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Archive - Jul 21, 2007 | jonmower.com

Archive - Jul 21, 2007

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Date

Concerns about Proposed Midland Coal Power Plant

300px-Mohave_Generating_Station_1.jpgLisa has been having fun lately rabble-rousing and working against a coal-fired power plant proposed for Midland. Here's the email she sent out to friends today:

Hello friends. I hope all is well with you and your families. If you haven't already heard, Midland is entertaining the idea of a new coal power plant. Jonathan and I feel strongly that a decision such as this, having the potential to affect so many people, should be taken seriously. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of information out there. So if you are unfamiliar with the details, we would like to inform you so that you too can voice your opinion to the decision makers if you so desire. I have read up on the issue and I went to the company open house. Since plans seem to be proceeding so quickly in the local government, I decided to get an email out to friends with our information and concerns about it. I am including several links to articles and documents so you don't just have to take my word on it.




PLANT DETAILS

The plant is proposed on land at the corner of Saginaw Rd and Gordonville Rd (Waldo) across from the fishing ramp area just south of town. According to statements made by the company, the plant will burn "pulverized coal" using the latest technology to help reduce emissions (required by law). They will be a privately owned firm that could sell its power at "wholesale rates" to clients like the Dows and Hemlock Semiconductor. They could also sell to the "grid" but would not be selling to the public. The list could include clients out of state or country. The plant will provide up to 1200 jobs during construction time (though not necessarily local bids). The plant will provide 100 permanent jobs. Here are a couple of links to the announcements and details of the proposed plant:

announcement

announcement

OUR CONCERNS

1. Our biggest concern: We would rather see renewable energy and energy efficiency be the focus. If coal is inevitable, however, then we should insist on the cleanest and most efficient coal technology available. Midland, the City of Modern Explorers, should be a leader in this arena. The type of coal plant the company plans to build is NOT the cleanest coal plant possible. Pulverizered coal is the old technology. The company plans to "meet or exceed" all government regulations by utilizing the best technology associated with pulverized coal plants. However, a cleaner and more efficient type of coal plant that uses a technique called Intergrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) exists and is in operation today. It turns the coal into a gas before burning it, practically eliminating emissions and potentially allowing for an easier capture of carbon dioxide. This technology is cutting edge and being proposed in many other states. According to the companies that have developed and improved the IGCC, the technology is available "turn-key" and guaranteed. The start up cost for an IGCC plant is approximately 20% more (though the projection is to drop to 10% in the near future). Studies show that over the life of the plant the IGCC cost could be comparable to a pulverized coal plant, especially when considering the likely increased environmental regulations and predictable negative health effects.

Here are some links, including one from last week in the Bay City Times, that discuss the difference between the two technologies.
Also, if you do a google news alert for "IGCC" you will get hits daily.

Link Basic facts and comparisions between pulverizered coal and IGCC

Link "Clean or Clean Enough" Bay city article

Link Article from Alma with interesting details about our plant compared an IGCC plant going in at Alma

Link DOE report and IGCC program performance goals

Link EPA report on IGCC

Link Report on the economic benefits of renewable resources specific to Michigan

Link Article reporting on the progress of an IGCC plant in Arizona and the responsible way those city officials are leading, taking a stand, handling their decision process.

Link A very encouraging article from April 2004 on how concerned citizens in Manistee joined together to defeat a proposed coal power plant in their town.

The above is our biggest concern, however, the most effective way to express concern right now would be to address the zoning issues...

2. We are opposed to rezoning Residential Land to Heavy Industrial when this parcel borders other residential land. Although not our top concern, the rezoning issue is the first step to approving the plant and a first opportunity to express concerns to the city officials. In response to LS Power's request, the Midland Planning Commission has recommended to the City Council rezone 2 parcels of land. Petition No. 542 requests a parcel that is currently "Residental A-1"and borders other residential land to be rezoned to "Heavy Industrial B". Not only would this rezoning be a large jump in rezoning categories (bypassing the "Light Industrial A"), it would also inappropriately allow for "Heavy Industrial B" to border remaining residential land. Drive down to the area. You'll see that there are several families living very close to the location. Of course, as Jonathan says, the smoke stack will spew it too high to effect these people; it's the ones in Freeland and Auburn that need to be concerned! The other petition, No. 543, to rezone light industrial to heavy industrial seems reasonable.

