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      Big investment could save Presque Isle power plant

      Gov. Rick Snyder discusses plans to save the Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette at a press conference, Tuesday, November 27, 2012

      The lights at the Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette will stay on.

      During a stop at Northern Michigan University Tuesday, Governor Rick Snyder praised a multi-million dollar deal designed to keep the plant running past 2017.

      Presque Isle Power Plant is a coal-based facility. The primary customer of the energy produced is used by Cliffs Natural Resources for its Marquette County mining operations.

      Wolverine Power Cooperative, based in Cadillac downstate, has announced it will invest between $130 to $140 million into Presque Isle to implement new air quality equipment to meet federal environmental regulations.

      Without the enhancements Presque Isle would have faced closure in 2017 for not meeting those regulations.

      "This is a great partnership because WE Energies has been a good provider for energy to the Upper Peninsula for a long time and Wolverine Power Cooperative has been here for a long time being very successful," said Snyder. It's a win for all."

      The governor was joined by executives from Wolverine and WE Energies to detail the terms of the agreement.

      "Wolverine has a need for additional power. We obviously have a need to meet new, evolving environmental standards in order to do that, changes need to be made to the plant," said Barry McNulty, a spokesperson for WE Energies.

      With it's multi-million dollar investment, Wolverine will acquire a third of investment in the plant. WE Energies will maintain its majority share and will continue to operate the plant and the new air quality system.

      Extending the life of Presque Isle will protect 170 jobs at the plant and save the city of Marquette from losing one and a half million dollars a year in tax revenue.

      However, The Sierra Club, a national anti-coal environmental group, released a statement calling the investment "shortsighted."

      Amid the celebration also came the understanding of long-term energy reliability facing the UP.

      "This is a wonderful place to be in the Upper Peninsula," Snyder said. "If we can solve the energy reliability question, it just gives us another reason for people to say they want to set up their businesses and hire people."

      According to WE Energies, the energy produced at the plant will remain in the UP.