cford3 / Wikipedia

Consumers Energy in April closed seven of its coal-burning units.

DTE Energy plans to shut eight of its coal-burning units by the year 2023.

Mark Barteau is Director of the University of Michigan Energy Institute.  He says eventually, coal is going away because natural gas, wind and solar are more cost-effective - as well as being better for public health and the planet.

Lansing Board of Water and Light facility
Steve Carmody / MIchigan Radio

Lansing utility officials are weighing a plan that could greatly increase their reliance on alternative energy.

The Lansing Board of Water & Light will soon have to shut down three coal-fired power plants. The plant produce about 80% of the utility’s electricity. 

A panel is recommending BWL replace the electricity from three soon-to-close coal plants with power from wind, solar and natural gas.

wikieditor243 / wikimedia/commons

Updated 2/8/16 at 1:32 pm and 2/10/16 at 2:50 pm

Many companies are making their carbon emissions public, to show they are doing their part to fight climate change.

But new research by Lux Research indicates most companies in the U.S. are either underestimating or overestimating their emissions.

Ory Zik is Vice President of Analytics for Lux Research.  He says estimating one's own carbon emissions is very difficult.  That's because electricity moves from region to region on grids.

Reid Frazier/Allegheny Front

We know that burning coal produces greenhouse gases that cause global warming. But it's also a big source of other types of air pollution that can cause disease and even death.

Around the country, dozens of coal-burning power plants are racing to comply with new Environmental Protection Agency rules to keep mercury out of the air.

In Michigan, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy are both spending roughly $2 billion to comply with new air rules.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Coal is an abundant source of energy.  But burning it spews billions of tons of climate-warming CO2 into the air every year.

Much hope has been placed on a developing technology known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).  The idea is to extract the carbon before it’s emitted from smokestacks, compress it, and store it underground. 

That could allow humans to keep using coal, without further loading the atmosphere and oceans with more CO2.

Fishing on Lake Michigan.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore / Flickr -

Although domestic clean energy efforts are leading to decreases in mercury pollution in the Great Lakes, a new International Joint Commission report says that increased reliance on fossil fuels overseas poses new concerns.

The IJC report urged the Canadian and U.S. governments to better monitor for mercury in the Great Lakes after noting increased levels of mercury in some fish in some parts of the Great Lakes.

Davidshane0 / Wikimedia commons

It’s hard to miss the Eckert plant’s three towering smokestacks in downtown Lansing. They’ve been around almost 60 years.

“They’re affectionately known as Wynken, Blynken, and Nod,” Steve Serkaian, a spokesman for Lansing’s public utility, said.

“Those stacks’ days are unfortunately numbered,” he added.

Holland BPW

President Obama’s plan to reduce carbon emissions will have a profound effect on Michigan’s energy policy overhaul, but no one agrees yet on how.

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration says it’s withholding judgment. Valerie Brader is the director of the Michigan Agency for Energy and the governor’s top advisor on energy policy.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Experts say that with at least nine coal plants in Michigan slated to shut down in the next 10 months, natural gas is the likely replacement as the primary source for generating energy.  But they are not predicting a large increase in natural gas production in the state. Instead, they say there likely will be more pipelines and other infrastructure built to import more natural gas from nearby Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Holland BPW

One of the top Republicans in the state House has introduced bills that would make sweeping changes to Michigan’s energy policies. It comes ahead of Governor Rick Snyder’s address on the issue next week.

Julie Grant / Allegheny Front

The coal industry and conservative politicians say new carbon rules for coal-burning power plants will kill the industry, and they warn that without coal, extreme weather events, like last year's polar vortex, could leave people in the cold and dark. But how well does this argument hold up?

DTE's St. Clair Power Plant in East China, Michigan.
user cgord / wikimedia commons

 A new report from Public Sector Consultants projects Michigan will lose enough energy production for 1 million people in 2016.

According to Julie Metty Bennett, who helped author the report, Michigan is overly reliant on coal-fired power plants compared to other states.

Bennett says many of these coal plants in Michigan won't comply with new regulations from the EPA.

“Given the age of our coal plants, upgrading them to comply with the new EPA regulations is not economically viable. Because we are so reliant on these old coal plants, we are going to lose a significant amount of our energy supply, and it takes years to replace that capacity,” Julie says.

You can listen to our conversation with Bennett above.

user: adamshoop / Flicker

The cost of electricity could jump dramatically next month in the Upper Peninsula.

Residents there might have to start paying to keep a coal plant open that isn't entirely needed anymore. The increase will be a harsh blow to a region that struggles economically.

Brimley is a little town at the end of the road on Lake Superior’s south shore. There’s a bar, a casino and a couple motels. Brimley State Park draws campers here in the summer and into Ron Holden’s IGA grocery store.

