Michigan lawmakers urge changes to EPA power rule

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Michigan lawmakers in Congress are pressing federal regulators not to penalize hydroelectric plants such as the Ludington Pumped Storage facility on Lake Michigan under the Obama administration’s proposed carbon rule for power plants.

The Ludington plant, co-owned by DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, generates power by pumping water out of Lake Michigan into an 842-acre reservoir, then releasing the water through turbines to drive electric generators. The plant also “stores” energy generated off peak by an adjacent wind-turbine farm, using it to pump the water back into the reservoir.

As written, the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule effectively discourages the kinds of carbon reductions it was intended to promote by failing to account for energy discharged from the storage system in the formula for emission-reduction targets, says Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland.

“Ironically, the proposed rule would penalize states like Michigan and Virginia that have critically invested in energy-storage technology,” Huizenga said on the House floor Wednesday.

“Thus, according to the EPA, a state’s emissions intensity actually increases if they utilize clean storage energy. This is the exact opposite of what I hope is the EPA’s goal of this rule.”

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, co-sponsored language Huizenga added to the Ratepayer Protection Act passed Wednesday by the House. The language encourages the EPA to clarify specifically how hydroelectric storage would be accounted for prior to the agency’s finalizing and enforcing the rule.

“With electricity demand varying through peak and non-peak times, Michigan companies produce and store reserve energy in this facility for future use when demand is high, which provides energy literally at moment’s notice,” Kildee said of the Ludington plant.

He noted the EPA has “repeatedly recognized” the need for storage facilities for energy reserves such as Ludington.

Consumers Energy applauded the effort, saying the development would improve sustainability and grid reliability and “assist with future compliance plans and EPA regulations,” spokesman Daniel Bishop said.

Huizenga and Kildee were among nine members of Michigan’s delegation who signed onto a Feb. 3 letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy expressing similar concerns about the rule’s potential effect on the Ludington facility.

An EPA spokeswoman said Wednesday the agency has received 4.3 million comments on its proposed Clean Power Plan.

The underlying bill, approved by a 247-180 vote, would delay the EPA’s carbon rule and allow state governors to opt out of compliance for a variety of reasons.

Kildee, like the other Democrats in Michigan’s delegation, voted against the legislation. President Barack Obama has said he will veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.


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