For Immediate Release
April 16, 2015
Contact: Stacey Range Messina
Report: Low-income families and communities of color suffer most from carbon pollution, energy costs
LANSING – Low-income families and communities of color are disproportionately affected by high energy costs and pollutants from coal-burning power plants in Michigan, suffering more health problems such as asthma and spending a larger chunk of their income on electricity bills, according to a new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy.
The report, “Clean Energy Brings Health, Savings and Jobs to Low-Income Michigan Families,” details the problems fossil fuels bring to these populations and how they benefit the most from investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency measures.
Some key points of the report:
- Michigan is home to more than 20 active coal plants, including Wayne County’s River Rouge Plant, one of the dirtiest coal plants in the nation where people of color make up 65% of the community.
- The Michigan Department of Community Health calls Detroit and its downriver neighborhoods the “Epicenter of the Asthma Burden,” with residents three to six times more likely to have asthma-related hospital admissions than the state as a whole.
- While the average U.S. household spends 3% of its income on electricity bills, low-income families spend 8% — and more when energy costs spike.
- Approximately 6 million Americans live within three miles of a coal plant, and people of color and low-income households are more likely to live near these plants, with coal plants in urban areas overwhelmingly located in communities of color. The average per capita income in neighborhoods with coal plants is below the poverty threshold at $18,400, nearly 15% lower than the U.S. average income of $21,587.
- 39% of U.S. residents living near coal plants are people of color although they account for only 36% of the entire population.
“Clearly Michigan’s low-income families and communities of color are suffering the most from harmful carbon pollutants and high energy prices,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president & CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Investing in renewable energy and adopting energy efficiency measures, such as those proposed by Gov. Snyder, promote economic security and better health for thousands of families struggling with these issues.”
The League supports the spirit of Gov. Snyder’s energy plan calling for a 15% reduction in energy waste and 19-24% of the state’s energy coming from renewables, so that by 2025, Michigan should meet 30-40% of its energy needs through renewable energy and energy efficiency. But the League urges the creation of mandates and accountability standards for meeting these goals.
Adopting a plan that meets the requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which allows states to be credited for energy efficiency improvements in all sectors of the economy, could drop electricity bills by 8% for an annual savings of about $100 for the average consumer.
Michigan’s economy also would get a boost, with up to 6,900 new energy efficiency-related jobs created by 2020 under a scenario similar to the Clean Power Plan.
The report was released in conjunction with “Bridging the Clean Energy Divide: Affordable Clean Energy Solutions for Today and Tomorrow,” a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council showing how a transition to cleaner power and reduced carbon pollution can lead to healthier communities, greater savings, and a stronger economy in Michigan and nationwide.
“Michigan is home to many people who work hard and play by the rules, but lack the resources to protect themselves from the effects of climate change,” said Katharine McCormick, NRDC Midwest Advocate. “Much more can be done to help low-income communities keep more of their hard-earned dollars and reduce their exposures to dangerous air pollution that makes it harder for people to breathe.”
The reports were released during a panel discussion at the Radisson Hotel Lansing. Paul Smith, deputy legal counsel of the Office of Gov. Snyder, was the keynote speaker and Gilda Z. Jacobs, president & CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, moderated. Panelists included McCormick from the NRDC along with Alexis Blizman, legislative and policy director of The Ecology Center; Kimberly Hill Knott, director of public policy at Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice; and John Kinch, executive director of Michigan Energy Options.
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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.