A coalition of citizens and environmental groups urged Gov. Jennifer Granholm at a press conference this morning to “Stop the Coal Rush” and place a moratorium on the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

Members of Clean Energy Now cited the need to protect the public against health risks and the environment against further damage. There are plans to build eight new coal plants around the state.

The coalition planned to take its message to an afternoon state Department of Environmental Quality air permit hearing for Wolverine Power’s planned Rogers City power plant. The DEQ has already granted a permit to Northern Michigan University, which will allow the school to build its own plant in the Upper Peninsula.

Anne Woiwode, director of the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club, said that the choice isn’t simply between old and new coal plants. She pointed to energy sources such as wind turbines and solar electricity as alternatives that could provide Michigan’s energy needs in the future while creating “green” jobs.

“To say that coal is the only option simply isn’t true,” she said.

Steve Rall, a Lansing resident and opponent of the proposed coal-fired power plant the Lansing Board of Water and Light is considering building in Delhi Township, echoed Woiwode’s sentiment.

“Our point is that there are other ways to produce electricity than coal plants,” he said. “We need to put a moratorium on coal plants.”

What else can Lansing do until a swath of wind turbines or residential solar panels can be put in place? Energy-efficiency, Rall said.

“There’s so much energy that we’re wasting. If we can have incentives, if the board of Water and light can partner with municipalities (to administer energy efficiency programs), we can stop wasting energy.”