The Sierra Club is petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency to revisit and protect 12 Michigan counties from dangerous levels of ozone pollution, the organization said Monday.
Wayne County is home to three coal-burning plants: River Rouge, Trenton Channel and Wyandotte. The Trenton and River Rouge plants are owned and operated by DTE Energy Co.
The Nov.14 petition, filed jointly by Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental organization, stems from the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground-level ozone, which sets the maximum level of ozone pollution safe for human health.
The EPA’s 2012 data, released in July, shows that levels of ozone pollution in Wayne County exceed the air quality standards.
“The agency must… bring ozone pollution in these counties down from levels it has found to be dangerous to human health and welfare,” Tiffany Hartung, senior campaign representative with Sierra Club Michigan Beyond Coal said Tuesday.
“If these counties were properly listed, big polluters, such as coal-burning plants, would have to take steps to control their emissions,” Hartung said.
Ground-level ozone, or smog, pollution is known to contribute to asthma, emphysema and bronchitis, and even premature death, according to the EPA.
DTE is heavily invested in coal with about 75 percent of its power coming from coal-fired plants, according to a Michigan Public Service Commission filing.
“DTE needs a timetable for setting cleanup plans for plants or beginning to phase them out and invest in additional renewable energy,” Hartung said. “It’s time for DTE to make a decision about these plants.”
The Sierra Club Michigan Beyond Coal faction has consistently pressured DTE to move away from coal-fired plants.
In recent years, however, DTE has invested more than $550 million in additional nitrogen oxide control technology across all six of its coal-fire power plants. From 2008-2012, NOx emissions declined 44 percent across the energy company's fleet, Randi Berris, a DTE spokeswoman, said.
“We are in compliance with all regulations and will continue to work with the state to make sure all emission standards are met in a cost effective manner that protects the environment while keeping rates affordable for our customers,” Berris said.
Last year, coal was responsible for about 37 percent of all power generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Web site.
Wyandotte Municipal Power Plant, which is owned by the city, could not be reached for comment.