The United States Supreme Court has agreed to review a case that could have a bearing on the future of the Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette… and electrical rates in the Upper Peninsula. Michigan and 20 other states have sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for dictating that electrical power plants meet tighter pollution standards, without taking into account the cost of those mandates.
The petition was denied in April in a split decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia. The court ruled that the legislation that allows the E.P.A. to raise the standards does permit the Agency to consider the economic impact, but does not require it. The Presque Isle plant currently burns coal. Conversion to natural gas and other upgrades needed to meet the new E.P.A. standards will cost more than 100-million dollars. Various regional power authorities have mandated that the plant remain open, and that Upper Peninsula customers pay almost all of the upgrade cost through massive electrical rate increases. The E.P.A. has pegged the cost of their upgrade orders nationwide at nearly 10-billion dollars per year.
The federal government recently put the Presque Isle rate hikes on hold, while alternatives are considered. A local group, the Keweenaw Renewable Energy Coalition, is promoting a plan that would build a series of small plants that would use wind, solar and biofuel to provide a new power base for the U.P.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision, and called the E.P.A.’s actions an “overreach.”