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Michigan gets ready for EPA's proposed carbon rules

Liesl Clark said Michigan is taking more older, coal-fired power plants offline because they are uneconomical to run.
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
The James De Young coal is operated by the City of Holland's Board of Public Works.

On Monday morning, the Environmental Protection Agency released the federal government’s planto cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The agency's calling it the "Clean Power Plan."

The EPA says carbon dioxide emissions are the main driver of climate change. The agency is proposing a 30% reduction in CO2 from power plants by 2030. Here's what EPA says about the proposed regulations:

Climate change is not just a problem for the future. We are facing its impacts today: Average temperatures have risen in most states since 1901, with seven of the top 10 warmest years on record occurring since 1998. Climate and weather disasters in 2012 cost the American economy more than $100 billion. Nationwide, by 2030, the Clean Power Plan will help cut carbon pollution from the power sector by approximately 30 per cent from 2005 levels. It will also reduce pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog that make people sick by over 25 percent.

Policymakers at the state level and the state’s major power companies don’t seem surprised by the news. 

DTE is already planning to retire some old coal plants. Spokesman Alejandro Bodipo-Memba says the company is planning to take about a third of its coal production offline between now and 2025.

"We do see, however, that this notion of a 30% reduction is going to cost significant amounts of investment," says Bodipo-Memba. "We don’t know the numbers just yet, but we’re pretty certain that that’s an impact that utilities such as DTE would have to endure."

We're using a little less coal in Michigan, but it's still a major energy source for us

Power plants are the biggest producer of carbon emissions.  However, compared to some coal-producing states, there's not been a huge pushback in Michigan.

Dan Wyant, who heads Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, expects that most power companies are generally supportive of lowering carbon emissions, especially from coal.

"Michigan historically has been a state that has relied on coal as a major part of their energy portfolio. But Michigan, particularly in our region, has moved away from coal, faster than our surrounding states," says Wyant.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 49% of all homes and businesses are powered by coal — a drop from 60% in 2007. In the same time period, natural gas use has increased from 11% to just under 20%. 

A call for community input

State lawmakers, power companies and regular people can weigh in on the proposed changes. The EPA will take feedback for a year before presumably finalizing the rules. 

Additionally, the federal government is outlining the goals each state needs to meet, but it’s not dictating how the state meets that goal. So it’ll be up to each state to draft a plan to cut carbon emissions.

There’s already a workgroup that’s drafting such a plan for Michigan and they've starting meeting today. Lawmakers could pass whatever plan the workgroup comes up as early as this fall.

Check out this mapto learn more about EPA's proposal for Michigan.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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