Michigan House demands that FERC back off of U.P. electric rate hike

LANSING — The Michigan House of Representatives has approved two resolutions to protect U.P. residents from higher electric bills related to a federal decision to make U.P. residents pay more to keep Marquette’s Presque Isle Power Plant operational.

State Representatives Ed McBroom of Vulcan and John Kivela of Marquette sponsored the resolutions with support from Representative Scott Dianda of Calumet. The measures demand that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reconsider its decision to force the U.P. to pay 99.5% of the Presque Isle Power Plant’s operating costs instead of the 6% share that U.P. residents currently pay.

Last year, Cliffs Natural Resources stopped buying power for the Empire and Tilden Mines from We Energies, the owner and operator of the Presque Isle Power Plant. The electricity for the mines had been generated at the plant. We Energies lost about 80% of its U.P. electric load when that happened, and the utility announced its intention earlier this year to close the plant.

However, Midwest regional power grid officials have said the plant must remain open to maintain the reliability of the U.P.’s power supply. FERC issued an order this summer that the plant’s operating costs would have to be paid for almost entirely by U.P. electric customers, starting on December 1st. The costs would amount to $100 million per year or more.

Both Wisconsin’s and Michigan’s public service commissions have said FERC’s $100 million assessment is unreasonable. McBroom’s and Kievla’s resolutions request that FERC adjust the cost allocation, at a minimum, so it’s divided in a more equitable way that takes into account the historical context and original cost allocation agreement.

The Michigan House will send copies of the resolutions to the chairwoman of FERC, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the members of Michigan’s and Wisconsin’s Congressional delegations.

State Senator Tom Casperson of Escanaba wrote a similar resolution which the Michigan Senate approved in October.