Michigan regulators approve DTE plan to cut pollution, close Monroe plant
- The Michigan Public Service Commission approved DTE Energy's long-range energy plan on Wednesday
- DTE agreed to shut down the vast Monroe Power Plant and eliminate coal by 2032
- Under the new plan the utility company will provide $38 million to help low-income families with their utility bills
After years of negotiations with environmental groups, business leaders and the state, the Michigan Public Service Commission unanimously approved DTE Energy’s long-range plans to close the Monroe Power Plant, ditch coal by 2032 and invest more into solar and wind energy.
“This ... is a step in the right direction, and it only happened due to advocacy from organizations across the state who intervened, got ratepayers involved and put the big energy utility’s feet to the fire,” Nick Dodge, communications director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement.
The Monroe Power Plant is one of the country’s largest contributors to pollution. Built in the 1970s, the power plant is among the top 10 electric generating facilities, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
DTE, the state’s largest utility company serving over 2.3 million customers, originally planned to retire the coal plant by 2035, but pushback from energy advocates prompted the company to move up the timeline.
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“This is a really significant turning point in long term advocacy in terms of getting the biggest utility in Michigan off of coal,” Shannon Fisk, director of state electric sector advocacy for EarthJustice, a non-profit environmental law organization, said during a Tuesday webinar.
“Real climate progress can only be achieved if we replace aging coal plants with clean energy rather than with new gas plants,” he said.
The company plans to convert the Belle River power plant in St. Clair County from coal-fire to a natural gas in 2025 or 2026, donate $38 million to help support low-income households with energy bills and disclose political donations of $5,000 or more beginning in 2024.
The date is still two years behind Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s climate plan to eliminate coal by 2030 and Consumers Energy, the state’s other dominant utility company, which agreed to shut down all of its remaining coal-fired power plants by 2025 in a settlement last year.
Sierra Club, one of the country's largest environmental advocacy groups, is among 21 organizations that signed the settlement.
The Monroe Power Plant ”will emit 24 million tons less of CO2 under the deal reached, 6,000 tons less of sulfur dioxide and 7,000 tons less of nitrogen oxide because of the period that we were able to move it up,” Andrew Sarpolis, Michigan field manager for the Sierra Club, said during a webinar on Tuesday.
Citizens Utility Board of Michigan, an organization that advocates for lower utility rates for customers, declined to sign it.
The advocacy group opposes a provision in the settlement that allows DTE to charge customers more in order to provide a 9 percent return to the company's shareholders on nearly $2 billion in costs to retire coal plants.
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