Say, What? Michigan Legislators Insist that Burning Tires is 'Clean, Renewable Energy'

Michigan politicians make a mockery of environmental standards.

Photo Credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

The Michigan state legislature is playing loose with its environmental definitions, passing a bill on Thursday that qualifies the burning of solid waste as "renewable energy." And according to the Michigan news site, MLive.com, this includes the burning of tires. 

The state's House of Representatives passed the legislation 63-46. It would qualify burning solid waste as a renewable energy fuel source. But environmentalist and other activists are calling the legislation "irresponsible."

The bill, sponsored by state house republican Rep. Aric Nesbit is designed to "remove barriers to  the use of solid waste as a clean energy source."

The bill, HB 5205 if passed by Michigan's senate and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, would rewrite Michigan's laws regarding what defines clean and renewable energy. It would add fuel manufactured from waste products, which could include discarded car tires. This would allow the state's electrical providers to meet the mandates under the state's Clean, Renewable, and Efficient Energy Act to make 10% of their electricity from renewable energy by next year. 

One state representative seemed enthusiastic about the bill. Rep. Ed McBroom, a Republican said that "there are piles of tires out of the middle of nowhere... let's do something with them."

The bill drew the support of Michigan-based Dow Chemical, but environmental and children's advocacy groups oppose the new legislation.

"The House should be focused on expanding true clean, renewable energy, not allowing polluters to burn tires and call it 'renewable energy,'" Lisa Wozniak, Executive Director for the state's League of Conservation Voters said in a statement. "House Bill 5205 is nothing more than a dangerous plan to pollute our air, land and water. It sets a dangerous precedent by changing the scientific definition of renewable energy."

“Michiganders from both sides of the aisle want more clean, renewable energy and we should be taking steps to reduce pollution, not encourage more of it,” wrote Wibke Heymach, a spokesperson for Moms Clean Air Force in a statement.  “Encouraging the burning of hazardous waste will create more pollution and more health problems for Michigan kids, families and seniors.”

According to Crain's Detroit Business, Michigan's asthma rate is 10% higher than the national average and that Detroit is the 10th worst U.S. city for asthma related problems. 

Cliff Weathers is a former senior editor at AlterNet and served as a deputy editor at Consumer Reports. Twitter @cliffweathers.


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