For good measure, Wolverine, a generation and transmission cooperative based in Cadillac, Mich., formally canceled a long-delayed 600-megawatt coal plant proposed for Rogers City, Mich. The $2 billion Wolverine Clean Energy Venture project had been on life support for several years before the co-op finally pulled the plug once and for all in December.
The flurry of late-year activity leaves the future of coal-fired generation in Michigan, a state that gets more than 50% of its electricity from coal, up in the air. The Sierra Club, as part of its national “Beyond Coal” campaign, has been leading the anti-coal fight in the state, arguing the estimated $2 billion spent by Michigan utilities annually to purchase out-of-state coal — Michigan has no active coal mines — could be better used to create local jobs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency arenas.
The environmental group took aim at permits issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality as part of DTE’s $2 billion multiyear retrofit of Monroe to enable the plant to comply with new federal Environmental Protection Agency rules. The Sierra Club contended the changes at the plant violate the federal Clean Air Act, and asked the Michigan Court of Appeals to overturn a lower court ruling that upheld the permits.
Appellate court justices sided with DTE and DEQ, however. “The facts of the case do not support a finding that the [DEQ] erred,” the court said. “The permits allow for modifications that will reduce overall NOx emissions by more than 75% and SO2 emissions by more than 90%.”
Monroe is one of the largest coal burners in the United States, annually consuming nearly 8 million tons of mostly low-sulfur Powder River Basin coal. The plant is expected to continue burning coal for many years to come. Meanwhile, Presque Isle’s days as the only baseload power plant in the sparsely populated UP may be numbered.
For at least the next year or so, We Energies will continue to operate Presque Isle under an arrangement with the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, which says the plant is needed to ensure reliability in the region.