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Michigan can lower CO2 emissions despite court ruling on federal Clean Power Plan, policy group says

DTE Energy's Monroe Power Plant is the largest in Michigan.

The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the EPA's authority to enforce the federal Clean Power Plan, which aimed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants — but that won't stop Michigan from requiring its utilities to reduce emissions, according to Margrethe Kearney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

Michigan's energy law requires regulated utilities to file five-year plans, called Integrated Resource Plans, or IRPs, which detail what resources will be used to meet electricity demand going forward — including how much of those resources will be renewables like wind and solar.

Kearney says Consumers Energy's latest IRP settlement with the Michigan Public Service Commission calls for the closure of its remaining coal-burning power plants by 2025.

"That settlement was not driven or contingent on the Clean Power Plan at all," she said. "That was about economics, and costs, and what's in the best interest of Michigan customers. And I think it really goes to show that we are moving towards a reduction in carbon emissions from the energy sector, regardless of what the federal government is doing with their planning."

Still, Kearney said the federal government does need to be able to control CO2 emissions nationwide, which will require Congress to pass a law giving the EPA explicit authority to regulate carbon emissions.

Kearney also has concerns about what the Supreme Court's decision to consider and render an opinion on the case says about its activism.

She said the Clean Power Plan was approved during the Obama administration, but it was never enforced — and it is still not being enforced.

"This decision definitely supports concerns that the Supreme Court is making political decisions and moving a political agenda — because it wasn't a question that needed to be called," Kearney said. "And the Supreme Court typically tried to only answer questions when they really need to be answered."

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.