Energy

Supreme Court Shuts Down Enviros’ Attempt To Block Nuclear Plant

REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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The Supreme Court rejected an appeal that sought to block the construction of a nuclear reactor in Michigan, dealing a heavy blow to environmental groups that have been fighting the proposal for a decade.

The Supreme Court decided on Tuesday not to consider an appeal from a coalition of anti-nuclear and environmental groups hoping to block the construction of Fermi 3, a proposed reactor near Monroe, Mich. Despite the setback, opponents of the project are vowing to continue fighting on, and hope to eradicate all nuclear power in the state.

DTE Energy, a Detroit-based utility, originally filed for approval to build the reactor back in 2008. The arduous approval process — and vehement pushback from environmental activists — has left actual completion uncertain.

After placing the project under review for more than six years, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission finally issued a license to build and operate the 1,560-megawatt nuclear reactor in 2015. However, a litany of opposition groups band together to block the plants implementation. Organizations actively working to scuttle Fermi 3’s construction include: Beyond Nuclear, Don’t Waste Michigan, Sierra Club, Citizens Environmental Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, among others.

The groups have tried using the court system to block Fermi 3.

Last November, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was right in granting DTE its construction license. Undeterred, Beyond Nuclear and their allies petitioned the nation’s highest court to reconsider the ruling. The Supreme Court, however, will not be taking up the case.

Terry Lodge, an attorney that represents the coalition group, has argued that the NRC’s approval is void because it excluded a 300-foot-wide, 29-mile transmission corridor from the environmental impact statement required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The transmission corridor would pass through undisturbed wetlands and other habitats in the southeastern part of Michigan.

“We regret the Supreme Court didn’t take the opportunity to teach an instructive lesson to an important regulatory agency that NEPA, the environmental impact statement law, can’t be weakened to address only the environmental damage that the agency wants the public to know about,” Lodge said in a statement following SCOTUS’s Tuesday decision.

DTE has no immediate plans to build Fermi 3, despite the NRC’s approval and all foreseeable legal roadblocks out of the way. The energy company simply wants the option to build the plant at a future date if it so chooses.

“The six-year licensing process was rigorous and extensive and thoroughly addressed all relevant aspects of environmental impact as well as the technical and safety aspects of the potential new generation facility. The company has no immediate plans to build a new nuclear power plant, but is maintaining the license as a long-term planning option,” said DTE spokesman Stephen Tait in a Wednesday statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

DTE is likely to hold off on building Fermi 3 until nuclear energy becomes a more economically viable. Currently, the energy industry has been upended with the proliferation of natural gas in the past few years. Natural gas, thanks in large part to the implementation of hydraulic fracturing, has rendered other fossil fuel sources more expensive and less desirable to energy consumers.

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