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My Wolverine Power Comment...

May 26, 2011 - Steve Schulwitz
Over the course of the last several years, I haven't been able to make comment during the public hearings in regards to Wolverine's proposed coal burning power plant in Rogers City. My position at the paper makes it impossible to voice my opinion during the public sessions, even though the facility would be built about a mile away from my house, as a crow flies.

I can, however, use this space to make my feelings known, and I'm sure I'll receive more than one comment questioning my beliefs, no matter what side of the fence I choose to be on, but here are my thoughts on the matter.

It is my opinion the construction of a coal burning power plant would be a huge benefit to Northeast Michigan as a whole. I believe the jobs associated with the construction and operation, the spending of earnings, and increased enrollment at the area's schools would have an immediate impact on Presque Isle and neighboring counties. In turn I think there will be a noticeable increase in home sales and tax revenue to local government bodies. Trust me, they need it.

I also believe anyone who resides outside a 50-mile radius from Rogers City and who will receive zero impact from the plant, good or bad, should have no say or bearing on the plant being built. Unfortunately there are a lot of outside influences who are trying their hardest to sabotage the project.

Unlike many, and call me naive, but I have faith the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency will closely monitor the plant's emissions and surrounding wilderness for any negative or harmful effects.

Unlike many others, I trust Wolverine and the technology that exists today to limit poisonous gases from being released in unlawful levels into the region's air and water. I really am confident this will not be an issue. As high profile case as this has become, and with all of the public scrutiny, I think Wolverine will be under the microscope, and are aware of that fact. It would be stupid for them to not adhere to state and federal regulations to the letter.If it doesn't, then shame on me and everyone else who has defended the company's intentions.

Now, do I think the plant will ever be built? No. Let me explain my reasoning, which has been confirmed to a point by a member of the DEQ and a representative from Wolverine.

When the initial cost estimate was done, the cost of metals and commodities were at or near all-time lows, making it very cost-friendly to construct a new facility. The same cannot be said now, as the cost of materials such as copper have doubled, and in some instances, tripled in cost. Couple that with gas prices hovering near $4 a gallon and the price tag for construction has had to go up not millions, but tens of millions of dollars.

With the added cost of construction, I feel the company would have little choice but to raise rates in order to shorten the initial investment payoff. Raising the rates significantly and hurting its members is not an option according to Wolverine's Director of Community and Government Affairs Ken Bradstreet. I think the state knows this and will grant the needed permit. It will basically put the ball in Woverine's court and call its bluff to see if the intent to build the plant remains.

The power giant in turn will break the bad news to the people of Rogers City by claiming the window of cost effectiveness has closed and the proposed project will be scrapped.

I hope this is not the final outcome, but it seems to be the logical outcome, at least in my eyes.

Bradstreet said Rogers City is the best site in the midwest. To that I say ... see you again when commodity prices slide and the need for power increases. Then the vicious cycle can start anew.


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