Michigan is back on schedule to build several brand new coal-fired plants, one in Rogers City…wait, did I really say coal-fired plants? Yes…coal, that 18th century fuel technology…coal: powering steam engines all over America…coal: bringing the Transcontinental Railroad to a city near you…coal: three hundred million years-old and counting….okay, enough already…
Sure, Michigan is growing in wind power generation, but at a rate that’s embarrassingly behind other U.S. states, notably Texas, who leads the nation. The Rogers City coal plant does promise to generate less greenhouse gas emissions than traditional coal-burning plants…and it’s designed to burn biofuels as well. Thus the “1 step forward” part of this story (sort of, because when our politicians say biofuels, they aren’t talking switchgrass, as you’ll see in a later installment).
But coal? Seriously? That’s the “2 steps back” part. A step back for lack of vision to use a fuel source that should have been abandoned long ago, and relies on mining techniques devastating to the environment and human health and safety. And a step back for committing to this antiquated fuel source for decades to come, delaying committing to new, cleaner, and renewable fuel sources such as wind, solar and hydrogen, and only guaranteeing more deadly mining accidents, polluted rivers and groundwater, obliterated mountains, and devastated communities.
The DEQ hearing to entertain public comments on the plant’s air quality, held in May of 2011, was merely a formality to be dispensed with before the new economic development-minded DEQ approves the project. I was there with camera and present some excerpts here. This first 3-minute video presents dueling comments from pro-coal plant Michigan Congressman Peter Pettalia and coal plant-opposed Ottawa Tribal Council-member Lee Sprague.