Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 8, 2013

$20 million can't move Rogers City power plant

TRAVERSE CITY — A 10-year-old quarry three miles from Rogers City remains just that.

Wolverine Power Cooperative spent more than $20 million to construct a new coal-fired plant in the limestone quarry, but the cooperative has yet to lift a hammer to build the plant, plans for which were announced in 2006.

Wolverine Power, a coalition of electricity providers including Cherryland Electric, refuses to let the project, which members call the Clean Energy Future, die, even though new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations make it nearly impossible, or at least costly, for the plant to be constructed.

Wolverine still owns both the land and air permits for the plan, which the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality granted a year ago. But officials instead are pursuing a retrofitting project with a coal-fired plant in Marquette.

“The Wolverine Clean Energy Future is not at the forefront of what we are working on, but it is still an option for us,” said Wolverine spokesperson Nancy Tanner. “We still believe that site would be an excellent site for a power plant.”

Building a power plant in the quarry would be no easy task.

“The regulations are very, very tough to meet for a new coal plant. They know that. That is why they haven’t started to move forward,” said Jim Dulzo, the senior energy policy specialist for Traverse City-based Michigan Land Use Institute. “I think that they are hoping for a regulatory miracle or miracle court case.”

The project is so far on the back burner that members at Cherryland, which contributed to less than 20 percent of the project, view it as nonexistent.

“As far as I know, the coal plant in Rogers City is not going to happen,” said Tom Van Pelt, president of Cherryland's Board of Directors. “That’s directly related to the new rules from EPA that make it impossible to do any new coal-fired generation.”

Wolverine's air permits for the project expire at the end of June 2014.

Cherryland officials maintain the money the cooperative spent on the project was worthwhile.

“The possibility of starting a plant in Rogers City did get us in marketplace where Wolverine was able to make some other acquisitions and connections that were well worth the money we spent trying to do Rogers City,” Van Pelt said.



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