The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Alison Flowers, Sierra Club, 303-246-6297,
Tiffany Hartung, Sierra Club, 231-747-7489,

12 Michigan Counties Show Unhealthy, Poorly Controlled Levels of Ozone Pollution

Sierra Club files petition calling on EPA to redesignate and protect 12 Michigan counties from dangerous levels of ozone pollution


On the heels of a new petition filed by the Sierra Club and Earthjustice, the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Michigan Campaign is also calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to redesignate and protect 12 Michigan counties with unhealthy levels of ozone pollution under the federal Clean Air Act.

The call to action stems from the EPA's National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ground-level ozone, revised in 2008, which sets the maximum level of ozone pollution safe for human health. Because the EPA's own data shows levels of ozone pollution exceeding the air quality standard, the agency must list and protect 84 U.S. counties --12 of which are in Michigan, including Muskegon, Allegan, Ottawa, Macomb, Wayne and St. Clair -- to bring ozone pollution in these counties down from levels it has found to be dangerous to human health and welfare. If these counties were properly listed, big polluters, such as coal-burning plants, would have to take steps to control their emissions.

"People across the country are counting on the EPA to follow through on its duty to protect them against unhealthy, dirty air," said Seth Johnson, Associate Attorney at Earthjustice. "Smog makes people sick and can even kill them. EPA needs to act quickly to get these areas on the path to cleaner air."

Wayne County is home to three coal-burning plants -- River Rouge, Trenton Channel and Wyandotte -- which emit pollutants that turn into ozone in the atmosphere. Ozone, a major component of smog, is known to contribute to asthma, emphysema and bronchitis, and even premature death. It can also have chronic effects on the development of lungs in children. Wayne County has the highest number of pediatric asthma cases in Michigan coupled with the highest state population living in poverty. The NAACP has deemed Detroit-based DTE Energy, the utility that owns and operates two of Wayne County's coal plants, to be one of the worst environmental justice offenders for its impact on low-income communities.

"We can't afford to miss school or days of work as a result of the coal plants making us sick," said Ebony Elmore, River Rouge resident. "Our air is dirty, and the EPA needs to make sure it gets cleaned up."

Also among the 12 Michigan counties, Muskegon and Ottawa County are home to two of Consumers Energy's large and aging coal plants, B.C. Cobb and J.H. Campbell.

"With this action the Sierra Club is working to hold the EPA accountable," said Tiffany Hartung, campaign representative for the Sierra Club Michigan Beyond Coal. "Simply put, polluters in these counties are violating Michigan residents' right to breathe clean, safe air. They can't afford to go uncontrolled any longer."

The Sierra Club is the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. We amplify the power of our 3.8 million members and supporters to defend everyone's right to a healthy world.

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