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Wolverine Power Plant

Plant Status: 
Defeated
Developer: 
Wolverine Power Cooperative
City: 
Rogers City
Plant State: 
MI
Plant Size (MW): 
600
Technology: 
Circulating Fluidized Bed
Fuel Type: 
PRB, petroleum coke, biomass
CO2 Output (tons)**: 
3 280 391

Update: December 2013

On December 17, 2013 the Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative announced it is ending the development of the Wolverine “Clean Energy Venture,” a plan that included a coal-burning plant in Rogers City, Mich. The 600-megawatt venture was proposed in 2006. “Michigan’s energy future should be driven by clean, renewable sources like wind and solar, and a strong commitment to energy efficiency,” said Andrew Armstrong, attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “We look forward to working with Wolverine to make this future a reality.” This marks the 184th proposed new coal plant project to be canceled since 2010, what amounts to 640 million metric tons of avoided carbon dioxide emissions. 

Update: February 2013

In late December a coalition of groups including the Sierra Club wrote a letter to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality urging reconsideration of the decision to extend the permit expiration date for the proposed plant. This request was denied, and oral arguments are scheduled for Late February. Wolverine says, from its perspective, it is now wating on pending federal emissions rules to determine what pollution controls it would  require, and thus, how economic the plant will be. The plant remains unlikely. A Wolverine official recently state d the follwoing: "Quite frankly, it seems at this point to be highly unlikely, but we're going to explore it until it's obviously not doable." 

Update: December 2012

No significant developments have occured since July. This plant continues to appear unlikely barring a major change of events in Michigan politics and the economics of building new coal-fired power plants. 

Update: July 2012

In late June Sierra Club and allies appealed the Circuit Court's decision to uphold the air quality permit issued for Wolverine's proposed coal-fired unit. The case will now move to the Michigan Court of Appeals. No hearing date has yet been scheduled for this case. Sierra Club argues that the permit has exceedingly weak standards that do not comply with Clean Air Act regulations for Title V air quality permits. Additionally, the issued permit does not consider the U.S. EPA's proposed national Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rule, despite explicit instructions from the U.S. EPA to do so. The levels of emissions found to be achievable in the MACT analysis are far below the limits included in Wolverine's issued air permit.

Regardless of what the Michigan Court of Appeals decides, Wolverine's proposed coal-burning unit looks less and less viable as time wears on. It is becoming increasingly expensive to rely on coal as a fuel source given its high levels of pollution control costs compared to other generation options. 

Update: April 2012

In early April the Circuit Court of Ingham County upheld the issuance of the air permit by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) for Wolverine Power Cooperative's proposed 600-megawatt coal-burning unit near Rogers City. Sierra Club and allies had appealed MDEQ's issuance of this permit in late 2011, arguing that it does not comply with Clean Air Act regulations. The case was heard in late March before the same Circuit Court judge who also heard a similar Sierra Club challenge to the Holland Board of Public Works' James DeYoung Power Plant's air quality permit. The adverse ruling from the Circuit Court did not address any of the Appellants' (Sierra Club et al.'s) legal arguments. Sierra Club has the option to appeal this decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals within 90 days.

Update: January 2012

The legal permit challenge filed in September is ongoing before a Michigan State Court in Ingham County.  An oral argument was requested by Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Environmental Law and Policy Center on January 17, 2012.  

Update: September 2011

The Sierra Club and the Natural Resource Defense Council are suing the state of Michigan for issuing an air permit for a coal-burning power generation facility planned by the Wolverine Power Cooperative in Rogers City.

In a suit filed in Ingham County last week, the groups argue that Gov. Rick Snyder's Dept. of Environmental Quality violated the federal Clean Air Act when it reversed a previous permit denial and approved the project in June.

The Cadillac-based Wolverine Power Cooperative wants to build two 300-megawatt circulating fluidized bed boilers in a limestone quarry next to Lake Huron and first applied for a permit in 2007.

