Retiring Michigan Coal

Eckert Power Plant, Lansing

Michigan has a large, old fleet of coal fired power plants that mostly lacks the modern pollution controls required by existing and imminent federal environmental regulations.

The state depends on its 23 coal-fired facilities, averaging close to 50 years of age, to meet over 50% of its electric needs. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from these power plants leave a massive carbon footprint that is harming the climate system. Michigan imports all of the coal that fuels these plants, diverting significant funds—some $1.2 billion in 2013—out of state and hindering economic recovery. The financial burden will only increase as fuel prices rise.

Additionally, coal plants lead to an array of public health problems. According to a 2010 report from Clean Air Task Force, pollution from coal-fired power plants causes over 13,000 premature deaths, 200,000 asthma attacks, and more than $100 billion in health care costs each year. Michigan has the fifth highest amount of premature deaths by state, and metro Detroit has the sixth highest amount for metropolitan areas.

Michigan utilities have a series of decisions to make in the coming years: pour money into updating their old coal plants, or replace those plants with investments in cleaner resources such as energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The coal plants create an additional hardship for their employees and the communities where they are located. Coal-related air pollution from power plants imposes significant financial and human costs by contributing to asthma, cardio-respiratory disease, mercury contamination, and other serious health impacts. Older plants are often on potentially high value lands for economic redevelopment, but which are contaminated and would need significant restoration efforts to be usable in the future.

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