By the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality permit hearing
5:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 27 at Edsel Ford High School
(Last day that MDEQ is accepting public comment for this permit.)
Sign on to the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center comments to the MDEQ.
Michigan is at a crossroads in the decision to rapidly expand Natural Gas, phasing out coal, and Dearborn Michigan is in the crosshairs. Approximately two months ago, over 300 people showed up at a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality hearing to tell Consumers Energy that a new natural gas plant in South Dearborn would negatively impact the community’s health. The new plant was unwanted and unwelcome. The following week, the company rescinded that proposal.
On Tuesday, March 20, residents gathered again in Dearborn to learn about yet another proposed natural gas plant, this time by DTE Energy. Located at the Ford Research and Engineering Facility, the gas plant would be within a one mile radius of five schools and Beaumont Hospital. At the hearing, public health scholar Dr. Amy Schulz from the University of Michigan School of Public Health explained that South Dearborn and West Dearborn are already overburdened by air pollution, putting vulnerable populations including children, pregnant mothers and their unborn children at risk. Some of the air pollutants that will be coming out of the DTE natural gas facility would exacerbate illnesses like lung disease, increase cardiovascular risks and in some cases contribute to increases in cancer rates and lead to death.
What we also learned at that event from attorney Nicholas Leonard at the Great Lakes Lakes Environmental Law Center, is the permit put forward by DTE to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality leaves much to be desired. Many serious questions are left unanswered including:
Are all of the pollution calculations that DTE Energy used to estimate emissions coming from their smokestack accounted for?
Is the company using the best technology to mitigate the pollution coming out of the smokestacks? From Leonard’s estimations, the company did not include spikes in pollution emissions caused during start up and shut down of the facility which may happen 136 times annually.
Further, his research resulted in finding that the exact same type of facilities in California and Massachusetts have used technology that has reduced pollution by significantly greater amounts. DTE has failed to include this improved technology as options here in Michigan. It should be investigating and incorporating them for the best protections of a community already overburdened by pollution. The company is also not including continuous monitoring of pollution, making residents and advocates using guess work as towhat happens in between periodic emissions testing.
But the larger question remains, when will Michigan residents have a fair chance to give input into what kind of energy Michigan actually deserves– cheaper, cleaner, renewable energy. MDEQ gives us just 40 days – basically the time one has to pay a phone or a cable bill- to respond to a permit for a facility that may be running for 30 years or more. We need the time to iterate that Michigan needs solar panels and wind farms, not more dirty energy that results in volatile costs for consumers, climate causing methane emissions, or an increased mortality – not only of the people that live around it and the workers of the plants – but by the natural systems that depend on the environment from the extraction point to the smokestack. Because even the best technology of today will be old and outdated tomorrow, and we’re literally sick of and from dirty energy.
The public should question the rush to natural gas. Michiganders deserve a say about what kinds of energy our Great Lakes State is producing because, frankly, we don’t have a choice whether to breathe or not. MDEQ has a decision to make that will impact the health of our children, families, and communities, the workers and the economy.