A February Coal Snap in Michigan: Attorney General Prevents Governor from Upholding the Law

Last month, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm used her State of the State address to stake out an exciting new clean energy future for the wolverine state. By focusing on energy efficiency and renewable energy, she was just weeks ahead of President Obama's similarly visionary stimulus plan.

But despite a plethora of truly exciting energy policies outlined in the speech, one garnered the most attention, by far---a perceived assault on coal.

The state had been marching down a dangerous road, with more coal plants in development than any other in the nation. Granholm ordered her Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to re-examine the need for these plants and to ensure that a proper evaluation of alternatives had been conducted.

Basically, she was following the law; protecting the state's economy and the health of its citizens---and most importantly from a legal perspective, doing the things that the Clean Air Act requires in the interest of the people of Michigan.

But in response, the forces trying to perpetuate the old energy economy mobilized to oppose the clean energy future of the state. The ACCCE... The coal apologists... And amazingly, the state's Attorney General.

That is correct: the State of Michigan's chief law enforcement officer is actually publicly working to prevent the Governor from upholding the law...

...not to mention vitalizing the state's economy...

Last week the AG ruled, incorrectly, that the Governor overstepped her authority by asking her direct reports to fulfill the requirements of the Clean Air Act.

As a result of this political battle, the state DEQ will move forward with public comment on those proposed coal plants. Hopefully, the US EPA will step in to support the Governor's position. Beyond the legality of her actions, there is the fact that this week the EPA rejected woefully inadequate pollution permits awarded by the DEQ for a coal plant on the Northern Michigan University campus this week. And the President's call for "market-based carbon cap" legislation from Congress to deal aggressively with global warming pollution---which is also set forth in his budget as an important way to fund federal support for clean energy projects. (Of course, this is why the coal folks are trying so hard to push these plants through in Michigan...it might be their last chance for a free pass on pollution.)

Either way, NRDC's attorneys and experts will have plenty of comments to share with the state regulators and our local environmental partners who have been fighting this battle so hard...

In a time when we see so much focus on re-imagining and rebuilding our energy sector...when the industrial opportunities begin to present themselves for a state struggling as mightily as Michigan...it is unfortunate to see old economy die-hards and political opportunists fighting the broader environmental and economic good in a state that had been getting the vital leadership of a Governor promoting needed energy and economic reform.