According to a report in the Lansing political newsletter MIRS, environmental groups are hopping mad that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality would give Wolverine Power a permit hearing regarding its application to build a coal-fired power plant near Rogers City.

DEQ spokesman Brad Wurfel had it right when he said: “It’s not about whether we should have coal-burning plants. It’s not about the various other forms of electric generation…..” This is not the kind of statement that environmental groups are used to hearing from the DEQ, which during Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration acted as  more of an advocate than a regulator.

A Missaukee County judge previously ruled that the DEQ exceeded its authority in denying Wolverine a permit to construct a coal-fired power plant by basing its decision on the “need” for the plant. Even with the opportunity for a hearing, Wolverine Power still faces formidable obstacles in its quest to obtain a permit. In addition to meeting very strict pollution control requirements under the Clean Air Act, it now also must meet controversial CO2 standards recently imposed by EPA.

There is little doubt that the CO2 permit requirements unilaterally imposed by EPA are designed to make it difficult, if not impossible, to construct coal-fired power plants. In this case, all DEQ is doing is giving Wolverine an opportunity to meet the new requirements.

The job of the DEQ is to fairly administer the laws designed to protect air quality passed by Congress and the Michigan Legislature. It is not the agency’s job to advocate for various forms of energy production at the expense of others. Following the rule of law is essential to the preservation of a free people. It is encouraging that there are signs that the DEQ under the Gov. Rick Snyder may understand this important principle.