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Consumers Energy selects bidder to demolish 2 retired coal plants by 2018

ConsumersEnergy Co. is in negotiations with a buyer toredevelop the land hosting its now-retired 515-MW B.C. Cobb and 328-MW coal plants inMichigan.

The CMS EnergyCorp. subsidiary selected a single bidder after havingreceived five bid proposals in June. As part of the negotiations, the singlebidder would acquire the properties of both the Cobb and Whiting plants andcomplete the abatement, demolition and redevelopment of both sites, CMS said inan emailed statement,which was originally presented during a local press briefing held on Sept. 28in Muskegon, Mich.

After negotiations are expected to the close in late 2016,the bidder "would follow the plans that we have laid out to the community,which is to demolish both plants by the end of 2018. It could not be redevelopedas a power plant. It could not remain standing as a power plant,"Consumers Energy spokesman Roger Morgenstern said in a Sept. 29 interview.

Though the bidder is not yet identified, the company willhave redevelopment experience and can use the two sites to create jobs andeconomic development for Muskegon County, a scenic area situated on LakeMichigan.

A future use study, which the company conducted in 2015,included a roadmap for possible uses of the Cobb site that would still allowaccess to the Port of Muskegon, according to an Aug. 11, 2015, article by MLiveMedia Group. According to MLive, the three recommendations for the site, byorder of importance, are as an expanded deep water port, an agri-businesscenter or as a sustainable manufacturing center.

The Whiting and Cobb plants are two of seven that ConsumersEnergy retired inApril in part because of age and more stringent environmental requirements,including the U.S. EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which limit mercuryand hazardous air pollutants from existing coal and oil-fired units. The twoplants sold power into the grid managed by the

B.C. Cobb, which is built on 300 acres, originally had fiveunits. Units 1, 2 and 3, each between 54 MW and 68 MW, were converted fromburning coal to gas in the 1990s. Units 4 and 5, each 156 MW, burned a mix ofwestern and eastern coal.

The J.R. Whiting facility sits on 875 acres along Lake Eriein southeastern Michigan. The facility had three coal units built in the early1950s. The company willcontinue to own and manage the closure of each plant's coal ash storagefacilities.

"Our goal is to close these basins in a manner so as toallow for potential future use of the land area," Consumers Energy said.

B.C. Cobb's two coal units, totaling 320 MW, were retired aspart of Consumers Energy's "classic 7" fleet. The other units retiredincluded the three Whiting units and the 310-MW J.C. Weadock units 7 and 8 in Bay County.

The sale of the power plant properties comes as stateagencies and MISO are concerned about having enough power supply to meet futurereliability needs. The state is workingwith MISO on two reliability studies, one to look at possible transmissionexpansion with Canada and another to test whether the state can maintainreliability in the event of plant outages.