by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor
This time the word is final. The plug has officially been pulled on the Wolverine Clean Energy project.
“It is with a great deal of sadness I need to tell this community that we are ceasing our development on the clean energy venture,” said Wolverine’s CEO Eric Baker to an invited group of community leaders this morning (Tuesday, Dec. 17).
More than seven years after making public its plans to construct a major coal-fired power plant in Rogers Township, Wolverine leaders have given up.
Faced with years of government red tape and what backers of the project agree were unreasonable regulations, the cooperative admitted investing more than $25 million to jump through constantly moving hoops set up to block construction of new power plants.
What started as a promise for as many as 2,000 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs is now off the table.
Baker and Ken Bradstreet, director of community and government affairs brought the news to the Rogers City Senior and Community Center to a group of invited community leaders.
As he promised on several occasions, if the news was bad, Baker said he would deliver it in person. He made good on that in his first public appearance in Rogers City since January of 2012.
The decision to abandon the project comes as no surprise. In Baker’s last meeting with community leaders in January, 2012, he said a 2011 ruling on power plant emission handed down by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had the company reeling. That EPA ruling, which Baker called a “double standard,” proved to be too high to hurdle.
Standards for existing plants were set at far less stringent levels than those set for new plants. The cost of implementing the changes might mean some plants would close. Since coal provides half of the electricity used in the United States, power shortages could occur or rates would go up, Baker said then.
Standards for new coal fired generation plants were made even tighter than those standards set for modifications on existing plants, low enough to squash plans for any new coal-fired power plant on the planning table.
“There is a lot of concern in the industry that the proposed rules were at level that was so low, that no new coal plant could ever be built,” Baker said.
“The levels are very, very, very low, many, many times more stringent than an existing coal plant is at and many, many times than an existing plant can clean itself up to,” Baker said in 2012.
So now, plans for the 600-megawatt power plant, planned and permitted for in a portion of the Calcite limestone quarry, have been scrapped. Wolverine first announced the project in May, 2006 and after many delays on the state level, obtained its major permit from the Department of Environmental Quality in July, 2011.
Wolverine’s board of directors suspended all work on the project in January of 2012.
(Much more on this story will be in the Dec. 19 edition of the Advance including an exclusive interview with Eric Baker and Ken Bradstreet.)