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Consumers Energy may reverse plans to close coal-reliant plants


Consumers Energy, a public utility company providing power to 6.7 million Michigan residents, has said it may keep its coal-reliant plants open, a possible reversal from previous plans to close them by 2025.

To continue with the closures, Consumers Energy wants a guarantee from state regulators that the $1.5 billion it anticipates in closure costs could be passed on to customers. The company also wants to buy three gas burning plants from its own subsidiary as a replacement for the coal power.

If the proposed plan is rejected, the company says it will continue burning coal for another 20 years, citing considerations of long term financial health. Environmental groups said there are alternatives to the company’s demands, though those would be less profitable.

Margrethe Kearney, an environmental attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said these kinds of ultimatums can be difficult to navigate.

"I think that we need to be really careful where we have a regulated utility kind of throwing down the gauntlet and saying, 'it's our way or the highway,'" Kearney said. “Maybe these gas plants are not objectively the best deal for customers."

Editor's note: Consumers Energy is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors

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Tracy Samilton covers the auto beat for Michigan Radio. She has worked for the station for 12 years, and started out as an intern before becoming a part-time and, later, a full-time reporter. Tracy's reports on the auto industry can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio. She considers her coverage of the landmark lawsuit against the University of Michigan for its use of affirmative action a highlight of her reporting career.
Emma Ruberg