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Environmentalists: Carbon dioxide rules before new coal plants

Oct 10, 2007 - Tim Martin - The Associated Press

Environmental groups on Wednesday urged state officials to begin regulating carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning power plants before allowing any new facilities in Michigan.

Discussions about at least six new, expanded or replacement coal-burning electrical power plants are in various stages across the state. In three locations - Midland, Rogers City and Holland - the application process has begun with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Other possible projects in Alma, Bay City and near Manistee have been discussed. That doesn't mean utilities will follow through on plans to build the plants; in some cases they are just options under consideration for more electrical power production.

Earlier this year, then-Michigan Public Service Commission Chairman J. Peter Lark said the state needs a new power plant - likely fueled by coal - within eight years to meet power demands. He also urged the state to push for power generated by renewable resources.

A coalition of 10 groups, including the Sierra Club, met outside the Capitol on Wednesday and petitioned state regulators, lawmakers and Gov. Jennifer Granholm to demand carbon dioxide standards before allowing any new coal-fired power plants or the expansion of existing facilities.

"They must be sleeping up there. Let's give them a wake-up call," said Joseph Swallow, a representative of the Presque Isle County-based Citizens for Environmental Inquiry, while looking up at the Capitol.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, like regulating agencies in many other states, is waiting for some direction from the federal Environmental Protection Agency before deciding whether to proceed with carbon dioxide rules.

"We are looking for guidance from the EPA on this issue," Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Robert McCann said.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year declared that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases qualify as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act and thus could be regulated by the EPA.

President Bush soon ordered the EPA to begin working on proposals related to carbon dioxide, which could include its finding about whether carbon dioxide endangers public health.

The environmental groups say it's clear carbon dioxide contributes to global warming and should be regulated.