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State: Power plant emissions standards on hold pending SCOTUS decision

Feb 17, 2016

DTE Energy's Trenton Channel power plant.
Credit DTE Energy

Michigan will halt efforts to meet new power plant emissions standards while they’re battled over in court.

Michigan is one of 29 states suing the federal government over the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The U.S. Supreme Court preemptively put a hold on that plan last week before even hearing arguments.

State officials say it now makes sense for Michigan to follow that lead, and stop moving forward until the courts offer some “clarity.”

“The [Supreme Court’s] stay puts on hold everything, including the deadlines that states need to meet,” said Judy Palnau, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Agency for Energy.

The EPA’s “carbon rule” requires power plants to slash carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. It’s a cornerstone of the U.S. commitment to a global climate change treaty reached in Paris late last year.

Public health and environmental groups immediately slammed the move.

“This is a missed opportunity for the governor to show some real leadership when it comes to protecting Michigan’s environment,” said the Michigan Sierra Club’s Mike Berkowitz, who said it will slow the state’s shift away from coal and toward cleaner, more affordable energy sources.

Berkowitz and others also called it a bad move to make at a time when environmental issues — and the state’s handling of them — are getting heightened public attention.

“The governor has clearly failed to learn from important lessons in Flint, Detroit and other areas across our state about protecting the health and resources of Michiganders. This failure to lead the way on clean energy demonstrates once again that public health is not a priority of his administration,” said Guy Williams, head of the group Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice.

Michigan still generates most of its electricity from coal-fired power, which is considered “dirty” both in terms of carbon emissions and negative public health impacts.

The Clean Power Plan would require Michigan power plants to cut carbon emissions by nearly one-third from 2005 levels.

The Michigan Agency for Energy’s Palnau contends that freezing compliance measures now won’t put the state back if the plan is eventually approved, because the court would issue new timelines then.

Palnau adds the state will still move forward with prior plans to close nine coal-fired power plants in April, a move that’s “unrelated to the carbon rule.”

A total of 25 coal plants are still scheduled to close by 2020.