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Louisville, Kentucky — Even though it is retiring three of its coal plants by 2023, DTE Electric intends to keep running its 1,395-MW Belle River and 3,000-MW Monroe coal plants until around 2030 and 2040, respectively, Trevor Lauer, DTE president and chief operating officer, said Friday in an interview.

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Lauer's comments came after Michigan's largest utility received final approval from the state's Public Service Commission to build a 1,100-MW, $951.8 million natural gas-fired plant at the utility's Belle River plant in St. Clair County.

Environmentalists opposed the gas-fired plant, urging DTE to replace the coal units with more renewable resources.

DTE plans to retire about 2,100 MW of older coal capacity by 2023, using the new gas-fired plant as a partial replacement once it goes into commercial operation in second-quarter 2022.

Lauer said River Rouge Unit 3 will be retired in 2020, to be followed by Trenton Channel Unit 9 and St. Clair Units 1-3 and 6-7 in 2023.

The utility plans to continue operating Belle River and Monroe, one of the largest coal plants in the Midwest, for many more years, he said, adding "they are low-cost, highly efficient plants."

DTE has invested more than $2 billion in pollution controls at Monroe, located on Lake Erie's western shore.

In the PSC order, chairwoman Sally Talberg said the new gas plant "has the best combination of operational, reliability and economic attributes to fill this need for power and will help position Michigan for a successful transition to a cleaner energy future."

The PSC ordered DTE to provide it with an analysis of how customer electric rates are expected to change over the next 10 years based on coal plant retirements and the addition of the combined-cycle gas facility.

--Bob Matyi,

--Edited by Valarie Jackson,