By COREY WILLIAMS
DETROIT (AP) — An energy supplier in northern Michigan can go ahead with plans to build a coal-burning power plant.
The state Department of Environmental Quality announced Wednesday that it has approved Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative Inc.’s permit to construct the 600-megawatt, coal-fired steam electric power plant near Rogers City in the northern part of the state.
Wolverine Power submitted its application for an air permit for the plant in 2007. About two years later, the state asked the company to evaluate alternatives to the proposed facility to consider lower-emitting options.
State officials denied the permit in May 2010 due to factors including the failure to demonstrate a need for the proposed facility.
Wolverine Power took the state to court and won a judge’s ruling in January that said — separate from air quality concerns — that a failure to demonstrate need was not a legal basis to deny the permit application.
Conditions included in the final version of the permit for the Wolverine Clean Energy Venture power plant development are being evaluated, Wolverine Power spokeswoman Nancy Tanner said Wednesday.
“While the MDEQ’s approval of the air quality permit is a significant milestone, we have more work to do, including a thorough financial and rate evaluation and a decision by our board of directors on whether to proceed with the project,” Tanner said in a statement.
The plant is proposed for the Carmeuse quarry property in Presque Isle County, about 210 miles north of Detroit.
Michigan’s Public Service Commission had determined in 2009 that the plant wasn’t needed and would raise the average residential customer’s rate by nearly 60 percent — or $76.95 per month.
“More coal will only send us backward on clean energy and energy efficiency, which are the real engines of job growth across the nation and globally,” Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Director Anne Woiwode said in an e-mailed statement. “The citizens of Rogers City and across Michigan are united in calling on large utilities to stop building coal plants and start investing more clean energy and energy efficiency. Gov. Rick Snyder is moving Michigan backward, not forward, with this reckless decision.”
Prior to Snyder taking office this year, the state had argued that the plant would hinder efforts to bring new development investments into Michigan and increase pollution through the use of coal and petroleum coke at the facility.
Following the judge’s decision, state officials reevaluated the permit and considered new federal air quality standards requiring Wolverine Power to evaluate pollution reduction technologies for greenhouse gases.
The company’s proposal satisfies all state and federal clean air laws, the state DEQ said Wednesday.
Wolverine Power provides electricity to more than 220,000 customers in northern Michigan.
Associated Press writer John Flesher in Traverse City contributed to this report.
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