Michigan power plant owner seeks fuel-burning permit

In this Jan. 9, 2019 photo, the L'Anse Warden Power Plant looms over the village of L'Anse, Mich., in the snow. Members of the community group Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK), are concerned that new fuel pellets could bring new toxicity to the air in L'Anse. (Joshua Vissers/The Mining Journal via AP)

L'ANSE, Mich. (AP) — The owner of a Michigan power plant is seeking permission to burn a different type of fuel that the state considers renewable, though a local community group has raised concerns about the gases produced by the plant.

Convergen Energy is seeking a long-term permit to use engineered fuel pellets at the Warden Power Plant in L'Anse, The Mining Journal reported. The pellets would be used in addition to creosote railroad ties and fuel derived from tires.

The pellets are made of paper and plastic waste that would otherwise be deposited in a landfill, said Ted Hansen, Convergen's CEO. A permit from the Department of Environmental Quality has allowed the fuel pellets to be test-burned at the plant for the past year.

"We felt like the extended test period provided more transparency," Hansen said.

Friends of the Land of Keweenaw, which advocates for environmental, economic and social issues, has raised concerns about gases from the plant. FOLK board member Catherine Andrews said the plant should switch to natural gas.

"It would just be a lot cleaner all around," she said.

Testing results show the new fuel will still meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's air quality standards, Hansen said. Convergen is using a system that injects materials into the exhaust stream to neutralize some of the acid gas emissions. The exhaust then goes through a fabric filter that filters particulate matter.

A public hearing on the issue will be held Jan. 23.

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