The DTE Energy plant in River Rouge, Michigan, will be retired between 2020 and 2023.

Ensuring a Just Transition from Coal in River Rouge, Heart of Industry

For communities like River Rouge, Michigan, an industrial downriver suburb of Detroit, the closure of their coal-fired power plant is just one more economic hit the city has had to face in recent years.

The bridge that connects Detroit to River Rouge and its main street has been closed for the past three years, reducing economic activity and forcing some main street storefronts out of business. In June 2016, the closure of the community’s coal plant was announced.

According to the city’s mayor and tireless cheerleader, Michael Bowdler, the city is defined by its industrial roots and its small-town feel. “We’ve always had industry around us — limestone, gypsum, steel, coal. We’re blue collar. My family moved to River Rouge when I was 2 months old. I love this community. I can go to the local hardware store and spend a half hour talking to everyone who comes in.”

“I want to work with someone with a lot of experience and knowledge, and that’s why I feel really comfortable working with Delta.”

— MAYOR MICHAEL BOWDLER, FROM RIVER ROUGE, MICHIGAN

The DTE Energy plant opened in 1957 and employs approximately 110 workers. While the company said the employees will be transferred to a new plant, Mayor Bowdler still anticipates an impact on their economy. “[The coal plant closure] will have an effect on our whole supply chain — like people filling up at our gas station. I wish we could keep the plant and switch it over to natural gas, but [DTE Energy hasn’t] told us what they’re going to do with it.”

Delta is helping communities like River Rouge across the country to plan for the closure and reuse of their plants in a way that promotes environmentally sustainable and socially equitable economic development.

With support from the Just Transition Fund, Delta Institute is working with the City of River Rouge to plan for these changes, and, together with four other nearby communities and labor and environmental groups, apply for federal economic development funding to help the city and region adapt. “This is going to have such a big impact on our community,” said Mayor Bowdler. “I want to work with someone with a lot of experience and knowledge, and that’s why I feel really comfortable working with Delta.”

Ultimately, Mayor Bowdler is optimistic about the community’s future and sees potential to attract developers to the coal plant site, which is positioned right along the Detroit River, as a hub for shipping or international freight. “There’s water and rail service on the site. Wayne County just reopened the bridge to Detroit, and now we’re starting to show some life. New good things are on the way.”

River Rouge is one of 31 communities whose coal plants have been announced to close in the next six years. Delta is helping communities like River Rouge across the country to plan for the closure and reuse of their plants in a way that promotes environmentally sustainable and socially equitable economic development.

Supporting a just transition from coal

Delta Institute is helping River Rouge — together with four other nearby communities and labor and environmental groups — to apply for federal economic development funding to help the city and region adapt.

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