January 9, 2014
Questions have been raised about the inclusion of Governor Snyder’s decision to issue permits for two proposed coal plants within his first months in office in Sierra Club’s Scorecard evaluating Governor Snyder’s environmental record during his first term. Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Director Anne Woiwode responds to these questions with the below summary and documentation on these issues, and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 517-484-2372 x 11 or by cell phone as 517-974-2112.
Governor Snyder’s decision to approve permits for the Holland and Rogers City coal plants reversed then existing state policy that advanced cleaner alternatives to coal and reflects the governor’s lack of commitment to clean energy. Approving permits for coal plants that would emit enormous amounts of carbon dioxide contributing to climate disruption, expel toxic metals like mercury, and directly contribute to Michiganders developing respiratory illnesses from particulate matter emissions is the wrong decision for the people of Michigan and our environment.
Within a month of taking office, Governor Snyder’s Administration began abandoning a process developed under the Granholm Administration that sought to assure that the people of Michigan’s interests were protected by considering whether proposed coal fired power plants were needed and whether there were other alternatives that were less polluting. Governor Snyder’s reversal of decisions to deny permits to two coal fired power plant proposals both delayed Michigan’s move toward cleaner energy sources and led to the ratepayers of each of those facilities carrying the costs of the continued investment in developing those plants.
On February 3, 2009, Governor Jennifer Granholm issued Executive Directive 2009-2, based on both the Michigan Environmental Protection Act and on the federal Clean Air Act, that directed the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, in cooperation with the staff of the Michigan Public Service Commission, to review proposed coal fired power plants that were applying for air permits to install (PTI) for whether the power they would produce was needed, and whether there were alternatives available that would meet this need with less pollution.
Granholm’s action reflected concerns about pollution from new coal power plants (including mercury, acid rain precursors, ozone-causing chemicals and the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide) as well as concerns that investing in massive, polluting coal power plants instead of alternative cleaner technologies would cost ratepayers an excessive amount of money and would divert funding from cleaner technologies, including renewable power and energy efficiency measures.
The staff of the Michigan Public Service Commission reviewed three proposed plants: Consumers Energy’s proposed expansion of the Karn Weadock coal plant in Essexville; Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative’s coal plant proposed for Rogers City; and the City of Holland’s proposed expansion of the James DeYoung plant. The MPSC staff concluded that in the case of Consumers Energy’s proposal, the plant could only be justified if Consumers committed to closing existing coal fired plants. Consumers did proceed with the proposed plant and committed to closing multiple existing coal plants in exchange, but ultimately the utility concluded it could not justify proceeding with building an expanded coal fired power plant. Later, Consumers sought permission from the MPSC to charge its customers $22 million to cover the costs of the failed power plant proposal.
In the MPSC staff reports to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on both the proposed Wolverine plant and the proposed Holland plant expansion, the agency staff concluded that neither plant was needed to meet power needs of their utilities and that there were available alternatives that would meet the needs in the future. MDEQ’s decisions to deny each of these permits was based on the findings of these reports and cited relevant state and federal law. Litigation was brought by each utility in the respective Circuit Courts in their counties, which reached significantly different conclusions. The Ottawa County court in December of 2010 reversed the Holland permit denial based on the MDEQ’s decision to base the denial on the lack of need for the plant. In January 2011, the Missaukee County court in the Wolverine case concluded that the MDEQ had failed to adequately document their decision in their permit denial letter, even though the full record of the permit consideration provided extensive documentation. The court remanded the permit to the MDEQ allowing them to further document their decision.
In January 2011, Governor Snyder took office, and the new Administration declined to effectively defend the permit denial decisions and ultimately issued both permits. Last December, both proposed plants were cancelled.
