Green Energy, Michigan — May 25, 2010 at 11:22 am

Permit for new coal-burning plant in Michigan: DENIED!!!


In a sea of bad, very bad and even worse news on the ecological/energy front, score one for the good guys. Last Friday, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE) denied a permit for the Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, Inc. to build a new coal-fired power plant in Rogers City, Michigan.

While the permit was NOT issued, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) issued a bit of a smack-down to Wolverine Power instead.

This permit denial has been a long time coming. The initial request was submitted in September 2007. Since then, groups like the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action of been on the forefront of pushing to deny the permit (along with several others.)

The permit request (No. 317-07) was for a 600 megawatt coal-fired electric power plant. After the public comment period ended in January 2009, the MDNRE requested that Wolverine submit an anlysis of alternatives for the new plant. From rejection letter (.pdf):

The analysis was to evaluate, among other things, future load requirements and the adequacy of existing supplies, including whether a reduced number of boilers or no new boilers are viable options in light of other alternatives to be addressed…

In order to assure appropriate review of Wolverine’s submittal, the DNRE entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). Each agency was given the task of reviewing the portion of the analysis that fell within their area of expertise. The public was provided an opportunity to comment on Wolverine’s submittal…

In assessing Wolverine’s submittal, the findings of the MPSC, and the response provided by Wolverine, the DNRE is persuaded by the MPSC report.

What was in MPSC’s report? That’s where the subtle smack-down comes in. From MPSC’s letter to Governor Granholm (.pdf):

You asked for an analysis of whether the proposed plant was needed to meet Wolverine’s future electicity supply needs, and to estimate the likely impact of the proposed plant on residential customer rates. The short answers to your requests are: No, the plant is not needed to meet Wolverine’s supply needs and the plant would result in an estimated increase of $76.95 per month for the average Wolverine residential customer.

Not only did Wolverine overstate their case for needing the plant, they also seriously underestimated the cost to build it.

Staff expects the plant to cost at least $3,800/kW … compared to Wolverine’s [estimate of] $2,484/kW.

As Maxwell Smart would say: “Missed it by that much!” By 35% that much, in fact. Whoops.

Funny how moving to clean energy is assailed by the right for costing consumers more but they seem unaffected by increases associated with a new coal plant, innit?

The MPSC also described Wolverine Power’s forecasted demand growth as “questionable and optimistic” and that “the risk associated with this uncertainty was not fully addressed”.

A final report (.pdf) issued in Septmember 2009 by the MPSC points out that, (not) amazingly, Wolverine Power neglected to include other ways to meet their customers’ electricity needs. You know, things like oh… “energy efficiency, load management, renewable resources, and a combination of alternatives…”

They also reference green energy changes on the horizon:

Significant changes have taken place on many fronts, including a slowing of the national and state economy, new state policy initiatives on energy efficiency and renewable energy, and pending federal legislation on the regulation of carbon emission.

The MPSC finished their letter to Governor Granholm this way:

The proposed new facility would be a costly mistake for Co-Operative customers served by Wolverine.


Republicans are, of course, outraged. Just outraged I tellzya:

State House GOP Leader Kevin Elsenheimer of Kewadin and Sen. Jason Allen of Alanson, who represent parts of Wolverine’s service area, said the plant “would have boosted northern Michigan’s economy with 2,500 good-paying construction jobs and established a base power generation source that would help the region to rebuild and grow for the future.”

2,500 temporary construction jobs trumps the giant and damaging environmental impact of coal-fired power plants and a huge hike in power costs. Right. Got it.

I would have loved a more potent statement regarding the impact on our environment — something that addresses the copious amounts of greenhouse gases emitted by these facilities and the environment damage inflicted in the mining and transportation of coal. But I’ll settle for a big fat DENIED! stamp. In the end, the result is the same.

I’m just sayin’…