October 21, 2005
Tondu decision a win for
A judge tossed a Texas power company's lawsuit against Manistee
The little guys get a well-deserved win
See Related Story:
Tondu-Manistee lawsuit - October 14, 2005
The deck appeared stacked against residents of Manistee two
years ago this month, when Houston-based Tondu Corp. - billed locally as The
Manistee Salt Works Development Corporation - swaggered into town.
Tondu wanted to build a 425-megawatt coal-fired power
plant and sought a special use permit to site the facility on 30 acres
adjacent to Manistee Lake.
At first, Tondu tried its back-slapping best to
ingratiate itself to Manistee officials, promising jobs and tax riches to a
popular tourist city that, although blessed by miles of sandy Lake Michigan shoreline, two fine
trout streams and thousands of acres of pines and hardwoods, had struggled in
recent years under a wobbly state economy.
The Texans' howdy y'all act worked for a while, and
local officials initially swooned over prospects of an enhanced tax base.
But grassroots groups, comprised of environmentalists,
the local American Indian tribe and plenty of just plain folks questioned
They doubted a number of the company's claims, including
how many jobs it would provide, how much tax revenue it would generate and,
most of all, what kind of environmental steward Tondu would be in a place
that desperately needs to protect and showcase its natural resources.
And the more those folks looked, the deeper they dug,
the uglier the power plant concept appeared to be.
City officials finally realized that Tondu had quietly
maneuvered for tax-exempt status. The company also had woefully understated
the amount of mercury and other pollutants it would spew into the air and
Despite the company's barely concealed threats of a
lawsuit, the city swallowed hard and nixed Tondu's special permit request.
Tondu promptly filed suit, and accused Manistee of
violating its rights. It sought millions of dollars in damages.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Richard Alan Enslen of Kalamazoo
put an end to two years worth of Tondu bluster and bullying. He dismissed the
suit and said the company had no grounds to claim Manistee treated it
"(Tondu) needed to show that Defendant City
permitted another special use applicant to strain its resources, increase
pollution, enrage its citizens, blemish its skyline, and generate no tax
revenue when it denied Plaintiff's permit," Enslen wrote.
It's a heartening, laudable decision by Enslen, and a
nod to the groups and individuals who rallied against a powerful business
interest and city officials for telling Tondu "no."
And the verdict is a win not only for northwest Michigan
residents and those who live and work downwind of the proposed plant, but
also for anyone who cares about clean air and water.