Sierra Club sues DTE over alleged violations at coal-fired plants

Environmental group the Sierra Club has filed a lawsuit this week against DTE Energy and certain subsidiaries for what it claims are at least 1,400 violations of the federal Clean Air Act across four Michigan coal-fired power plants.

The suit filed Tuesday claims DTE’s Belle River, River Rouge, St. Clair, and Trenton Channel coal-fired plants are outdated and lacking the pollution controls required to meet federal regulations on emissions.

According to the suit, each violation relates to an instance when visible emissions from the plants exceeded opacity limits. The opacity of a power plant's visible emissions is often used as an overall indicator of the level of particulate matter.

The Sierra Club said the violations listed in the suit are based on data obtained from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which it claims reveals emissions from the plants exceeded the opacity limits allowed by their pollution permits repeatedly between 2007 and 2011.

However, DTE spokesman John Austerberry has responded saying the plants in question are in compliance and any exceeding opacity limits were “brief events, lasting a matter of minutes.”

 “All of our plants operate fully compliant with state and federal emissions regulations,” said Austerberry. “I suspect it’s more of a strategy to get headlines than anything else.”

Austerberry also highlighted that DTE has invested more than $2 billion over the past decade toward emissions controls at its power plants, with plans to invest up to $2 billion more towards continued environmental upgrades.

DTE currently operates six coal-fired power plants in Michigan, serving 2.1 million electric utility customers and 1.2 million natural gas customers through its subsidiaries.

Read the full complaint filing here:
Sierra Club vs. Detroit Edison Co., DTE Energy Co. and DTE Electric Co.

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