"Basically the six weeks of summer pay for the rest of the year’s bills, " he says. On the wall of the IGA are deer heads, a black bear rug, and a flag that says, ‘American by choice, Yooper by da grace of God.’

But being a Yooper might cost more starting December 1. Holden expects his store’s electric bill will be $700 a month higher and he has no idea where he’ll get that money.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Environmentalists and others are trying to rally support in Michigan for proposed rules to force utilities to make power plants cleaner.

The Environmental Protection Agency wants tougher emission standards for the nation’s power plants.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan aims to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 30%  from 2005 levels by 2030. 

Road in need of repair.
Peter Ito / Flickr

This week Gov. Rick Snyder signed laws that allow for more uses of industrial byproducts.


The idea is to send less material to landfills and instead recycle them into as many practical uses as possible. 

These are materials like coal ash, paper-mill sludge and foundry sand. In the past they were dumped in landfills. 

But the state has been researching ways to recycle them – such as mixing them into cement used in roads and parking lots. The law also allows for some of these materials to be used on farmland as soil conditioners. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Consumers Energy is suspending plans to start building a $700 million power plant in Genesee County.

The utility announced today it will instead buy an existing Jackson County power plant for $155 million.

“You know, frankly, we can look out our windows at our headquarters at Consumers Energy, look east, and see the steam when that plant is operating, which is quite often,” says Dan Bishop, a Consumers spokesman.

The Jackson County power plant has been generating electricity for a decade. As a merchant power plant, it sold electricity on the wholesale market.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Snyder wants less coal, but no clear energy plan

"Governor Rick Snyder says Michigan needs more renewable energy and less coal over the next decade. The governor yesterday outlined broad goals for energy policy between now and 2025. But the governor admits it’ll be difficult for lawmakers to pass comprehensive energy legislation during an election year," Jake Neher reports.

Duggan to have broad powers as Detroit Mayor

"Detroit mayor-elect Mike Duggan will have broad powers to run the city’s day-to-day business when  he takes office in January. Duggan and emergency manager Kevyn Orr have reached a power-sharing agreement that gives Duggan control over most city functions," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Murder trial for man who shot Renisha McBride

"A Dearborn Heights homeowner will go on trial for shooting and killing an unarmed teen on his front porch. A judge ruled Theodore Wafer can face a second-degree murder charge," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The City of Holland wants to get an air permit so it can build a new natural gas-fired power plant.

People have until Wednesday to tell the state’s Department of Environmental Quality what they think of the plans.

The roughly $200 million dollar power plant would help replace the city’s 70 year old DeYoung coal plant.

THETFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Consumers Energy is taking steps toward its planned 700-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in Michigan's Genesee County.

The Jackson-based utility filed Friday for approval of a certificate of necessity with the Michigan Public Service Commission. The filing is allowed under the state's energy reform law.

Chief Executive Officer John Russell says the filing establishes the plant "is in the best long-term interests of Michigan."

Holland BPW

Michigan has a new commercial scale power plant; the first new power plant in Michigan in 25 years.

Coal is still the dominant fuel source in the state, but this plant's existence means there will be a little less coal being imported into Michigan.

At the ceremony today celebrating its opening, the Lansing Board of Water & Light sang the new "REO Town" plant's praises:

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s first new utility built power plant in 25 years was fired up today in Lansing.

The Reo Town power plant’s natural gas powered turbines whirled to life this morning.

The $182 million plant will generate electricity and steam for Lansing Board of Water and Light customers.   The plant will generate up to 300,000 pounds of steam for 225 steam customers in downtown Lansing and will completely replace BWL’s Moores Park Steam Plant.   It also will provide 100 megawatts of electricity, about 20 percent of the utility's electric generation. 

Lansing Board of Water & Light

The Lansing Board of Water & Light say this new power plant will be "the first new utility power plant built in Michigan in 25 years."

Following a national trend away from coal, this power plant will burn natural gas.

According to their press release, the municipally-owned utility expects to cut is greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared to the coal-fired steam and electric units the new power plant will replace. They list other benefits as well:

- Eliminate the need to burn 351,000 tons of coal compared to the steam and electric units that the new plant will replace.

- Lower mercury and SO2 (sulfur dioxide) emissions by over 99 percent, and NOx (oxides of nitrogen) by over 85 percent compared to the coal-fired boilers that are now retired.

The power plant called the "REO Town plant" will be fully operational Monday.

It's part $182 million project that also includes a headquarters building and a restored Grand Trunk Western Railroad depot for the BWL Board of Commissioners meetings.

