Bay County Executive says planned coal fired plant could boost economy

A new coal-fired power plant may be coming to Bay County in the next few years.  The Department of Environmental Quality has approved an air permit for an 830 megawatt plant in Hampton Township.  The DEQ says the conditions of the air permit approval are that Consumers Energy must negate up to 958 megawatts of coal fired power from seven older plants.
Officials in Bay County say the newly approved plant has the potential to boost the area’s economy.  They predict the plant will create up to 2000 construction jobs over the next seven years while retaining over 100 permanent jobs once the facility is built.  Bay County Executive Tim Hickner says the Hampton School district and the Bay County government may see an increase in property tax collection was the plant is built. 
Hickner also said the plant is a necessity for the state and the entire country. 

“I think that the reality is that we are going to have to have base load power, and the alternatives right now for base load power are either coal or natural gas”, said Hickner.

Hickner also said officials need to take a more active and aggressive approach toward efforts on renewable energy, including wind and solar.

The plant is scheduled to begin operation in 2017.


Permit issued for new power plant near Bay City

State Capital Bureau Chief
Michigan Public Radio Network
State air quality regulators are giving Consumers Energy permission to build a new coal-fired power plant near Bay City. But the permit requires the utility to shut down three older plants. 
The state Department of Environmental Quality says that will result in big reductions in emissions of sulfur dioxide, mercury and other air pollutants. 
Environmental groups oppose the new plant.  They say the state should require Consumers Energy to use cleaner, alternative fuels to generate electricity at any new plants. 
The permit will allow Consumers Energy to keep some of the older plants open if it demonstrates there’s the demand for more electricity in 2017.
This is a developing story.
© Copyright 2009, MPRN

Smoking ban expected to encourage people to quit altogether

Health officials expect to see a surge of people trying to quit smoking in the new year, following the passage of a state-wide ban on smoking in public places.
The smoking ban doesn’t go into effect until May 1, but some health officials think people will try to kick the habit before then, making it a new year’s resolution.
Lisa Danto is a registered nurse, and a coordinator with the Traverse Bay Area Tobacco Coalition.
She said smoking bans in other states have lead to a decrease in the number of smokers.
“The average adult smoking rate is somewhere between 20, 25 percent, depending on which state you’re looking at,” Danto said. “But in those states where they’ve had a smoke free law for a long time, they’re in the teens.”
According to Danto, there are many resources available to help people quit, including 24-hour counsling lines and smoking cessation classes.
Those classes can teach people that are trying to quit how to better cope with cravings and stress, which she said is one of the biggest causes of failure.
“People have problems at work, or with family, you know, people die,” said Danto. “Different stressers are going to happen in a lifetime, and they go back to what they know what to do, which is smoke.”
“If they learn how to deal with stress differently then they can handle the stress much more easily and hopefully prevent going back to smoking,” Danto said.
The State of Michigan operates a tobacco help line: 1-800-QUIT-NOW. It also lists resources for people trying to kick the habit on a special website:

Michigan AG to sue over Asian carp

Michigan Public Radio Network
Attorney General Mike Cox will announce Monday that he is going to court seeking actions to stop the Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan via a Chicago shipping canal. 
The legal action will likely name the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Illinois authorities that operate the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Cox could take the case directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has jurisdiction over a century-old Great Lakes water diversion case. 
Cox will say the carp represents a threat to shipping and recreational and commercial fishing throughout the Great Lakes region.
© Copyright 2009, MPRN

Legislature approves “Race to the Top” reforms

Michigan Public Radio Network
The Legislature has wrapped up its work for the year by sending Governor Granholm legislation designed to make the state eligible to compete for federal “Race to the Top” school reform funds. 
The reforms will make it easier for charter schools to compete with failing public schools and a state school czar will be allowed to close or take over the worst-performing schools in the state. 
“Probably one of the most aggressive state intervention models in the country,” said State Representative Tim Melton (D-Pontiac).
He chairs the House Education Committee. He said the reforms will also help reward top teachers and remove low-performing educators from classrooms.  
“That’s going to have impacts on hiring, tenure, it’s going to have merit pay,” he said.
Teachers unions say the new standards are an attack on collective bargaining rights  and punish teachers operating in adverse environments.
The negotiations were often tense and drove the final hours of the Legislature’s 2009 session into the weekend. Lawmakers will return to Lansing in mid-January. 
© Copyright 2009, MPRN

Soaring Eagle receives bomb threat

 The Soaring Eagle Casino was evacuated after an anonymous bomb threat was called in.

