In 2008, Kathleen Sebelius undertook a courageous battle against coal industry interests attempting to buy their way into perpetuating highly polluting coal-fired electricity plants. She stood up against fossil-foolish distortions. She stood up against industry lobby money. She stood up in a tough fight against Republican legislators who were active collaborators with the polluters. She stood up in defense of Kansans — today’s and tomorrow’s — and kept the coal industry from buying the political and energy direction of her state.
In 2009, another female Governor, Michigan’s Jennifer Granholm, is standing up for her citizens against these fossil foolish interests who are seeking to perpetuate a 19th century, polluting energy system rather than embracing her vision for a 21st Century Energy System that will reduce the state’s pollution, improve the citizens’ health, and improve the economy. And, Governor Granholm is facing a battle with legislators choosing to ignore pollution, ignore tomorrow’s costs, ignore the larger implications as they accept fossil foolish campaign contributions, ignore the Potemkin Village nature of claims of economic benefits of pursuing polluting energy paths as they petition Governor Granholm to ignore the real interests of Michigan residents and to end her requirement for actually understanding Michigan’s energy requirements and options before going forward with four new coal-fired electricity plants.
In 2008, the Michigan legislature passed (and Governor Granholm signed) Public Law 286 which requires that the Public Service Commission have an approved Integrated Resource before coal-fired electricity plants get built. The law includes a requirement for a determination that:
The existing or proposed electric generation facility … represents the most reasonable and prudent means of meeting the power need relative to other resource options for meeting power demand, including energy efficiency programs and electric transmission efficiencies.
In her 3 February 2009 State of the State address (14 page pdf) (note: recommended reading), Governor Granholm announced “a remarkably ambitious plan” for turning Michigan toward a prosperous and climate-friendly future, with the promise of 10,000s of green collar jobs in everything from weatherization to clean-energy jobs (like wind turbines).
the great thing about this new energy industry is that, just like our auto industry, it creates all kinds of jobs for all kinds of people. The job your neighbor is looking for today and the job your child will go to college for tomorrow.
Jobs for electricians installing wind turbines in the Thumb. Jobs for machinists making the parts for those wind turbines in Eaton Rapids. Jobs for factory workers assembling wind turbines in Novi. Jobs for sales men and women selling solar panels in Auburn Hills. Jobs for workers to manufacture those solar panels in Greenville. Jobs for truck drivers hauling the waste from paper mills to biorefineries in the U.P. Jobs for carpenters weatherizing homes in Detroit and Muskegon. Jobs for manufacturing workers making energy-efficient siding in Midland. Jobs for engineers designing the electric car battery in Ann Arbor.
The renewable energy industry is already providing new jobs and better lives across our state. Don’t take my word for it. Ask the thousand people hired by Hemlock semiconductor near Saginaw, the world’s largest manufacturer of the key ingredient in solar panels. Ask the former Electrolux workers in Greenville who now manufacture solar panels for United Solar Ovonic. Ask them, and they will tell you what it feels like to earn a good wage in an industry that is growing by leaps and bounds.
We can imagine that those words didn’t truly enthrall Granholm to the polluting industry. Later in the speech, she spoke words that were a call to arms for those focused on denying Global Warming as Granholm provided a serious, aggressive goal: reducing dependency on fossil fuel (e.g., coal) by 45 percent by no later than 2020.
How will we reach this 45-by-20 goal and get the jobs that come with it?
Instead of spending nearly $2 billion a year importing coal or natural gas from other states we’ll be spending our energy dollars on Michigan wind turbines, Michigan solar panels, Michigan energy-efficiency devices, all designed, manufactured and installed by. . .Michigan workers.
This sort of serious target, with the policies being put into place to make it happen, boiled the blood of the polluters and they have gone to war, seeking to mobilize every element, no matter how deceptive, political arm twisting to kill this initiative in its tracks.
Executive Directive 2009-2, issued the day of the speech, is entitled: “Consideration of Feasible and Prudent Alternatives in the Processing of Air Permit Applications from Coal-Fired Power Plants”. In brief, it put on hold movement on four new coal-fired electricity plants, applying to them the same standard that is applied to all energy providers in Michigan: are these plants, truly, in the interests of Michigan’s citizens. Do they need this electricity? Is there a “feasible and prudent alternative to the construction of a new proposed coal-fired electricity generating plant”? What are the, full-systems-of-systems, including “externalities”, implications of these coal plants?
Before issuing a permit … for the construction of a new coal-fired electricity generating plant, the Department of Environmental Quality shall determine whether there is a feasible and prudent alternative consistent with the reasonable requirements of the public health, safety, and welfare that would better protect the air, water, and other natural resources of this state from pollution than the proposed coal-fired electricity generating plant.
How dare! I repeart, how dare Governor Granholm actually apply Michigan law as stated in Public Act 286 of 2008.
Let us be clear, this is the sort of light-of-day, serious questions that the coal industry idoes not want to face because they cannot stand up to reasoned scrutiny and expect that their belching fume plans for the future will be rubber-stamped any longer.
Any surprise that the coal industry’s bulging coffers have prompted opposition from within Michigan’s legislature? On 19 March, 74 members of the Michigan House sent a letter to Granholm attacking 2009-02 for putting jobs at risk.
By delaying the permitting process for construction of new base load power plants in the. state, the state is in a sense reneging on the promise of thousands of new construction jobs for Michigan residents. While the stated motivation for ED 2009-02 may be admirable, we feel that the urgent need to create jobs in Michigan trumps most all other priorities during this time of economic crisis.
Thus, claims for job creation today trumps the reality of creating paths for much higher cost future electrical bills (due to paying for coal and paying for its pollution) for Michigan residents. And, of course, trumps any consideration of catastrophic climate change’s devastating impacts on Michigan citizens’ futures.
What is even more absurd is that the $2 billion or so that would go into plant construction (dwarfed, of course, by the $30+ billion to run the plants over 40 years) would likely create fewer jobs today and, certainly, fewer into the future than investing into clean energy options which would serve the purpose of lowering, rather than increasing, tomorrow’s energy cost burdens for Michigan residents.
When it comes to “most reasonable and prudent”, it is hard to see how any “reasonable and prudent” analysis can arrive, even solely on economic and job-creation criteria (ignoring the pesky little problem of health, environmental, and climate impacts), at a conclusion that favors polluting coal over a combined investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
- The fossil fuel industry is trying to drag Michigan back into the 19th century.
- Governor Granholm is seeking to lead it into the 21st.
We can hope that Governor Granholm will continue her leadership on energy issues and that she will stand firm in the face of determined and deceptive fossil foolish interests.
A question to ponder
Sebelius … Napolitano … Gregoire … Granholm … What is it with these female Democratic Governors, anyway, that makes them so strong in being heroes in the battle for 21st Century energy options and setting the stage for a prosperous and climate-friendly future?
PS: If you wish to send a note to Gov. Granholm …