By Joyce Stein
Increasing Michigan’s renewable energy standard to 25 percent by 2025 is the most important public health ballot initiative in decades.
That’s why the Michigan Nurses Association was one of the first organizations to endorse Proposal 3, joining a diverse and bipartisan coalition of supporters, including nurses, doctors and scientists.
As a neonatal nurse for more than 30 years, I’ve seen the dangerous effects of pollution on babies.
Proposal 3 can help us use more clean renewable energy for our electricity needs — and reduce our reliance on dirty coal and foreign oil. Today, nearly 60 percent of our electricity comes from coal, and all of that coal is imported.
Michigan coal plants release fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, heavy metals, carbon dioxide, benzenes and radionuclides. Coal pollution also contains arsenic and mercury, a potent neurotoxin that impairs the development of infants’ brains.
Coal pollution causes asthma attacks and contributes to lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart tissue damage, potentially fatal cardiac rhythmic disturbances, strokes, and impaired neurological and intellectual development in children.
Michigan’s coal plants ranked third worst for impact on people of color, behind Illinois and Indiana. Every year, coal pollution is responsible for 176 premature deaths in Michigan — more than any other state.
All our coal is imported, meaning Michigan families and businesses send more than $1.7 billion each year to other states. The cost of delivering coal is also going up, increasing 71 percent since 2006 alone.
Michigan’s dependence on coal is shipping our money and jobs to other states — and it’s putting our public health at serious risk.
By passing Proposal 3, Michigan will get 25 percent of our electricity from clean, renewable, Michigan-made energy sources such as wind and solar. That not only keeps our money in Michigan, it will also create 94,000 jobs, according to estimates by Michigan State University economists.
More than 30 other states have measures similar to Proposal 3, including our Midwest neighbors Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa. If these states can make more electricity from clean, renewable energy sources — and reduce coal pollution in the process — so can Michigan.
Moving to clean, renewable energy — as Proposal 3 does — reduces pollution, protects our Great Lakes and water, and is better for the health of Michigan families and our kids.
— Joyce Stein is a registered nurse at the University of Michigan Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.