Update: July 2011

In late June the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approved the final Permit to Install for the Wolverine Power plant.  Per Judge Fagerman's order, the final permit was granted without the DEQ having to consider the forecasted demand for electricity (called "need" in industry speak) when making its decision.  This permit does take into account two new federal regulations that were finalized last year, which include requirements that the applicant evaluate pollution reduction technologies for greenhouse gases. 

Although citizens across Michigan have called for diminishing coal use and for great investment in clean energy, State Rep. Peter Pettalia (R-Presque Isle) stated that the permit is a positive step for the state of Michigan.  

To view the 'Final Permit to Install' please see the "Case Documents" section below.

Update: June 2011

On the final day of the public comment period for the draft 'Permit to Install' issued to Wolverine Power Cooperative, the Michigan Messenger reported on Wolverine's plan to burn at least 255,000 tons of green wood trees per year. The plan is in response to the permits' requirement that Wolverine generate a minimum of 5 percent of its total power with biomass, however, the scale of this biomass component was not made publicly available in the permit documents.

Wolverine has indicated that it would obtain the green wood tress from within a 75 mile radius of the plant. Rob Lemrouex, a DEQ permit engineer, acknowledged that a 75 mile radius would encompass about 8,000 square miles of the total 23,000 square miles of forest in the state of Michigan. Michigan Citizens for Energy, Environment and Economy are requesting that the Michigan DEQ reopen the public comment period and hold an additional hearing on the permit now that this new information has been made public.

To view the comments submitted by the Sierra Club and other ally organizations, please see the "Case Documents" section below.

Update: April 2011

In compliance with Judge Fagerman's order, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has issued a draft 'Permit to Install' to Wolverine Power Cooperative. Although Judge Fargerman gave the department until March 31 to issue the permit, Brad Wurfel, a Michigan DEQ spokesperson, has stated that due to newly enacted Environmental Protection Agency regulations the final decision my not be made until June 2011.

The Michigan DEQ has made the draft permit available for public comment from April 13, 2011 until May 19, 2011, on which date the DEQ will also host a public hearing. If the DEQ issues the final permit to install, Wolverine will have 150 days to begin construction on the proposed plant.

To view the 'Draft Permit to Install' and the 'Notice of Comment Period and Public Hearing,' please see the "Case Documents" section below. To make a comment on the draft permit, please click here.

Update: February 2011

Judge William Fagerman has determined that the Department of Natural Resources and Environment exceeded its authority when it denied Wolverine Power Cooperative an air permit based upon need. Judge Fagerman has ordered that, within the next 60 days, the Department issue a new permit to Wolverine based on air quality alone. 

While the ruling is advantageous for Wolverine, the issuance of an approved air permit would not guarantee that the company will proceed with building the new plant. Its board of directors have stated that before proceeding they would have to study the economics of building a new plant given the newly enacted federal regulations on carbon dioxide emissions.

To view Judge Fagerman's 'Order and Opinion,' please see the "Case Documents" section below.

Update: December 2010

The Missaukee Circuit Court has granted Attorney General Mike Cox permission to intervene in the lawsuit filed by Wolverine Power Cooperative. The Attorney General's office is already representing the Department of Natural Resources and Environment in the case, and now that Cox joined Wolverine as a plaintiff, his office is arguing both sides of the case.

Cox is siding with Wolverine on the matter and has stated that no state or federal law empowers the department to deny a permit based on need, and that the ruling was not consistent with the law. The Sierra Club and its allies are disappointed to see Cox intervene against the agency he is supposed to be representing.

To review the Defendant's 'Response to Motion for Summary Disposition', please see the "Case Documents" section below.

Update: October 2010

Judge William M. Fagerman of the 28th Judicial Circuit Court in Missaukee County has granted permission for the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club to intervene and join the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Environment as defendants in the permit denial suit filed by Wolverine Power Cooperative.

