December 29, 2004
Tondu Corp. was always out for No. 1
The issue Beware
of developers bearing gifts. Be especially wary of developers who propose
to swap the equivalent of a handful of magic beans for the right to
annually spew tons of poisons into the surrounding air and
- The spurned developer of a coal-fired
power plant demands $810 million from Manistee
- Tondu Corp. never had
Manistee's best interests in mind
Manistee officials this year rightly heeded
a litany of ominous signs and denied a special use permit sought by
Houston-based Tondu Corp. and Manistee Salt Works Development Corp. to
build a massive coal-burning power plant on the shore of Manistee
Tondu waltzed into Manistee and promised
riches to leaders of the rustbelt-in-transition Lake Michigan port
community. Let us build our plant here and we'll shower you with jewels,
the developer said. Full-time jobs, construction wages, an annual $2
million "community services" fee, Tondu cooed.
don't worry your pretty little head about the 4,000 tons of sulfur
dioxide, 2,000 tons of nitrogen oxide and 100 pounds of mercury each year.
Trust us, the developer/seducer said.
didn't swoon, however. The developer's numbers didn't jibe and by April,
after hard-working community activists dug up a long list of negatives -
serious, wide-ranging pollution concerns, regressive impact on a
tourism-based community and tax-free status for a developer that stood to
rake in millions of dollars annually - the city's planning commission
wisely told Tondu it wasn't welcome.
All of which
prompted Tondu, initially full of smiling, back-slapping benevolence, to
show its true colors and transform into the snarling despoiler the
community's less-naive anticipated all along.
Tondu promptly ignored its promise to pay Manistee a six-figure permit
study and review fee and in July filed a federal lawsuit against the
community in which it claimed $100 million in damages.
This month, the company hiked that demand to $810 million, based on
an expected annual profit of $27 million projected over 30
That figure speaks volumes of Tondu's lust
for a cut-rate date with Manistee. The company saw a site where it could
build a huge plant - primarily on the backs of taxpayers - then quietly
negotiated a municipal energy-provider agreement (though not with
Manistee) that would have provided it tax-exempt status, while offering
its would-be host a pocketful of change.
clearly doesn't handle rejection well. Now it hopes to bully the city into
some sort of settlement or convince a federal judge to overturn the city's
Whatever the outcome, Tondu exposed
itself as a charlatan of the worst kind. And from Day 1, Tondu's message
to Manistee couldn't be clearer: Pick your poison.