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Re: SG-W:/ Dexter Power Plant?!

>Yesterday Isaac Elnecave, MEC's Air Quality specialist, met with a planning
>group that is preparing to build a natural gas power plant in Dexter Twp on
>a "non productive" farm.  The plant would use forty acres of the 100-some
>acre parcel allowing the remainder to be used as wetland mitigation land or
>parkland for the community. The project would, of course, include a couple
>200 foot smokestacks.  Has anyone been involved in the planning of this
>project?  What's the word?!  What in the world?!  What about using a
>brownfield instead of a greenfield?
>Conan Smith
>Land Programs Director
>Michigan Environmental Council
>119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
>Lansing, MI  48912
>p. (517) 487-9539
>f. (517) 487-9541

I attended that meeting as did Barry Lonik of Washtenaw-Potawatomi Land 
Trust, Jeff Geerhart of the Ecology Center, David Wright of the Sierra 
Club, and Eric Campbell(?) of the Huron River Watershed Council, as well 
as representative John Hansen, among others. The purpose of the meeting 
was to introduce the environmental community to the process and get their 
feedback on the proposal. Part of the presentation was how the project 
will meet the Sierra Club's published siting guidelines for such 

As for who is in on the planning of this project, Panda Energy, the 
electric power supplier company proposing this facility, has an option on 
the land. Beyond that, not much more than the necessary background work 
as part of the site selection/feasibility process has been done. They've 
communicated with Washtenaw Development Council and the Ann Arbor 
wastewater treatment facility, at the least. (The proposal includes a 
plan to pipe treated effluent water from the AA facility to the power 
plant (20 miles), where it will be used for cooling. Approximately 6.5 
million gallons a day will be sent, 5 million gallons of which will be 
evaporated in the cooling process, leaving 1-1.5 million gallons or so to 
return to the wastewater facility for full treatment.)

I didn't take notes on the size of the exhaust stacks, but I think their 
height was projected to be closer to 145 feet. There would also be 
four(?) cooling towers that would emit steam. My notes say the site is 
110 acres and the plant footprint would be about 30 acres, leaving about 
80 acres of open space, much of which (I'd guess 40% from the site map) 
is wetlands, which could be expanded with the removal of the drain tiles.

The plant itself is a cookie-cutter, 1000 mega-Watt, natural gas-fired, 
combined cycle power plant (very efficient and very clean compared to a 
coal plant) that would provide electricity primarily to southeastern 
Michigan. Estimated time of completion would be fall of 2003, assuming it 
is approved and there are no delays in the process.

Jeff raised the same question of greenfield vs. brownfield siting. A 
Panda Energy employee and one of their consultants (from Environmental 
Technology Services, or something like that, of Brighton) responded that 
the location was chosen primarily for its proximity to an electricity 
substation. This site would also preclude the addition of transmission 
infrastructure, which is very difficult.

This is not a done deal, although in many ways it makes sense and I don't 
expect it to be stopped. What might stop it? NIMBYism for one, and I 
don't use that term lightly. But in this case if people just don't want a 
power plant nearby, I think that would qualify as hypocritical.

Ecological concerns are another possibility. If threatened or endangered 
species are found on the site, or if the modification or filling of 
wetlands is proposed. I don't think this is too likely (Barry may have a 
better perspective than I do though.)

Otherwise, I think the state, or at least our corner of it, would have to 
make some kind of commitment to a combination of improved energy 
efficiency and installation of renewable sources of electricity to the 
extent that we could say that this plant is unnecessary. Not impossible, 
but the state will not take even the smallest step in this direction as 
long as Engler is governor. I have other thoughts on alternatives, but 
I'll leave it at that for now.

Some interesting economic tidbits: The project would get a 50% tax 
abatement from the state for 12 years and would bring in $3 million in 
annual tax revenues to the state, township and school district. I don't 
know how that would be divied up. The projected life of the plant is 30+ 

On the bright side, Panda is opening up the process to public fairly 
early on, so we have an opportunity to tell them what we want and expect 
from them as a community member. That's something we should take full 
advantage of if the proposal goes through. I'll share my thoughts on that 
later too.

I do have some concerns about this project in the long term and will be 
asking more questions about it.


Steve Bean


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