MEC joins clean air crusaders at Mama Summit

MEC rallied at the Capitol this week with dozens of concerned parents to educate legislators about the negative health impacts coal plants have on children.

It was the second annual "Mama Summit" coordinated by Moms Clean Air Force, a community of hundreds of thousands of parents advocating for children's health. Participants gathered to share key facts and personal stories to build support among legislators for clean energy as a means to fight air pollution.

MEC Health Policy Director Tina Reynolds and Energy Program Director Sarah Mullkoff helped to plan the summit and took part in a press conference and other activities. Mullkoff also led the group discussion in five meetings-four with legislative staff members and one with a senator.

"It's wonderful to see so many parents and advocates for children here at the Capitol to voice their support for clean energy and a healthy environment," Mullkoff said. "One of the best things state leaders can do for the health of Michigan's youngest residents is to transition away from dirty coal plants by increasing energy efficiency and investing in more renewable power."

Sarah Mullkoff leads legislative meeting.

The event's main goal was to address the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy. Groups were encouraged to highlight compelling statistics, propose solutions and ask legislators for their perspective on the issue.

The Rev. Yvette Griffin of Pilgrim Baptist Church in Detroit shared a story about the tragic death of her granddaughter at age 14 from a severe asthma attack. Griffin believes air pollution is to blame for her granddaughters' untimely death.

"Michigan is one of the highest states in the U.S. with premature deaths" from asthma, she said. "The African American community is affected most."

Facts and solutions presented to legislators included:

  • Michigan gets 54 percent of its electricity from coal imported from other states for $1.7 billion annually.
  • Michigan ranks 5th in the U.S. for premature deaths, hospitalization, and heart attacks as a result of exposure to coal-plant pollution.
  • Michigan's asthma rate is 10 percent higher than the national rate.
  • African American communities account for 18 percent of Michigan's asthmatic population, but make up 75 percent of asthma-related emergency room visits.
  • Treating asthma in Michigan costs $80 million to $90 million annually.
  • Energy efficiency programs will save $1.2 billion over the next three years for Michigan consumers.
Another speaker at the summit, Erin Schrieber, is a new mother and a resident of Wayne County. Her son was born with laryngomalacia, a condition in which the larynx is not fully developed. This makes it difficult for him to breathe. She voiced her concerns to legislators about her son's condition and the need for clean air.

"Our current energy portfolio is set to expire," Schrieber said, referring to Michigan's renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, which are set to plateau at the end of the year. "I'm asking our lawmakers to step up and increase clean, renewable energy."

Wibke Heymach, regional field manager and Midwest energy policy coordinator for Mama Summit, said Moms Clean Air Force's goal is to make legislators recognize the negative health impacts of coal-plant pollution.

"We want to make sure our legislators are aware of the connection between energy and health," she said. "Decisions about energy and the future especially affect our children."


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