May 27, 2010

Strong Support by CMS Shareholders for Coal Ash Disclosure

Michigan utility pressed to reduce risk to investors in wake of Tennessee disaster

JACKSON, Mich., May 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A proposal asking CMS Energy to report on its efforts to reduce the risk of managing coal ash won unexpectedly strong support from shareholders, earning 43 percent of votes cast - the latest indication of investors' concern in the wake of the Tennessee Valley Authority disaster that spilled a billion gallons of toxic sludge.

CMS filed results of last week's vote with the Securities and Exchange Commission today. As You Sow, the shareholder advocacy group that put forth the proposal, said the level of support was much higher than expected, and more than 8 times the level typically earned by first-time environmental resolutions.

"This vote sends a very strong message to CMS that shareholders are concerned about how the company is dealing with coal ash contamination of Saginaw Bay and also how it is managing risks at all its facilities to avoid future contamination and cleanup costs," said Amy Galland, research director of As You Sow, based in San Francisco. "Shareholders at utilities nationwide are demanding answers about risks to their investments."

CMS' coal ash landfill at the Karn-Weadock plant has contaminated groundwater and has been leaking heavy metals into Saginaw Bay, where cleanup costs are estimated at more than $50 million. CMS announced today it will defer plans to build a new coal-fired plant, but denied that environmental concerns influenced its decision.

Coal ash is a byproduct of coal-fired power plants that contains arsenic, mercury, lead, and other toxins left after combustion or filtered out of smokestack scrubbers. The health, environmental, and financial risks of managing coal ash came to light when the dam holding back a 1.1 billion-gallon coal ash pond of the Tennessee Valley Authority burst and covered over 300 acres with toxic sludge in December 2008.

Last month, As You Sow presented a similar coal ash resolution at a meeting of MDU Resources Group, parent of Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., which earned 40.5 percent of votes cast. A resolution at Southern Company of Atlanta, filed by Green Century Capital Management of Boston, won 17% of votes cast Thursday.

As You Sow ( is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting corporate social responsibility through shareholder advocacy.