MI approves new coal power plant permits

State environmental regulators have given Consumers Energy permission to build a controversial new coal-fired power plant in Michigan's Thumb region. The new plant will be cleaner-burning than existing plants. But environmental groups say the state should not be approving any new coal plants.

Governor Granholm put the brakes on the project earlier this year. She ordered the utility to demonstrate the need to generate more electricity, and asked regulators to look into alternative energy options. The permit allows Consumers to build a new plant near Bay City. But it has to retire older coal plants. Consumers has some of the oldest coal plants in the nation - one began operating during the Truman administration.

Bob McCann of the state Department of Environmental Quality says there will be a net reduction in mercury and other toxic emissions.

"We're going to see environmental benefits, and at the same time this doesn't stop us from encouraging those alternative energies, as well," he says.

The state has at least two more coal permit requests pending. One is for a proposed plant in Rogers City in northeast Michigan. The other is in Holland near the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Environmental groups are opposed to permission for any new coal plants.