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Citizens Decry Snyder's Approval of Rogers City Coal Plant

Groups warn of big electric bills, harm to public health

July 1, 2011 |

  Governor Rick Snyder, who says he favors using innovation to reboot Michigan’s economy, favors building coal-fired power plants in Michigan.

For Immediate Release
June 30, 2011

Brian Beauchamp, Energy Policy Specialist
Michigan Land Use Institute
Phone: 231-941-6584 x 19
Email: brian@mlui.org * Web site: www.mlui.org.

ROGERS CITY—Citizens groups across Michigan are criticizing the Snyder administration for granting a permit Wednesday for the construction of a highly controversial coal plant in Rogers City. The groups, members of the Clean Energy Now coalition, say the decision will sharply raise electricity bills for many ratepayers who are already struggling financially, and harm public health and the environment.

In 2010, the State of Michigan said Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, which wants to build the plant, failed to show Michigan needed another coal plant to meet energy demand, and declined to permit the project.

“Governor Rick Snyder is blindly approving a dirty coal plant without considering the high cost to ratepayers and its impact on people’s health and safety,” said Wayne Vermilya, from Onaway, Mich. “The people of Michigan have said time and time again that they do not want another coal plant. By refusing to listen to Michigan citizens, Governor Snyder is showing that he puts Big Coal profits ahead of people’s well-being.”

“This decision not only showcases the shortcomings of our permitting process and poor understanding of ‘air-quality,’ but also the Snyder administration’s ignorance on Michigan's energy issues and job creation,” said Ric Evans, a candidate for the board of directors of Great Lakes Energy Cooperative, one of four Michigan co-ops that collectively own Wolverine and are required to purchase all of their electricity from the firm. 

“There is considerably more job growth potential in energy efficiency, weatherization, and clean energy technologies than any antiquated coal plant could ever produce, and for a fraction of the cost,” Mr. Evans added. “While this decision is not all that surprising, it is still incredibly unfortunate for the people of Michigan, and especially for the folks downwind of this plant—and ultimately, we are all downwind of this plant.”

The $2 billion coal plant that Wolverine wants to build will trigger large rate increases for members of the four rural, Lower Michigan co-ops—Cherryland Electric, Presque Isle Gas & Electric, HomeWorks Tri-County Electric, and Great Lakes Energy.

In 2010, when the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (now MDEQ) first rejected the plant, the agency pointed out that it would boost those customers’ monthly residential electric bill by an average of $76, based on a rate study by state utility regulators. That increase would harm many co-op customers: 26 percent of families living in Wolverine’s overall service area live at or below the poverty line.

CEN members also criticized the decision for its effect on the drive to make Michigan a leading manufacturer of renewable energy technologies, including wind turbines and solar panels.

“More coal will only send us backwards on clean energy and energy efficiency, which are the real engines of job growth across the nation and globally—not more coal,” said Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter director. “The citizens of Rogers City and across Michigan are united in calling on large utilities to stop building coal plants and start investing in more clean energy and energy efficiency. Governor Snyder is moving Michigan backwards, not forward, with this reckless decision.”

Thousands of Michigan citizens have voiced opposition to new coal plants over the past few years via online petitions as well as comments and statements to the state during its permitting processes for plants proposed in Bay City, Holland, and Rogers City.

“As so many people have told state leaders and regulators over the past few years, building new coal plants would harm the economy, struggling families and businesses, and the environment,” remarked Jim Dulzo, of the Michigan Land Use Institute. “It is hard to understand why Wolverine insists on building this plant when there is no need for it, especially when future energy demands can be met with renewable energy sources and increased energy efficiency.”

CEN also points out that a new coal plant will worsen air pollution, increase dangerous emissions such as mercury and carbon dioxide, and harm public health. The Rogers City coal project could also open the door to building a landfill quarry for coal ash near Lake Huron, adding an additional danger to public health.

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