Plans for two new coal plants in Rogers City and Bay City were
scuttled last week, raising hope in Michigans environmental community
that power companies will pursue a cleaner path to producing
Last week, Gov. Jennifer Granholm denied an air quality permit for
Wolverine Power Supply Cooperatives proposed coal burning plant in
Rogers City. The governors decision was based on input from the
Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE),
which had issues with the economic benefits of the plant, in addition
to air quality concerns.
Wolverine Power has the option of
appealing the decision.
Reaction to the news was mixed.
Tom Karas of the Michigan Energy
Alternatives Project (MEAP), which has led the fight against new coal plants in
Michigan, issued a blog noting that the
Rogers City plant would have raised electricity rates significantly.
Wolverines air permit for its proposed coal plant in Rogers City
was denied because, according to the States letter, the plant simply
was not needed, there were cheaper options, and the power it generated
would be extremely expensive, Karas said.
In an opinion piece from the Michigan Land Use Institute (MLUI), editor Jim
Dulzo commented on the controversy in Rogers City over the proposed
plant. The environmental and land use think tank has spent the past
three years building a case against the project.
We found a town where most everyone fiercely supported the plant,
Dulzo said of his initial visit to Rogers City in July, 2007.
Desperate for economic development, they saw the 50 or 100 permanent
jobs the plant would bring as pure gold. Who could ever blame them?
But we also found brave people willing to speak out, against
overwhelming social pressure, and say what needed to be said -- that
there was no need for the plant; that it would change Rogers City
profoundly, and for the worse; that it would, sooner or later, damage
the communitys health by harming its air and water; and that it would
greatly boost electricity rates for 200,000 Michigan families and
Dulzo added that the proposed plant would have increased the cost of
its customers electricity by close to 60 percent.
U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Menominee), an ardent supporter of the
proposed coal plant, blasted the States decision.
Governor Granholms decision to deny Wolverine Powers air permit for
a new power plant in Rogers City is a blow to Michigans economy and
prevents Northern Michigan from helping to establish the state as a
leader in new energy technologies, Stupak said in a release. This
project was an opportunity to create much-needed jobs and meet
Michigans energy needs, while remaining consistent with the goal of
producing cleaner energy.
Stupak said the denial of the permit would mean the loss of an
estimated 2,800 construction jobs in addition to 50-100 permanent jobs
in Rogers City, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the
It also signals a continuation of
Michigans reliance on inefficient power plants with high rates of
pollution constructed 40 to 50 years ago, Stupak said.
He noted that the proposed plant has been approved for funding via a
grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and has the potential of
receiving an additional $147 million in federal funding for clean
energy and job creation.
The Wolverine Power Clean Energy Venture Project was designed to
utilize carbon capture and sequestration technologies, co-fire 20
percent of its fuel from biomass, and construct more than 50 megawatts
of clean wind energy, Stupak said.
But Dulzo noted that the nation is trending away from coal power as an
The Rogers City plant is, I believe, the 107th one cancelled in the
U.S. in the last several years, he said. The American wind industry
now employs more people than the American coal industry. The rest of
the world -- led by China -- is headed away from coal as quickly as it
can. This is not ideology. It is not a prediction. It is a fact.
Wolverine should invest the $1.3 billion it was going to spend on
coal on efficiency measures for all of its customers, and charge them
for it, Dulzo added. Everyone will save money, and lots of people
will get good, long-lasting jobs.
Last week also brought a decision by Consumers Energy to suspend its
plans for a new coal-fired plant near Bay City.
Karas of MEAP said he hoped that
Wolverine Power would take Consumers decision to heart and pursue
cleaner energy projects.
Consumers announcement strongly validates the MDNRE decision of May
21 to deny an air permit to Wolverine largely due to economic
realities, Karas said in a release.
Hans Voss, executive director of the MLUI, said the decisions set the
stage for cleaner energy projects in Michigan.
Two coal plants have fallen in less than a week, Voss said. Now
its time for Lansing to do its part, and make sure Michigan has a
clear path toward rebuilding its economy by creating jobs in energy
efficiency, wind and solar power, and other new energy technologies.