Update: August 2010

In response to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE)'s denial of the proposed air permit, the Wolverine Power Cooperative has filed suit against the state in the Missaukee County Circuit Court. In addition to asking for the reversal of the permit denial, the cooperative is also seeking to revoke the executive order issued by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, which instructed state officials to deny permits for coal plants where alternatives exist. Wolverine claims that its application met all existing requirements and that the Governor's order gives the state too much arbitrary power to decide which companies will receive permits.

However, the state's denial of Wolverine's air permit sent a powerful message to the cooperative's members that new coal plants are not a smart investment because they will drive up electricity rates across the state. Now is the time for Wolverine to switch gears and invest in energy efficiency and renewables.

Update: May 2010

Wonderful news!  On May 21, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) denied the air quality Permit to Install for Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative's proposed 600 megawatt coal plant. DNRE's decision was based on a report from the Michigan Public Service Commission that found that Wolverine had not demonstrated a need to construct the proposed coal plant. The MDNRE also noted that the construction of this coal plant would increase Michigan's average electricity rate by 59.2%, making them the second highest rates in the nation.  For more information on this ruling, please see the document section below or click here.

Update: February 2010

As the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) works to respond to the 1,000+ comments submitted on Wolverine's draft air permit, evidence continues to mount that this 600-MW proposed coal plant is not necessary.  In mid-December, Wolverine Power announced that energy demand in 2009 was down 14.6% from 2008 numbers and that it had purchased a 340-MW natural gas plant.

The MDEQ could not say when it will issue the final air permit for this plant.

Update: October 2009

On October 2, the Department of Energy awarded Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative $2.7 million in federal grant money to test carbon capture and sequestration technology on its proposed coal plant.  In its application, Wolverine proposed using chemicals and additives supplied by Dow Chemical Co. and Hitachi Ltd to capture 300,000 tons of CO2 a year, which is barely 10% of the total CO2 this 600 MW plant would release into the atmosphere every year.  DEQ spokesman Robert McCann said that this grant money, which is only enough to cover Wolverine's preliminary design work, will not influence their decision of whether or not to approve the air permit.  Wolverine will need this air permit to receive additional federal funding for this project.

Update: September 2009

Great News!  On September 8, after reviewing Wolverine's alternatives analysis, the Michigan Public Service Commission found that Michigan does not need new coal-fired power. In the report, the MPSC (which functions as an advisory body to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) concluded that Wolverine's alternatives analysis did not present compelling evidence that their proposed coal-fired power plant was the best means of meeting future energy demand and that Wolverine did not adequately explore demand-side management options such as energy efficiency.  The MDEQ will now review Wolverine's alternatives analysis, the MPSC's findings on the alternatives analysis and the public comments that were submitted, and expect to make a final decision on the air permit by the end of this year. To read the MPSC's report in detail, please click here.

Update: August 2009

In early June 2009, Wolverine Power Cooperative submitted the required analysis of less carbon intensive alternatives to its proposed coal-fired power plant, stating that the most preferable alternative would be burning up to 20 percent biomass. During the public notice and comment period provided by the Michigan Public Service Commission in July 2009, Sierra Club and our allies submitted three sets of written comments on Wolverine's analysis. The comments, available in the case documents section below, explain how Wolverine's analysis does not even begin to demonstrate a need for its proposed plant or a lack of feasible and prudent cleaner alternatives to the plant. Our comments also show how the available evidence contradicts Wolverine's assertions regarding energy demand, and shows that energy efficiency, renewable energy and existing natural gas capacity can satisfy demand. As a result, the Club feels the commission should recommend that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality deny Wolverine's air permit application, rather than approve an unnecessary project that would impose undue costs on ratepayers, pollute the air, exacerbate climate change and weaken Michigan's ability to seize the opportunities offered by the green energy economy.

Update: June 2009

On June 9, 2009, Wolverine Power Cooperative submitted its analysis of less carbon pollution-generating alternatives to its proposed coal-fired power plant in Presque Isle County. In its study, ordered by Governor Jennifer Granholm, the cooperative stated that the most preferable alternative would be burning biomass, which could meet up to 20 percent of the proposed plant's fuel needs. The Michigan Public Service Commission, which is assisting the state DEQ in its evaluation of the proposed plant, is taking public comment through July 9, 2009, on Wolverine's alternatives study. For a copy of the analysis and information in the press release on how to send the commission your comments, please visit the commission's website here.