 The casino reopened after an extensive search resulted in the discovery of no explosive.
 The Investigation into who called in the threat and where it was called in from is still underway.

 Frank Cloutier (Kloo-TEE-AIR) is the interim director of public relations for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.

  “The call came from a pre-paid track phone and they’re currently workingon an investigation with that right now we have no further information on how that investigation is going.”

 The tribe says the evacuation was precautionary, and shouldn’t affect their business in any way.


Senator Levin speaks out on health care reform

The health care debate continues in Washington this week, as senators try to broker a compromise before congress breaks for the Christmas holiday.
The Senate’s health care legislation underwent two major changes in the last week: the elimination of a public option, and the striking of provisions allowing people to buy into Medicare at age 55.
Michigan Senator Carl Levin was in favor of both, but he’s still optimistic that a healthcare overhaul can move forward.
“I am, of course, disappointed that it’s not part of the bill,” said Levin. “But this bill’s got an awful lot of other provisions in it which make it important that we pass this bill. We’ve got to put, we’ve got to find some way to end this spiraling increase in health care costs. And right now, health care’s going up far far faster than is the inflation rate. So we’ve got to find ways that we can reduce some of the waste in the system, and this will do that.”
Trimming waste in the system is one of Levin’s biggest priorities for health care legislation.
He said the bill being considered by the Senate does that, by streamlining healthcare administration.
“Right now we’ve got, in each hospital, they’re confronted with hundreds of different codes, from different insurance companies, for what will be covered, what are the deductibles, what are the co-pays, what are the limits. And we’re going to put an end to that so that we have a much more streamlined system. And it’s going to be a much more efficient system in terms of the billing. We’re going to have much more electronic connections between hospitals and doctors and the insurance companies that pay the bills. We’ve got to bring this system into some kind of an order which will provide security for people and put some downward pressure on prices.”
While Levin is optimistic that the Senate will approve health care legislation before breaking for the Christmas holiday, he admits that democrats are not there yet.
“The democratic leader is looking for the 60th vote to overcome the republican filibuster,” he said. “And I don’t know that he has the 60th vote yet. I think now Senator Lieberman is going to vote for it, because a couple of the pieces he objected to are not in it.”
It was Senator Joseph Lieberman who forced democrats to pull the public option and the Medicare buy-in from the bill, by threatening to filibuster the legislation.
Levin says Lieberman was within his right to do that. And even though Levin disagrees with the filibuster threat, he admits it’s something he’s done in the past.
“During the Bush years, I thought there were a number of things that we didn’t agree with, we were able to stop by requiring the republicans then to get 60 votes,” Levin said. “So while I don’t like it, I didn’t like Lieberman using it. I thought he ought to stay with us, at least on procedural votes with the democrats. He exercised that right, and all we could do was disagree with it, try to talk him out of it, and when that failed, we just had to give in on that issue and go with what we got.”
Some of the more liberal senators, like Roland Burris of Illinois, are now threatening a filibuster if the public option is not included in the Senate’s health care bill.
But Levin thinks such a filibuster is unlikely.
“It’s a little bit harder, I think, to vote against something because it doesn’t have something in it than it is to filibuster against something because it has something in it you don’t like,” he said. “In other words, if you’ve got half a loaf or three-quarters of a loaf and you want the whole loaf, it’s kind of hard to say I’m going to vote against the half loaf or three-quarters loaf. But if there’s something in the bill which you violently oppose, it’s a little bit easier then I think to make people understand, ‘hey, there’s something in this bill that I cannot accept.'”
Levin is confident that the Senate will pass health care legislation before Christmas.
But it could take longer to reach an agreement with the House; and final passage may not be achieved until sometime next spring.