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For Immediate Release:                              

Motion to Dismiss ‘Tondu Lawsuit’ Filed in Federal Court



Date:           June 21, 2005

Contact:       Fred LaPoint, President, MCFRD

                   Chris Bzdok, Attorney for MCFRD, 231-946-0044



The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and the Manistee Citizens for Responsible Development (MCFRD) filed a motion to dismiss the federal court lawsuit brought by Manistee Salt Works Development Corporation, a subsidiary of the Tondu Corporation, against the City of Manistee.  Manistee Salt Works alleges that the City violated its constitutional rights by denying a special use permit to build a large coal-fired power plant on Manistee Lake.  


The Tribe and MCFRD have intervened in the case.  Relying primarily on the extensive community input at the City's public hearings on the application, the motion by the Tribe and MCFRD argues that the City's decision was both constitutional and correct. 


The City denied Manistee Salt Works' special use permit application for the 425 megawatt coal plant, known as the "Northern Lights Project," in April of 2004.  Manistee Salt Works filed the suit in July 2004.  Manistee Salt Works originally demanded $100 million in damages, but later revised that figure upward to $810 million.  More recently, when required to explain the basis for the figure, Manistee Salt Works revised the demand downward from $810 million to just under $60 million. 


The City filed a motion to dismiss the case in May, which remains pending.  The City's motion is based primarily on legal arguments about whether the denial of a special use permit can be challenged in federal court. 


The motion by the Tribe and MCFRD places the evidence in support of the decision to deny the special use permit in front of the court.  The City's processing of the application stretched over 17 Planning Commission meetings and involved 465 documents, the vast majority of which were submitted by members of MCFRD and the Tribe. 


The motion cites, among other things, the following evidence to support the City's denial of the special use permit:

·   Letters signed by more than a dozen physicians in the Manistee area opposing the plant because of its impacts on public health;

·   Letters from the Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division citing the impacts of mercury and other toxic pollutants on fish and wildlife;

·   Reports calculating that the plant would emit over 7,500 tons of air pollutants per year;

·   Reports estimating that over 2 tons of fugitive coal dust would spread into the surrounding neighborhoods each year;

·   Deposition testimony by Department of Environmental Quality officials that the Tondu Corporation has never addressed the impacts of toxic emissions from the plant on human consumption of fish and other natural resources; 

·   Documents from the Michigan Public Power Agency and Michigan South Central Power Agency, whose participation was essential to the project getting off the ground, terminating their relationship with Tondu and finding that "the Northern Lights Project is no longer viable."   

According to Fred LaPoint, President of MCFRD, "The basic question in this case is, who gets to decide whether a project with this kind of impact on the community gets built?  The people who live here, or a federal jury sitting 170 miles away?  The evidence saying Manistee did the right thing is overwhelming.  It is more than enough to overcome Tondu's attempt to use the courts to push this project down people's throats."  


A decision on the motions is anticipated in the next few months.    


For more information go to www.manisteecfrd.org