MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — Consumers Energy is committed to helping find a new use for the site of a coal-fired power plant in western Michigan that's scheduled to close in two years, officials with the utility said.
The unit of Jackson-based CMS Energy Corp. offered updates Tuesday on plans to decommission the B.C. Cobb plant in Muskegon, The Muskegon Chronicle reported (http://bit.ly/1ieEAKE ). As part of that, the utility said it will work to maintain federal dredging of the Muskegon Lake port by finding a new use that would boost shipping, such as agricultural products or industrial use.
The plant's shipments of coal represent about two-thirds of the Muskegon port's commercial activity, the utility said. Annually, about 640,000 tons of coal are shipped to the plant, and without that the port could be at risk of not being dredged by the government.
"If they stop dredging, then the state of Michigan loses its only commercially viable port on the Lake Michigan side of the state of Michigan," said Dennis Marvin, communications director for the utility.
One idea that would create substantial shipping opportunities involves turning the area into an agricultural food processing center, the utility said. The property also could be used for industrial work, be changed for commercial use or even be a site for housing.
"Certainly there's some great opportunity for this area," Marvin said.
Consumers Energy earlier announced plans to close and demolish the B.C. Cobb plant along Muskegon Lake as well as coal-fired units at its J.R. Whiting facility near Luna Pier in Monroe County and the Karn/Weadock complex near Bay City on the Saginaw Bay.
Consumers Energy plans to shut the units by April 2016.
The ages of the plants, along with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements for additional pollution control equipment, prompted the decision to close the facilities, said Keith Welcher, Consumers Energy decommissioning project manager.
"They're old," Welcher said. "They're going to take a ton of maintenance to keep them running."
To prepare for the shutdown, the company is conducting end-use and environmental impact studies, he said. The B.C. Cobb plant has environmental issues such as lead paint and asbestos that will be examined further as plans for the site move forward.
Information from: The Muskegon Chronicle, http://www.mlive.com/muskegon