Today, the Michigan Public Service Commission approved a settlement in Consumers Energy’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) that secures 2025 as the retirement date for Consumers Energy’s J.H Campbell coal plant, 15 years earlier than previously planned. The settlement helps ensure that Consumers Energy will replace most of that capacity with clean energy and battery storage, instead of with fossil fuels as previously proposed. $30 million in shareholder funds (not ratepayer funds) will also be allocated to low-income bill assistance by Consumers as a result of this settlement.
“On behalf of our 150,000 members and supporters across Michigan, we’re proud of this historic settlement agreement, which will put Consumers Energy on the path to being one of the country’s leading clean energy utility companies,” said Mike Berkowitz, Michigan senior Beyond Coal campaign representative for the Sierra Club. “West Michiganders can breathe easier knowing the Campbell coal plant will soon stop polluting their air and water. As Consumers Energy plans to move beyond coal by 2025, we’re committed to working with them to ensure the utility plans for employee transitions, safely decommissioning the plant, and addressing environmental and economic impacts.”
Sierra Club sponsored expert testimony demonstrating that the Campbell plant’s existing and likely future costs fully justified its closure by 2025. The testimony also showed that the process by which Consumers selected its own affiliate gas plants as a replacement resource was seriously flawed, that investment in the gas plants carried other risks for the company and its ratepayers, and that it would be affordable and otherwise feasible for Consumers to invest in clean energy and short-term capacity purchases as an alternative. In response to objections to the settlement, testimony and briefing submitted by Sierra Club and its co-intervenors also showed that the settlement would increase the capacity of the regional electric grid to meet energy needs. Sierra Club was represented in the docket by Earthjustice and the law firm of Olson, Bzdok, and Howard.
“This is another important step toward our critical clean energy transition,” said Shannon Fisk, managing attorney at Earthjustice. “With fewer polluting fossil plants in West Michigan, local residents can enjoy cleaner air, healthier lungs, and more low-income assistance for paying energy bills. We will all benefit from the reduction in emissions fueling the climate crisis. We look forward to continuing to work to ensure a just transition to a cleaner, healthier future.”
Sierra Club and a diverse coalition of more than 75 organizations, businesses, and elected leaders also focused on influencing the IRP outcome through public campaigning and advocacy. The Campbell power plant is the 357th coal plant nationally and the 23rd plant in Michigan to announce that it will retire by 2030 eliminating the same amount of CO2 emission as nearly 1.8 million cars produce each year.
Located in West Olive outside of Grand Rapids, MI, the Campbell plant accounts for more than 20% of the coal-based CO2 emissions in the state and is the largest source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in West Michigan. The plant has been pumping pollutants into the atmosphere since nearly 60 years ago when the first unit came online in 1962. Additional units were added in 1967 and 1980. In 2019, the Campbell plant generated more than 5,780 tons of SO2, 3,200 tons of NOx, and more than 9 million tons of CO2
Michigan imports nearly all the fossil fuels it consumes from other states, resulting in a money drain from the state economy of billions of dollars each year. The settlement continues the trend of numerous utilities across the Midwest moving beyond coal and turning to clean energy instead of gas because it is both cheaper and more sustainable.