LANSING - An Ingham County Circuit Judge has ruled in favor of the DEQ in its issuance of a permit to Wolverine Power Co-op's proposed power plant in Rogers City, according to DEQ staff and attorneys who worked on the case.
The lawsuit was filed in September 2011 by the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, according to a press release from the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club.
"We challenged that permit and still believe that there were significant legal errors in the way that the MDEQ analyzed and issued the permit, and that violates the Clean Air Act's rules and regulations in how the permit was done," said Jessie Rossman, an attorney who represented the NRDC. The organization alleged that the DEQ didn't look closely enough at how the proposed plant would operate.
The decision by Judge Rosemarie Aquilina on March 23 affirmed the DEQ's decision to issue the permit, said Mary Ann Dolehanty, the permit section supervisor for the DEQ.
"The judge in the case believed that the agency's decision to issue that permit was authorized by law," she said, adding that a copy of the decision hadn't been issued by the court yet.
Ken Bradstreet, the director of community and government affairs for Wolverine Clean Energy Venture, said the news means there's one less obstacle for the plant to be built, if Wolverine decides to go ahead with the project.
"We're pleased with that," he said. "We have determined to, throughout this year, defend the permit to do whatever we can to assist the state."
Wolverine announced in January that it was putting its project to develop a 600-megawatt, coal-fired power plant near Rogers City on hold. The announcement was made in light of strict new emissions standards enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency that Wolverine's vendors couldn't guarantee the new plant would meet.
In the meantime, Wolverine is doing a feasibility study on a power plant in Marquette, Bradstreet said. It's owned by Wisconsin-based WE Energies, and Wolverine is looking into a joint project with the plant's owners to add pollution controls. Wolverine would get part-ownership of its 400 megawatts of output.
"We're a long ways from making a determination on that yet," Bradstreet said.
Rossman said she's disappointed in Aquilina's decision.
"We feel that Michigan as a whole is best served in continuing to seek clean energy alternatives," she said. She and others working on the case are considering their options at this point, including appealing the decision. The Sierra Club and the NRCD have 21 days to do so, Bradstreet said.
"We're just watching to see what happens next," he said. "We'll deal with that as it happens."
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5688.