August 20, 2010

Citizens Win after Controversial Coal Plant in Holland is Denied

Friday, Aug. 20, 2010

Changing energy economy means Michigan must grow clean energy sector

“The citizens of Holland and across West Michigan repeatedly made our voice clear: We don’t want a coal plant that puts people and our future at risk, and today, that voice was heard,” said Holland resident Jill Henke . “Today’s victory is the result of sustained public pressure, and a reminder to Big Coal and utilities everywhere that the writing is on the wall. Michigan wants to move toward a clean energy future that can jumpstart our economy, protect our Great Lakes , and create local jobs that cannot be outsourced.”

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality today denied a permit to Holland Board of Public Works for an expansion to its coal plant. The MDEQ cited a Public Service Commission report that said, among other things, the BPW hadn’t shown it really needed the 78 megawatt expansion. The MPSC report also said HBPW hadn’t fully explored all its energy generation options, including renewable and clean energy alternatives.

“Citizens across Michigan applaud the MDEQ for making this common sense decision, and also the people of West Michigan who stood up for a strong clean energy future,” said Jan O’Connell the Sierra Club. “More energy efficiency and renewable energy will save money for consumers in the long run and bring in new investments that are creating local jobs. Holland is already leading the way in clean energy, such as advanced auto battery technology. This is an opportunity to send an even stronger message that Holland is the community of the future, built on clean energy and not coal.”

Michigan Coal Rush Brought to a Halt!

Friday, Aug. 20, 2010

With the denial of the Holland Board of Public Works proposed air permit to expand their coal plant, all of the eight coal plants discussed or proposed in Michigan have been denied, withdrawn or stalled! 

Here is the status:

  • Northern Michigan University withdrew coal from their proposed biomass plant in May 2009 after a challenge by Sierra Club.
  • LS Power's MidMichigan proposed Midland coal plant withdrew their air permit in May 2009 after their partner Dynegy pulled out and public input pointed out major flaws.
  • Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative's air permit for a Rogers City plant was denied by DNRE in May 2010 because there was no need and alternatives to meet future electric needs exist. An appeal has been filed, and DNRE has been joined the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council in defending the permit denial in court.
  • Consumers Energy received an air permit for the expansion of the Karn-Weadock plant in Essexville, but in May 2010 announced plans to put the plant on the shelf indefinitely. The air permit is being challenged in court by Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club.
  • Lansing Board of Water and Light drops plans for a new coal plant, choosing to build a combined cycle natural gas plant that will be more flexible and mesh with renewable energy sources in July 2010.
  • Holland Board of Public Works' proposed air permit to expand their coal plant was denied in August 2010. They have recently filed an appeal of that decision.
  • Two plants that had been discussed in the press (M&M Energy in Alma and Tondu Corporation's TES Filer Plant) have not sought permits and there is no indication either plans to move ahead.
  • There is still more to do to assure that Michigan is moving away from coal and toward clean energy sources that produce jobs and energy right here in the Great Lakes State. Learn more about the fight to move Michigan Beyond Coal here or contact our Beyond Coal staff: Tiffany Hartung, Anne Woiwode, and Jan O'Connell (Holland).


August 12, 2010

Electric Company’s Lawsuit Would Bring Rate Hike

August 12, 2010

Wolverine’s Challenge To State’s Decision On Proposed Rogers City Coal Plant
Threatens Clean Energy Jobs, Revives Financial Risk For State

LANSING, MI—A lawsuit filed this week challenging the state’s denial of a Clean Air Act permit for a proposed costly and unneeded coal-fired power plant for Rogers City seeks to revisit a decision that ended the threat of a nearly 60-percent electric rate hike for Michigan consumers.

Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative on Wednesday appealed the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment’s (“MDNRE”) rejection of the company’s application for an air permit for its proposed coal-fired power plant in Rogers City. The appeal was filed in the 28th Circuit Court of Missaukee County.

“Wolverine’s stubborn quest for an unnecessary coal plant in Rogers City is an outrage,” said Jean Veselenak, a Rogers City resident. “We need clean energy jobs and the opportunity to transition to better ways to produce energy, not more rate hikes to support dirty coal. Experts and regulators evaluated this proposed plant and said it was too costly and we don’t need it. Rogers City residents agree. Instead of now pursuing a better strategy for consumers, Wolverine officials want to spend their members’ money on a lawsuit to convince a judge that they are right and everyone else is wrong.”

In evaluating the Wolverine project, the Michigan Public Service Commission found that the proposed coal plant would increase electricity rates for consumers by 59.2% to 20.7 cents per kilowatt-hour, and would cost the average residential customer $76.95 more every month. Environmental, consumer and energy groups had all opposed the proposed plant.
MDNRE denied the permit in May, stating that 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.

“Despite road bocks and warning signals by major credit ratings agencies across the nation that new coal plants are expensive and likely to be plagued by long-term regulatory and financial problems, Wolverine has continued to support the project,” said Anne Woiwode, State Director of Sierra Club of Michigan. “In the face of all these risks, it is unwise to spend Coop member money on developing a risky, expensive and unnecessary coal plant.”
Since 2001, 132 proposed coal plants around the country have been cancelled due to rising costs, financial riskiness and the existence of better alternatives.

The few new coal plant projects that are moving forward are incurring huge cost overruns. The Peabody Energy Prairie State Plant in Illinois under construction now has doubled in cost, leaving ratepayers on the hook to pay for $2 billion in cost overruns so far, and similar cost escalations have been experienced in Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and other states throughout the country.

“It is common sense that before authorizing a nearly $2 billion coal plant, MDNRE would evaluate whether there was a need for or better alternatives to that plant,” said Shannon Fisk, Senior Attorney for the Midwest Office of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Wolverine’s continued pursuit of an unnecessary, costly and dirty coal plant is not good for ratepayers or Michigan’s economy.”

In June, Traverse City area ratepayers raised concerns and questions about the cost of the plant during the Cherryland Electric Cooperative’s annual meeting. The ratepayers asked the board to fully disclose the estimated costs for participation in the Wolverine coal plant proposal before final decisions were made to appeal the permit decision, but that request was not granted. Ratepayers ran a series of TV and radio ads encouraging Coop members to vote for candidates who oppose the coal plant and support clean energy options as better, more responsible business. The ads can be viewed at

“We don’t need to waste millions on dirty, unnecessary coal plants,” said Faith Bugel, Senior Attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The DNRE made the right decision for Michigan’s ratepayers, for Michigan’s workers and for Michigan’s environment.”
Others who challenged the proposed Rogers City coal plant also reacted strongly to news of Wolverine’s lawsuit.

“Wolverine Coops were told that there was no need to spend billions of dollars to build this plant,” said Tom Karas of Michigan Energy Alternatives Project, “but management of these utilities won’t pull the plug on the Rogers City coal plant. They want to gamble with their members’ money. Appealing the state’s decision would only make a bad economic story worse for coop members”

“Wolverine should invest in energy efficiency and energy 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.