May 21, 2010

Groups Applaud Wolverine Coal Plant Permit Denial by Governor Granholm, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Environment

Governor Follows Through on Commitments to Clean Energy Jobs

Local residents and groups declared victory today in an almost three-year battle against a proposed coal plant in RogersCity. Area residents applauded Governor Jennifer Granholm and the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (DNRE) Director Rebecca Humphries for denying a permit needed to build the controversial plant.

“We in Rogers City are profoundly grateful for this decision,” said Jean Veselenak, a resident of Rogers City. “The cost of Wolverine coal would have meant diminished health, diminished economy, and great injury to our environment which sustains our lives. Wolverine must now put its head to the real thing; wind, solar; and new technology that already exists in Michigan. Our families deserve these jobs and their health after long promises.”

The DNRE decision states there is no need for the proposed power plant, and that alternative methods are available that would supply the customers of the four electric cooperatives that make up Wolverine with electricity at a much cheaper rate than the cost of building a new coal plant. State officials estimated that the proposed plant would increase the electric rates charged by the cooperatives by at least 59.2% even after Wolverine suggested reducing the plant by half.

“With this decision, Governor Granholm reinforced Michigan’s clean energy jobs future by moving away from coal and supporting today’s job creators—renewable energy and energy efficiency,” said Anne Woiwode, State Director of Sierra Club of Michigan. “Coal is an outdated, dirty and dangerous way to generate power and it is a dead end for Michigan jobs.”

“Today, the State of Michigan echoed what we’ve been saying for years: we don’t need to waste millions on dirty, unnecessary coal plants,” said Faith Bugel, Senior Attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “This is the right decision for Michigan’s ratepayers, for Michigan’s workers and Michigan’s environment.”

Today’s decision arose out of an Executive Order from Granholm last year that instructed the DNRE, with input from the staff of the Michigan Public Service Commission, to evaluate Michigan’s energy needs and the availability of alternatives to coal plants. The guidance arose from provisions in the federal Clean Air Act adopted in the 1970s, which allow states to require consideration of alternatives in weighing whether to issue or deny an air pollution permit. The Michigan Environmental Protection Act, which calls for consideration of alternatives to activities that pollute, impair or destroy the environment, was also cited during public comment as rationale for the state to deny the Wolverine permit, as well as other coal plant air permits also under consideration.

“The denial of this permit clears the way for Wolverine to invest in energy efficiency and electric generation sources that will serve their member cooperatives better by developing cleaner electricity generation and keeping costs lower,” said Susan Harley, Policy Director for Clean Water Action. “We applaud Governor Granholm and Director Humphries for making decisions that will serve Michigan well today and for generations to come.”

DNRE's documents explaining the denial of the Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative air permit to install can be found here:

CMS Energy Faced Coal Challenges at Shareholder Meeting

Shareholders Resolutions Received High Support 
While Ratepayers Rallied Outside Annual Meeting

LANSING – CMS Energy shareholders are sending a clear signal they have deep concerns about the proposed coal plant near Bay City and the risk it poses to the company’s financial stability after a significant percentage of shareholders voted today in support of proposals from two investors calling on the utility giant to disclose risks associated with its coal ash disposal and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

While the proposals put up for proxy votes were not endorsed at the shareholders’ meeting in Jackson, The strong support for the shareholder proposals are a sign of investors’ deep concern that CMS Energy’s poor environmental performance and continuing investment in coal are putting shareholder value at risk.

“CMS Energy is wasting an opportunity to be not just a true energy leader, but also more profitable down the road so it can continue creating Michigan jobs and providing Michigan energy to families and businesses,” said Margaret Weber, a proxy for a CMS Energy Shareholder. “We will not give up. We will continue the fight to make CMS Energy – our company – a leader in clean energy investments and clean energy jobs, not a dinosaur from the coal age.”

During the meeting CMS Energy Shareholder Margaret Weber delivered a large bundle of Michigan petition signatures to now former CEO David Joos and current CEO John Russel telling him that “these 8,000+ Michiganders are asking CMS Energy – all of us in this room - to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency, not another dirty, expensive, and unnecessary coal plant. They hope that CMS Energy will focus on energy efficiency and clean energy as lower cost options that will create good jobs and help them keep paying their bills.

Weber asked “As on of these 8,000 Michigan residents, I would like to know what the rate increase will be to pay for this new coal plant and when you will provide investors with an analysis of the rate impact of this new coal plant, including potential customer defaults and loss of customers?”

Citing that major credit ratings agencies across the nation have warned that new coal plants are expensive and likely to be plagued by long term regulatory and financial problems, shareholder Peter Every asked management “In the face of all these risks, wouldn’t it be wise to stop spending investor money on developing a risky, expensive, and unnecessary coal plant, and instead replace our old and inefficient coal plants with energy efficiency and clean energy?

Weber also raised concern at the rally about the re-election of board member Richard Gabrys, who also sits on the Massey Energy board of directors. Massey Energy is a coal company with a long history of violating the law, both in safety and in environmental compliance.

“CMS Energy shareholders sent a message to their company’s management that making further investments in old coal technology is a bad decision,” said Tiffany Hartung, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign. “Not only has Consumers Energy CEO David Joos refused to listen to the people of Michigan for years, he’s also refused to heed the warning signals from the financial industry about the risks of building new coal plants. Shareholders demand change and they deserve a company that is financially responsible.”

Two CMS Energy investors – the Office of the Comptroller of New York City and the As You Sow Foundation – submitted the shareholder proposals. The shareholder proposals call for CMS to:

  • Plan for a more expensive carbon future by adopting quantitative goals for reducing its total greenhouse gas emissions and reporting to shareholders on these plans
  • Disclose all potential risks associated with toxic coal ash disposal and to disclose steps the company is taking to reduce exposure to these risks.

A similar coal ash shareholder resolution filed with MDU Resources recently received 25.6 percent of the vote in favor of increased transparency on this key environmental issue – high enough for the company chairman to agree to shareholder demands at its annual general meeting. Investors in Southern Company, which dropped its own plans for a new coal plant in Mississippi last month, have also filed similar resolutions.