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Snyder suspends complying with clean power mandate

Melissa Nann Burke, and Jonathan Oosting
Gov. Rick Snyder

The state of Michigan said Tuesday that it is no longer preparing to comply with the Obama administration’s new emissions regulations for coal-fired power plants and will instead wait until the courts resolve the issue.

The announcement comes a week after the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay that temporarily blocks implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, pending review by a federal appeals court.

The Clean Power Plan requires states to slash greenhouse gas pollution emitted by power plants a third by 2030, mostly by closing or upgrading coal-fired plants, as well as boosting production of wind and solar power.

The EPA says states are not required to make their initial plan submissions during the stay; however, the agency will continue to engage with states, providing support for those who continue to work to cut carbon pollution from power plants.

“We disagree with the court's decision, but we are confident that we will ultimately prevail on the merits of the case when the Plan has its full day in court,” the EPA said in a statement. “We believe that we will remain on track for reaching our 2025 climate target.”

Michigan is among 29 states and industry groups that challenged the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to impose the new regulations.

“The U.S. Supreme Court recognized that we may win when they ordered the president to not implement his rule because he overstepped his powers,” said Andrea Bitely, spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill Schuette.

“We are joined by attorneys general from 28 other states in making the point that the Constitution and laws should be followed. There is a process that our country has followed for two centuries, and it’s unfortunate that we had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to have it recognized.”

A statement by the Michigan Agency for Energy on Tuesday said the state would wait for a legal resolution of the issue before determining how to proceed.

Suspending carbon rule activities will have no bearing on previously announced retirements of coal-fired plants, which include 25 units between 2013 and 2020, the agency said.

“Michigan will continue to move forward with Gov. (Rick) Snyder’s priority to protect our environment for the generations to come, by reducing mercury, acid rain and particulates,” the agency’s statement reads.

“Regardless of the carbon rule outcome, the state must make important decisions regarding our energy future to ensure an improved planning process that is able to manage regulatory uncertainties like we have with the carbon rule stay.”

The announcement came on the same day that Snyder signed on to a 17-state accord committing Michigan to diversify energy generation, expand clean energy sources, modernize energy infrastructure and plan for how to implement energy improvements.

“This is a great collaborative effort,” Snyder said in a statement. “This partnership will help us further adapt and identify best practices as we work to make energy more affordable, reliable and environmentally protective.”

Michigan’s decision to halt the development of a carbon plan drew criticism from advocacy groups such as the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club.

“When it comes to actually leading Michigan’s transition away from dirty, expensive coal, we’ve seen nothing from Gov. Snyder but relentless, positive inaction,” said Mike Berkowitz, the chapter’s legislative and political director.

“Once again, Snyder has caved to corporate polluters and Attorney General Bill Schuette’s political antics.”

A coalition of health professionals, MI Air MI Health, also expressed disappointment, saying the decision would mean more pollution harming Michigan families and seniors.

“At a time when Gov. Snyder should be leading on protecting public health, he’s made yet another irresponsible decision that endangers the health of Michiganders,” said Kindra Weid, a registered nurse and member of the group.

The Michigan Agency for Energy intends to complete a modeling project that is currently under way and already paid for, “as those findings will be helpful for other planning and compliance activities.”

The agency said its Carbon Rule website will continue, and the modeling results will be posted there when available.

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