News Story

Sierra Club: No Gas, No Coal, No Nukes; Lansing Utility: No Lights, Then

General manager: 'I’ve given up trying to talk to them'

The Otto E. Eckert Station is a coal-fired plant in Lansing set to be closed by 2020.

The Sierra Club has adopted a position that would effectively require all electricity in Michigan to come from renewable sources such as wind and solar. This appears to have caused a rift between the environmentalist organization and Lansing’s public utility over the replacement of a coal-fired power station set to close in 2020.

The Sierra Club opposes building a natural-gas powered plant to replace the coal-fired plant, the utility says.

“I’ve given up trying to talk to them,” said Dick Peffley, the general manager of Lansing’s Board of Water and Light.

The Sierra Club supported a natural-gas plant the utility built three years ago. But according to Peffley, it is now opposed to all nonrenewable forms of energy, including nuclear, coal and natural gas.

Sierra Club spokesman Brad Van Guilder didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

The Lansing Board of Water and Light operates two coal-fired power plants and has an ownership stake in a third coal-fired power plant that is operated by DTE.

The utility is planning to retire its Eckert coal-fired power plant in 2020. It said it won’t be able to comply with future environmental rules and the plant is too costly to continue operating.

In 2015 coal provided nearly half (46.5 percent) of Michigan’s net electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The Eckert plant generates about one-third of the electricity provided by the utility, which serves Lansing and neighboring communities.

“They (Sierra Club) believe all energy that will be lost can be replaced by renewables or energy efficiency,” Peffley said. “You can’t supply energy that way. With only wind and sun, this country will be black.”

The Lansing utility released a poll in January that found 64 percent of residential and 71 percent of business customers favor favored replacing Eckert with a natural gas power plant along with renewable sources of energy. Support dropped to 47 percent of residential and 56 percent of business customers when respondents were informed that a new power plant would probably mean a rate increase.

The utility has vowed to generate 40 percent of its electricity with renewable sources by 2030.

“That’s a tough hurdle for us to do, but we’re committed to achieve this goal,” Peffley said.


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