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Environmentalists ask MPSC to reconsider DTE's billion-dollar natural gas plant

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Environmental groups haven't given up trying to stop DTE Energy from building a $1 billion natural gas plant.  

The groups are asking the Michigan Public Service Commission to reconsider the permit it approved for the plant. 

Margrethe Kearney is with the Environmental Law and Policy Center. She says renewable energy becomes cheaper and more reliable every year.  

"And it just doesn't make sense for Michigan to say we're going to build a huge natural gas plant, which means of course we won't be building any of that other stuff," she says.

Kearney says commission staff failed to place the burden of proof on DTE Energy to show that there was no better alternative to the natural gas plant. Instead, the commission flipped the burden, and said that intervening groups like the Environmental Law and Policy Center had failed to show there were better alternatives.

She says DTE also has been claiming to independent solar companies that it does not need any additional capacity -- while making the opposite argument to the commission, that it needs extra capacity and therefore the natural gas plant is required.

DTE Energy says the commission considered, and rejected, these arguments during the course of the permit application process, and determined that a new gas plant in St. Clair County is the most reasonable and prudent course. 

The utility says natural gas is a 24/7 energy source that provides "always available" in-state power generation, and it is cleaner, more efficient, and easier to transport than coal.

Meanwhile, St. Clair County residents attending a public hearing on the East China Township plan spoke out against it, saying it will pollute the air.

Kearney of the Environmental Law and Policy Center notes that there are also two lawsuits filed in the Michigan Court of Appeals claiming the commission did not follow the state's energy law in granting the permit, and asking for it to be rescinded.

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.
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