Update: April 2009

On April 7, the Michigan DEQ sent out a letter formalizing its request that Wolverine Power Cooperative submit an alternatives analysis to the DEQ.  Wolverine's submission of its alternatives analysis to the DEQ will trigger another public comment period.  The alternatives analysis will also be submitted to the MS PSC to help it complete the needs analysis for the plant.  Once the public comment period on the alternatives analysis ends and the DEQ receives the needs analysis from the PSC, it will make its final decision on Wolverine's draft air permit.  The DEQ expects to make this decision sometime during the last quarter of 2009.

Update: February 2009

Governor Granholm has finally responded to Sierra Club's demand for a moratorium on proposed coal-fired power plants in Michigan!  In her February 3rd State of the State address, Granholm asked MDEQ to halt the permitting process for seven proposed power plants, pending a further analysis of Michigan's future energy needs and clean energy alternatives. This announcement comes after a year-long, Sierra Club lead fight against eight proposed coal plants in the state.  Michigan is the leading state in coal plant proposals and if built, these eight plants would emit an estimated 20 million tons of carbon dioxide annually; or the equivalent of about four million new cars. For more information, click here!

Update: November 2008

On September 9, 2008, the Michigan DEQ issued a Draft Permit to Install (PTI) to the Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, Inc. Due to deficiencies in the draft permit, the comment period was extended to 1/6/09 and the public hearing will be held on the same day.

Update: August 2008

Wolverine Power Cooperative turned in MACT determinations today to the Michigan DEQ,  completing its air permit application. The MACT documents can be found in the links below. The DEQ will now begin to review the application, though there is no projected timeline for when the draft air permit will be issued. 

Update: February 2008

In late January 2008, an economic analysis of the Wolverine coal-fired power plant concluded that Wolverine will be forced to more than double its electric rates if the proposed new facility begins operation. The report added that electricity from Wolverine's proposed plant would likely cost more than what wind power costs today – a cost that is declining steadily as the wind industry expands and matures – and that energy efficiency and conservation programs likely to be enacted by the state will decrease demand for electricity generated by the proposed plant. A copy of the report, commissioned by Michigan Energy Alternatives and Michigan Land Use Institute, is below.  The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Air Quality Division is still working on a draft air permit for the Wolverine plant, which is not expected for another few months. 

Update: October 2007

In September 2007, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Air Quality Division received an air use permit application for the Wolverine power plant; agency officials are currently reviewing the application for completeness and a draft permit is not expected for at least 4 months. To review the application, please see the "Related Documents" section below.

Update: July 2007

This month, local officials for RogersCity and PresqueIsleCounty approved the special use permits needed to build Wolverine's proposed coal-fired power plant. The proposed location is at the bottom of the world's largest limestone quarry, which is adjacent to Lake Huron and close to the city's water supply. Local officials acted on the permits even though the community knows almost nothing about the plant.

Update: June 2007

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has held discussions with Wolverine about its proposed plant and expects to receive Wolverine's air permit application sometime in the late summer/early fall, with a draft air permit out for public comment three to four months after that.

Background:

Recently, Wolverine Power Cooperative announced a proposal for a 600 MW coal-fired base load power plant near Rogers City on the Lake Huron coast. The project is part of the Wolverine Clean Energy Venture, and will have two components - a base load power plant and a wind turbine farm. The proposed power plant would use Circulating Fluidized Bed (CFB) technology.  So far, Wolverine has completed an initial feasibility study of the site and a land survey, and has begun an endangered species study for the site.

Geographic Location: 
Latitude: 45.394600000000
Longitude: -83.858700000000

* Finance information is provided by Rainforest Action Network.
** Estimated CO2 output is provided by Carma.

When not otherwise specified, plant size is in megawatts (MW).