ATTACHMENT (note: this document is no longer available on the State of Michigan’s website)
(To Print: use your browser's print function)
Release Date: February 03, 2009
Last Update: February 03, 2009
EXECUTIVE DIRECTIVE No. 2009 - 2
Consideration of Feasible and Prudent Alternatives in the Processing of Air Permit Applications from Coal-Fired Power Plants
WHEREAS, Section 1 of Article V of the Michigan Constitution of 1963 vests the executive power of the State ofMichigan in the Governor;
WHEREAS, under Section 8 of Article V of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, each principal department of state government is under the supervision of the Governor unless otherwise provided by the Constitution;
WHEREAS, under Section 8 of Article V of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, the Governor is responsible to take care that the laws be faithfully executed;
WHEREAS, under Section 52 of Article IV of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, the conservation and development of the natural resources of this state are matters of paramount public concern in the interest of the health, safety, and general welfare of the people;
WHEREAS, under Section 51 of Article IV of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, the public health and general welfare of the people of the state are matters of primary public concern;
WHEREAS, Part 17 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, MCL 324.1701 to 324.1706, provides in part that "[i]n administrative, licensing, or other proceedings, and in any judicial review of such a proceeding, the alleged pollution, impairment, or destruction of the air, water, or other natural resources, or the public trust in these resources, shall be determined, and conduct shall not be authorized or approved that has or is likely to have such an effect if there is a feasible and prudent alternative consistent with the reasonable requirements of the public health, safety, and welfare";
WHEREAS, Part 17 of the National Resources and Environmental Protection Act is supplemental to existing administrative and regulatory procedures provided by law;
WHEREAS, under Part 55 of the National Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, MCL 324.5501 to 324.5542, and Executive Order 1995-18, MCL 324.99903, the Department of Environmental Quality has the authority to grant permits for the construction and operation of sources of air emissions under the federal Clean Air Act, 42 USC 7401 to 7671q;
WHEREAS, Section 5541 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, MCL 324.5541, provides that Part 55 of the Act "does not repeal any of the laws relating to air pollution which are not by this part expressly repealed. This part is ancillary to and supplements the laws now in force, except as they may be in direct conflict with this part";
WHEREAS, under Section 165(a)(2) of the federal Clean Air Act, 42 USC 7475(a)(2), the Department of Environmental Quality has the discretion to consider alternatives to proposed sources of air emissions when determining whether or not to grant an air permit to that source;
WHEREAS, coal-fired electricity generating plants annually emit thousands of tons of air emissions, including, but not limited to, greenhouse gases, that threaten the air, water, and other natural resources of Michigan and the health, safety, and general welfare of Michigan residents;
WHEREAS, circumstances have changed since the 21st Century Energy Plan, issued pursuant to Executive Directive 2006-2, projected that Michigan's total electric generation requirements would grow at 1.3% annually until 2025, as evidenced by the Michigan Public Service Commission's projection in its Winter 2008/2009 Energy Appraisal that electricity sales decreased 1.4% in Michigan in 2008;
WHEREAS, the enactment of the Clean, Renewable, and Efficient Energy Act, 2008 PA 295, MCL 460.1001 to 460.1195, has reduced the need for additional coal-fired electricity generating plants in Michigan by providing for the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy to meet future electricity needs in this state, reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels such as coal;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Jennifer M. Granholm, Governor of the State of Michigan, by virtue of the power and authority vested in the Governor by the Michigan Constitution of 1963 and Michigan law, direct:
A. Before issuing a permit to install under Part 55 of the National Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, MCL 324.5501 to 324.5542, for the construction of a new coal-fired electricity generating plant, the Department of Environmental Quality shall determine whether there is a feasible and prudent alternative consistent with the reasonable requirements of the public health, safety, and welfare that would better protect the air, water, and other natural resources of this state from pollution than the proposed coal-fired electricity generating plant.
B. Before making the determination required by Paragraph A, the Department shall first determine whether a reasonable electricity generation need exists in this state that would be served by the proposed coal-fired electricity generating plant. If a reasonable electricity generation need exists in this state, the Department shall estimate the extent of the reasonable electricity generation need.
C. The Department shall next consider alternative methods of meeting the reasonable electricity generation need, including, but not limited to, each of the following:
D. If the Department determines that a feasible and prudent alternative to the construction of a new proposed coal-fired electricity generating plant exists consistent with the reasonable requirements of the public health, safety, and welfare that would better protect the air, water, and other natural resources of this state than the proposed coal-fired electricity generating plant, the Department shall not issue a permit to install.
E. The Michigan Public Service Commission shall provide technical assistance to the Department in making determinations required by this Directive.
F. All departments, committees, commissioners, or officers of the executive branch of this state shall give to the Department of Environmental Quality any necessary assistance required by the Department in the performance of the duties of this Directive, so far as is compatible with its, his, or her duties. Free access shall also be given to any books, records, or documents in its, his, or her custody, relating to matters within the scope of inquiry, study, or review of the Department under this Directive.
This Directive is effective immediately.
Given under my hand this 3rd day of February in the year of our Lord, two thousand and nine.
JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM
Copyright © 2009 State of Michigan
 Find the Scorecard here: http://michigan.sierraclub.org/politics/articles/SnyderScorecard.html
 Under the Snyder Administration, all of Governor Granholm’s Executive Directives have been removed from the State of Michigan’s website. An analysis of Executive Directive 2009-2 is found on the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center website here and the full Executive Directive is included at the end of this memo http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/blog/2009/02/michigan-governor-puts-the-brakes-on-new-coal-plants.html
 A report was prepared for each proposal:
the Consumers Energy proposal report is here http://efile.mpsc.state.mi.us/efile/docs/15996/0190.pdf;
the Wolverine proposal report is here http://efile.mpsc.state.mi.us/efile/docs/16000/0144.pdf;
and the Holland proposal report is here http://efile.mpsc.state.mi.us/efile/docs/16077/0077.pdf.
“Consumers Energy's statement on decision not to build coal-fired plant,” MLive, 12/2/11 http://www.mlive.com/business/jackson-lansing/index.ssf/2011/12/consumers_energy_releases_stat.html
“Consumers Energy wants customers to pay $22 million for failed coal-fired plant, but many readers don't want to pay”, MLive, 12/8/11
 MDEQ letter denying Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative permit, May 2010 http://www.deq.state.mi.us/aps/downloads/permits/pubnotice/317-07/DenialLtr.pdf
MDEQ letter denying Holland Board of Public Works permit, August 2010