In Letter to EPA, 26 Michigan and National Climate Groups Call on Biden Administration to Cut Pollution in Power Sector

In advance of imminent EPA proposed rules, organizations call for new carbon pollution standards for new, existing power plants 

LANSING, MI—Today, a coalition of 26 clean energy, climate action, and public health advocates working in Michigan sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calling on the agency to accelerate efforts to cut pollution in the nation’s electricity sector and establish robust carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants. 

The Michigan power sector is the single largest contributor to climate pollution in the state, making up nearly a third of total emissions. Michigan’s top ten power plants alone emit 38.9 million metric tons of carbon pollution—or the equivalent emissions of 8.4 million gas-powered cars—every year. 

In addition to the need for strong carbon pollution rules for new and existing power plants, an Evergreen analysis shows EPA is falling behind on setting several other environmental and health protections—like rules to limit soot, mercury, and coal ash—that are critical for public health in the state. Polluting power plants, refineries, and industrial activities in Michigan have resulted in the state being home to one of the most polluted ZIP codes in the nation. A new report shows that the Detroit, Warren, and Ann Arbor area is the 12th worst for particulate matter pollution nationwide. 

The letter calls for the EPA to take three key steps:

  • Set ambitious carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants under sections 111(b) and 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.
  • Set other EPA pollution standards that reduce conventional air and water pollutants and improve public health.
  • Implement the Inflation Reduction Act effectively, efficiently, and equitably.

Limiting the devastating impact of this pollution is essential to protect the health and safety of Michigan communities. Michiganders need immediate action at every level of government, including vital regulations to clean up the state’s power sector, the groups wrote. 

Read the full letter here

“The Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America’s Michigan Chapter strongly supports strengthening EPA air pollution rules considering the impact these rules can have on public health,” said Kathleen Slonager, nurse, asthma educator and Director of Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America’s Michigan Chapter (AAFA-MI). “Our state’s rates of asthma, lung and heart disease are significantly higher than other states, with asthma being three to four times higher than the national average in Michigan’s most polluted ZIP codes. This is most evident in Detroit, which was recently listed as the number one worst place to live if you have asthma, according to our Asthma Capitals report. Stronger regulations are a critical step in turning these sad facts around for this generation and those to come.” 

“Climate change is a health emergency impacting all Michigan residents today, often intensifying common health conditions into costly and sometimes life-threatening medical emergencies. The health of our children, the elderly, those with pre-existing conditions and those living on the frontlines of fossil fuel pollution are most at risk,” said Dr. Elizabeth (Lisa) Del Buono, President of Michigan Clinicians for Climate Action. “We need to utilize every legislative and regulatory tool possible to urgently address climate change. EPA must move as quickly as possible to set the strongest carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants, as well as set standards that reduce air and water pollution. These standards, along with the equitable implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, will save lives, avoid costly hospital and clinic visits, and improve the health of all Michigan residents today and into the future.” 

"Given the recognized role of air pollutants as a trigger for asthma and other chronic lung diseases, I support the effort calling EPA to strengthen air pollution protections on fossil fuel power plants," said Lawrence Hennessey, MD, FACP, FAAAAI, President, Michigan Allergy and Asthma Society. "Better regulation would safeguard the health and well-being of not only individuals living near fossil fuel power plants, but the community at large."

“Michigan is home to three of the most polluting power plants in the country, with the Monroe coal plant falling in the top ten. Sadly, we have the health outcomes to prove it—disproportionately falling on our most vulnerable communities,” said Kindra Weid, RN, MPH, Coalition Coordinator for MI Air MI Health. “Health care professionals across the state are seeing the impacts of air, water and climate pollution at the bedside and welcome stronger regulations from EPA to protect public health.”

“Michiganders are ready for change. For decades, dangerous pollution from the state’s energy sector has sickened communities and poisoned our air and water,” said Courtney Bourgoin, Evergreen Action Midwest senior policy and advocacy manager. “In this moment, EPA has a critical opportunity to institute safeguards for our communities and climate. The time to act is now.” 

“Michigan’s utility companies’ overreliance on coal has left communities with unbreathable air, and while progress is being made to transition our state to cleaner energy sources, EPA must enact strong pollution standards to solidify this momentum,” said Bentley Johnson, federal government affairs director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “We call on EPA to set the strongest possible pollution standards for new and existing power plants to protect the health of our communities and ensure a clean, livable future for our kids.” 

The letter’s signatories represent the wide range of organizations working in the state, including national environmental organizations, environmental justice advocates, faith-based groups, the public health community, outdoor conservation organizations, clean energy campaigners, state and local groups, and more—coming together to combat the effects of climate change on the health and safety of Michigan communities.