The plant is expected to generate up to 300,000 pounds of steam for 225 steam customers in downtown Lansing, replacing the Moores Park Steam Plant. It also will provide 100 megawatts of electricity, about 20 percent of the utility's electric generation.

The Lansing Board of Water & Light offers water, electric, steam and chilled water service to more than 100,000 residential and business customers.

DTE's St. Clair Power Plant in East China, Michigan.
user cgord / wikimedia commons

There’s a huge disconnect between our use of electricity and the burning of coal. The average American’s use of electricity in a day equals 20 pounds of coal, that’s what you burn on average.

In Michigan, all the coal we use is imported from out of state.

Skiles Boyd, vice president of environmental management and resources at DTE Energy, and Tiffany Hartung with the Sierra Club, organizer for the Moving Beyond Coal campaign, joined us today to discuss our dependence on coal.

We continued our look at energy in Michigan today with coal. DTE Energy's Skiles Boyd and the Sierra Club's Tiffany Hartung spoke with us about what is being done in Michigan to reduce coal emissions and move towards renewable energy.

Also, the new Whole Foods store in Midtown Detroit has garnered a lot of attention. We talked with Kami Pothukuchi and Micki Maynard about how the store has affected the area.

First on the show, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, meaning same-sex couples who are legally married will be recognized by the federal government. The court also ruled in a case that basically makes same-sex marriage in California legal.

But what does that mean for Michigan?

In 2004, voters approved a state constitutional amendment banning recognition of same-sex marriage or similar union. What’s the future of that amendment? What changes will there be for same-sex couples legally married in another state but living in Michigan?

Larry Dubin, a professor at the University of Detroit Mercy law school and Emily Dievendorf, the managing director of Equality Michigan, joined us today to discuss the issue.

Two utilities have been given permission to build new coal-fired power plants in northern and western Michigan. The state Court of Appeals has tossed out legal challenges to their permits. But, that doesn't mean the plants will be built.

Environmental groups went to court to challenge the permits. The state Department of Environmental Quality says the utilities demonstrated there was a demand for electricity. And the agency says the proposed coal plants in Holland and Rogers City met state and federal pollution standards.

The DeYoung Power Plant in Holland burns coal. The city is switching over to natural gas soon.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The City of Holland plans to build a new $182 million power plant. Wednesday night Holland City Council voted eight to one to replace the city’s more than 70-year-old coal plant with a brand new one that burns natural gas instead.

“I don’t know about you but I’ve made some bad decisions in my life and I’ve made them probably because I acted too quickly,” City Councilman Wayne Klomparens said before casting the lone “no” vote.

Kevin Knobloch, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists was in Grand Rapids and will be in Kalamazoo tonight to ask people to vote in favor of Proposition 3. In an essay Knobloch called it "the most important clean energy vote this year".

user vaxomatic / flickr

The campaigns for and against Proposal 3 on the November ballot are arguing the economic merits of renewable fuels versus coal and gas.

Proposal 3 would require 25 percent of the state’s electricity be generated using wind, the sun, or bio-fuels by 2025.

Ken Sikkema conducted a study for the campaign against Proposal 3.

He compared the costs of renewable generation to the costs of using coal or natural gas.

He found renewable energy will be more expensive. Sikkema says businesses, in particular, need flexibility in planning for their energy needs.

"We don’t know what the cost of fuel’s going to be – for example, natural gas prices are on a downward spiral," says Sikkema. "That could be a factor in, if you need new generation, what do you use? Do you use wind? Do you use natural gas, or coal?"

The campaign for Proposal 3 says the ballot question would help stabilize energy costs, because the cost of wind and solar energy is not as volatile as fossil fuels.

The campaign also says the 25 percent target would help make renewable energy more affordable.

One consultant says Holland should convert its coal plant to natural gas.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

People and interest groups are expected to weigh in on the City of Holland’s long term energy plan at two public hearings tonight and Wednesday.

Angela Badran, with Holland’s Board of Public Works, says the city is trying to figure out the best way to supply residents and industry with baseload energy for the next few decades.

"It’s very complex sort of situation that we’re looking at in, how can we best fit the needs of Holland for the next 25 years," says Badran.

The biggest decision facing the city-owned utility is what to do with its aging coal plant.

An independent consultant says the city would get the best return on investment if it converts the coal plant to burn natural gas instead.

Holland is taking input on several proposed plans at this week's public hearings.

One consultant says Holland should convert its coal plant to natural gas.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Holland’s city owned utility would be better off if it burned natural gas rather than coal in the future. That’s the conclusion of a months-long study released this week.

The city hired an energy consultant firm to figure out which of its many energy options would produce the best return on investment. The firm said natural gas would be the best bang for the buck. The report says that return also considers other factors like the environment.