President Barack OBAMA's Clean Power Plan (CPP), which Attorney General Bill SCHUETTE and other states attorneys general are challenging in court, is not the policy that drove DTE Energy to close three units earlier this year and eight more in the early 2020s.
Rather, four other regulations that have been promulgated, litigated and instituted dealing with sulfur dioxide, water effluence and ozone quality started the ball rolling years ago, and it's highly unlikely a President Trump will do anything about them, said DTE Energy CEO Gerry ANDERSON.
For the last 15 years, Anderson has chaired a national electric institute's committee on environmental regulations. In his experience, once an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule is formally in the books, a new administration isn't touching it.
It's possible that pending regulations like the CPP could be shelved or delayed, but the ones impacting coal-fired generation in Michigan are well embedded into federal policy.
"These will not be pulled back," Anderson said. "I've never seen an environmental regulation pulled back."
But regardless of the rules that would have required $30 million to $80 million of improvements to each of its coal-fired plants, Anderson said, the plants slated to be closed are 60 years old, some in the 70-year-old range come 2020.
"They are tenuous," Anderson said. "Anything that becomes a major repair creates a situation where a replacement doesn't make sense. It's like replacing the engine of a 20-year-old car. At that point, it's just time to get a new car."
In statements that would support Anderson's assessment, Trump refused to repeat his promise to abandon the international climate accord during an interview with the New York Times. The President-elect also said, "Clean air is vitally important" and "I think there is some connectivity" between human and climate change.
Anderson made his comments to MIRS Tuesday in the lead-up to House discussions on the sweeping energy reform package that, at its core, will put electric choice customers in a position of paying a piece of any future electric generation project. It also forces electric choice companies to document from where their energy is coming from two to three years into the future.
The point Anderson wants to make clear to lawmakers is these plants are being shut down, regardless of a Trump presidency, and replaced with electricity generated by natural gas.
Consumers CEO Patti POPPE was equally clear in a conversation with MIRS Tuesday. Consumers Energy shuttered seven of its 12 coal-fired plants earlier this year in the face of the regulations.
"They are shut down," Poppe said. "They are not coming back as a result of the election."
Rather, Consumers' decision to invest in a 540-megawatt combined cycle natural gas plant in Jackson, looks like the right move considering Trump's direction of encouraging the collection of U.S. energy sources like shale gas. DTE is working on creating a 1,000-megawatt natural gas plant in St. Clair County to replace the load lost from the coal-fired plants.
Trump's commitment to "on-shoring" and bringing back manufacturing jobs is a signal that Michigan needs a reliable, adequate energy supply if it hopes to attract back manufacturing jobs.
The Senate-based bills sponsored by Sen. Mike NOFS (R-Battle Creek) and Sen. John PROOS (R-St. Joseph) do that, she said.
"Michigan can play for that growth," Poppe said.
The Association of Businesses Advocating Tariff Equity (ABATE) continued its drive to reduce the chances electric choice providers would need to pay for new generation created by DTE or Consumers Energy, by re-releasing a 2015 statement on how Consumers Energy was allegedly given the highest percent profit granted by U.S. regulators in 2015.
The 10.3 percent return on equity granted by the Michigan Public Service Commission was compared by ABATE to the 9.55 percent rate of equity national average in 2015.
Also, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported last week that consumers, businesses and industries saved $15 billion on electricity in Ohio between 2011 and 2015 on an electric choice regulatory scheme that may end soon in that state.