Consumers Energy Gives More Details on BC Cobb Plant Shutdown

Andrew Trzaska | November 26, 2013

Consumers Energy shared more details of the eventual shutdown of Muskegon’s coal power plant at Tuesday’s Muskegon County Commission meeting.

Present at the meeting were decommissioning program manager Keith Welcher and Public Affairs Coordinator Dennis Marvin, both of Consumers Energy.

Sketched-out details of timeline and an evaluation of the property for future use were shared in a presentation by both men, entitled “Leaving It Better Than We Found It”.

The presentation revealed that the plans to close the BC Cobb generating plant gained steam on December 2, 2011 when plans to retrofit many of Consumers Energy’s existing coal plans to “clean” coal were dropped. This includes some of the “Classic Seven”, mid-to-small plants including the Cobb plant in Muskegon.

The timeline originally called for the plant to be closed and demolition start by 2015, but the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality gave Consumers Energy a one-year extension.

Right now, two timelines are possible, according to Welcher. Environmental studies will begin in February of 2014, and if no major environmental issues are found, decommissioning and demolition will both begin in 2016.  If major issues are found during the assessment, then remediation will begin in 2015 and 2016, with demolition taking place slowly beyond 2016.

The costs of renovating Muskegon’s plant, a small one in Bay City and one in Luna Pier near Toledo were deemed too high to keep them open.

When asked by Board of Commissioners vice-chair Rillastine Wilkins if converting the Cobb plant to natural gas was possible, Marvin said that while Muskegon’s plant does have natural gas generators for times of peak energy use, it does not have a pipeline to supply the plant year-round. The cost to build one was deemed too high.

Marvin also noted that the loss of tax base that Muskegon would face is major, but not as bad as Luna Pier across the state, since Muskegon’s industries are more diversified. The Cobb plant is about 17% of Muskegon’s real estate tax base; the plant at Luna Pier is nearly 65% of their tax base, according to Marvin.

Future use of the property was not discussed deeply at Tuesday’s meeting.  Marvin did give an overview of what parcels of land Consumers Energy owns at that end of Muskegon Lake versus what is owned by the nearby Verplank Trucking Co. as well as the City of Muskegon

Marvin noted that Consumers has been working with Muskegon County’s Port Advisory Committee and the Michigan Energy and Technology Coalition on future uses.  He also said that closing the plant wasn’t done in retribution:

“We’ve been here with our facility for sixty plus years. We’ve felt welcome here… We appreciate being a neighbor.”

The Consumers Energy presentation was strictly informational, and therefore commissioners did not take a vote on anything related to the plan.

 

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst