August 14, 2019
In conjunction with the closure of its coal-fired power plant, WE-Energies plans to close the last of its coal combustion residual landfills in Marquette.
For nearly 25 years We-Energies operated three landfills that occupy 200 acres adjacent to the power plant. Two of these landfills are already closed with long-term maintenance and monitoring being conducted under post-closure plans approved by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).
Less than 8 acres of landfill area remain active and it is anticipated that final cover will be placed over this area by October 2019. The EGLE Materials Management Division will be overseeing the closure under the Michigan solid waste law and new amendments for coal combustion residuals passed by the Michigan legislature in 2018. Once closed, the 30-year post-closure period required by Michigan law will commence for all three landfills, with continued maintenance and monitoring.
The city of Marquette and WE-Energies are still in discussions about what the remainder of the power plant property will be utilized for after the decommissioning of the plant.
The site is currently permitted under the National Pollution Elimination System (NPDES) for discharge of cooling water, stormwater, and treated coal combustion residual landfill leachate. In the past, the site has discharged up to 140 million gallons per day of cooling water. This discharge will stop with the closure of the plant. Stormwater generated on site that comes in contact with regulated materials will still be addressed by the site’s NPDES permit. Leachate will be treated at the Marquette Area Waste Water Treatment Plant.
The shift away from coal power should significantly cut Michigan's emissions of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas associated with global warming. The shift from coal to natural gas should also result in significant reductions in the emissions of mercury, acid gases, and many toxic metals (see graphic). These environmental benefits should also come at a lower cost. A study by the Institute for Energy Research, published in 2016, documented that natural gas power is now 16% less expensive than coal power.