3. We are opposed to changing the text of the Heavy B zoning ordinance to include "electrical generating station" as a "Principle Permitted Use" (Amendment No. 144-A)....this mean any kind of electrical generating plant (coal, nuclear, wind, etc) would be permitted by right to build in any Midland Heavy B industrial Zone. The Planning Commission's recommendation to the City Council on this petition was to decline the petitioners request for "principle permitted use" in favor of an amendment that adds "electrical generating station" as a Conditional permitted use. That's good news! However, the City Council does not have to honor the Planning Commission's recommendations and instead could not include conditions. We are in support of the planning commissions recommendation for "conditional use" due to the special circumstances and obvious potential negative impacts of certain stations that fall under this category. We feel it is important for Midland to have conditions on the land permits for projects of such magnitude and scale. This "conditional use permit" is common practice and should be utilized here. Conditions could potentially include things such as the environmental/health impacts, a need for special buffers near residents or even a requirement that the best technology be used. You can watch and listen to the planning Commission's interesting discussion of this petition and Scott Gaynor's plea to add "conditional use permit" to the amendment.

Link you can "jump to" zoning text amendent 144A

In my opinion, this zoning text amendment is even more important than the zoning itself. If Midland gives electrical generating stations permission "by right", then we may be eliminating future opportunities to regulate what comes to Midland. Our hands will be tied so to speak.

4. Questions about LS Power practices and experiences. I have come across some interesting information about the petitioning company. They are lobbying against Renewable Energy mandates and writing "improper" letters to the Iowa state representatives threatening to withdraw contributions to the university research program if the mandate passes........sounds sleezy to me. Link In addition, LS Power has never operated a coal plant before. They have 4 coal plants in the development stage and 1 in the very early construction phase, but none in operation.

The need for new jobs and more base-load energy in Michigan seems to be a well-documented fact. However, we are not convinced that a coal plant using old technology, run by a company who opposes renewable energy legislation, giving Midland a reputation that in embraces the past and not the future, creating only 100 permanent jobs, while spewing tons of pollution to our air is best for the City of Midland. Jonathan and I have written a letter to the Midland City Council expressing our concerns. If you are also concerned, we encourage you to do the same. At a minimum, please write to ask the Council to thoroughly consider the implications of their actions, to educate themselves on the topic using a variety of resources in addition to those provided by the company and to proceed slowly. For some reason they seemed rushed to get this done as evidenced by the fact the Planning Commission used only 15 of the 60 days they had to consider the rezoning and text amendment petitions.

The City Council members' names and addresses are found here Link . They are to hear a "first reading" on the zoning and text amendment petitions at the July 23rd council meeting. A public hearing will most likely be held on August 13th. Letters should be sent before August 6th.

I have a friend who recently spoke to one of the councilmen about this issue. After he told her of the positive aspects of plant (need for jobs in our community and energy in the state) she asked him what he thought about the potential environmental and health effects. He actually responded by saying that he had not even considered them!!!! I have no doubt that these men want what is best for our community, but they must become informed on both sides of the issues. You can encourage them to do this.

If you would like a copy of the letter we sent to the City Council regarding the rezoning and text amendments to use as an example, let us know and we can email it to you. We plan to send another letter with more specific concerns about the plant itself once a site plan is put before the planning commission. The group MidlandCARES (clean and renewable energy solutions) will soon have a website full of more information at www.midlandcares.org . If you have any questions or comments, please write to us. If you think we are overlooking an important point, please feel free to bring it up.

Sincerely,
Lisa

Little Miss Sunshine

200px-Little_miss_sunshine_poster.jpgTonight we watched Little Miss Sunshine (2006,R) (ScreenIt! Review). From the ScreenIt! review:

A dysfunctional family must deal with their differences and idiosyncrasies as they try to drive the younger daughter out to a California beauty pageant.

Lisa tried to watch this sometime when I was out of town but fell asleep. She made it through tonight and we enjoyed it. I give it 4 out of 5.

You, Me and Dupree

200px-Dupreeposter.jpgLast night we watched You, Me and Dupree (2006,PG-13) (ScreenIt! Review). We started out watching My Super Ex-Girlfriend, but it was so lame we had to stop. From Wikipedia:

The film revolves around newlyweds Carl and Molly Peterson (Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson), inviting the best man of their wedding, Randolph Dupree (Wilson), to move in with them, after he has lost his job and apartment. But Dupree inevitably overstays his welcome.

The film had some laughs, but I couldn't figure out why Matt Dillon kept doing a Johnny Drama impression. I give it 3 out of 5.

Bush and Jesus and freedom

A few days back David Kuo had an interesting blog post with the same title. First he quotes David Brooks' quoting Bush:

Bush is convinced that history is moving in the direction of democracy, or as he said Friday: "It's more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn't exist."

Kuo takes issue with Brooks and Bush. An excerpt:

God does give us freedom. But that gift of freedom is not a freedom based on a form of government - it is the freedom to live as individuals with total, complete, and utter free will. It is the freedom to choose or to reject God, the freedom to choose or to reject God's gifts. THAT is God's gift of freedom. To confuse that gift with a form of government reflects both theological and political naivety.

I agree with that perspective. This sparked some conversation with a friend.


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