clean energy solutions, not with Big Energy,” said Dr. Ted Schettler, Science Director at the Science and Environmental Health Network. “We are at a crossroads in Michiganwhere we can take steps to reduce childhood asthma and other diseases, or we can turn our backs on these solutions.”

A letter endorsing the strong protections was distributed to senators today. Signatories included: Tom Bissonnette, MSN, of the Michigan Nurses Association; Ted Schettler, MD, MPH of the Science and Environmental Health Network; William B. Weil, MD of Michigan State University; Richard J. Jackson, MD, MPH of the University of Michigan; Kathryn Savoie, Ph.D. of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services; and Judy K. Smith of the Michigan Public Health Association.

More than 25 other states have enacted renewable energy standards like those proposed in Michigan. Those states are attracting jobs in wind and solar energy, and new research facilities while Michigan lags behind.

Michigan’s legislation also would enable the Public Service Commission to develop comprehensive, coordinated energy planning for Michigan that would consider all available resource options (including additional energy efficiency) in utility rate cases. We should require the state to take into consideration all costs, including costs related to the health of the community, before approving a new power plant.

Harmful pollution from coal-fired power plants includes

  • Nitrogen oxides, which lead to ground-level ozone, or smog, contributing to life-threatening asthma. Michigan suffers one of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the nation.
  • Sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, which are linked to various cardio-respiratory diseases that particularly afflict our youngest and most elderly residents.
  • Mercury, which causes neurological damage when contaminated fish are eaten by pregnant mothers and young children.
“The legacy of this legislature can be their pioneering steps toward a more efficient, clean and inexpensive energy future,” said Tom Bissonnette of the Michigan Nurses Association. “And this legislation is key to getting there.”

Tom Bissonnette: 517-896-3321

Dr. Ted Schettler:

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