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SG-W:/ dexter power plant

I thought I'd offer a little more information about the Wednesday meeting
in Dexter Township about Panda Energy's proposal to build a large power
plant there.  The Ann Arbor News ran a story yesterday which mentioned the
large number of people who turned out to oppose the proposal, but mostly
reported on the company's claims to be environment-friendly.

Over 300 people attended the meeting, and virtually all were opposed to the
facility.  Township residents have already formed an organization -- No
Panda Energy (NOPE) -- and set up a website (http://www.usol.com/~nope).
They came with signs and complaints, and many had done a fair bit of
research on the company and on similar facilities.  They have also
identified a second website,  http://www.penweb.org/palm/position.html,
with detailed information another proposed Panda facility in Pennsylvania.

The Ecology Center has one major objection to the proposal.  The plant
would be a significant source of air pollution.  A natural gas-fired power
plant will inevitably emit a large amount of nitrogen oxides (NOx), which
react with hydrocarbons in the presence of sunlight to produce smog.  Smog
causes lung damage, and aggravates breathing problems for people suffering
from asthma and other respiratory problems.  The plant is directly upwind
from the major population centers of Washtenaw County, and the Ypsilanti
area, in particular, suffers from high levels of asthma.  NOx emissions
also contribute to the formation of acid rain, and to nutrient overload in
aquatic systems.  The facility would also emit other toxic pollutants, and
would probably be the largest source of high-priority "criteria" emissions
in the county.

The company argues that a natural gas-fired plant is cleaner than an old,
coal-fired plant.  They are absolutely correct about that.  But they go
further, and argue that their facility will help retire a coal plant
earlier than it would otherwise close.  That is absolutely false.
Proposals for new "merchant power plants," like this one, are being made
all over the Midwest these days.  They're being built in response to  a new
deregulated market, a growing economy, and a foolish rejection of sensible
energy conservation measures by virtually every major policy-making body in
the region.  (Michigan's deregulation has utterly ignored conservation
measures.)  What it all means is that the big old coal plants will stay
open, and the landscape will soon be dotted with dozens and dozens of new
merchant plants, everywhere you look.

Panda goes further yet to mislead people about their environmental impacts.
They claim to be following Sierra Club guidelines about the siting of this
plant.  Well, I asked David Wright, the chair of the Sierra Club's Energy
Committee to review their claim.  He says that Panda is following a couple
of the Club's guidelines, but they're also violating several, especially
the following:

"The siting of large, energy-related facilities should not proceed unless a
definitive need for them has been demonstrated, through open public
disclosure and certification of need, which cannot be met through
conservation and smaller-scale alternatives."

And this, I think, is really the bottom line.  Environmentalists and
communities shouldn't have to accept major new sources of smog and air
pollution until conservation strategies and sustainable energy sources have
been fully implemented.  And so far, Michigan hasn't so much tried, much
less implemented.

Mike Garfield

Mike Garfield
Ecology Center
117 N. Division
Ann Arbor, MI  48104
(734) 761-3186 ext. 104
(734) 663-2414 (fax)

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