Letter: Energy legislation a win for Detroit

Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed into law energy legislation that will expand our use of clean, renewable energy and extend our energy efficiency standard. We at Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice are excited about the promise this new energy policy holds for the city and across Michigan. Jobs will be created in careers of the future, and electric bills for most families and small businesses will go down.

Not only will dangerous pollution in our area be reduced, but the new legislation will contribute to cleaner air, land and water, which is particularly important for places like the city of Detroit. In fact, 275 people die each year in Michigan due to poor air quality, and 175 of those deaths occur in Wayne County. According to a 2012 NAACP report, 65 percent of the people who live within three miles of the River Rouge Coal Plant are people of color. Detroit has the highest asthma rates in the state. With nearly 17,000 asthma-related hospitalizations each year in Michigan, averaging $11,671 per hospitalization, their total cost is over $394 million annually. Many coal-fired power plants are closing across the state, and they will need to be replaced. The energy reforms passed this week will ensure DTE and other utility companies replace these power plants with other cleaner, renewable energy.

The legislation also expands Michigan’s renewable energy standard from 10 percent to 15 percent by 2021. By expanding the renewable energy standard, Michiganders can rest assured that DTE, Consumers Power and other utilities will continue to embrace renewable energy sources — which will create good jobs in our state. Historically, investment in clean, renewable energy in low-income communities has been particularly limited, and we’re hopeful that these bills will expand the amount of clean energy used in places like Detroit.

Most residents and small business owners will save money on their electric bills because of Michigan’s energy efficiency standard that requires large utility companies reduce energy waste. According to the Michigan Public Service Commission, the energy efficiency standard has saved Michigan families more than $5 billion since 2009.

Our group praises the Legislature for passing bipartisan clean energy policy. We envision Detroit as the global model of a vibrant urban center where all thrive in environmental, economic and social health. We’re confident that this energy reform will help clean up the air we breathe, create good jobs for people across Michigan, and reduce costs for ratepayers.

Wibke “Vee” Heymach

Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice