The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has approved an air permit for a natural gas power plant planned by Consumers Energy in Thetford Township in northern Genesee County.

Tim Sparks, vice president for Consumers Energy's energy supply operations said "we appreciate the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's thorough review and timely approval of this air permit request."

Approval of the air permit accomplishes the first major step before Consumers Energy proceeds with the $750 million project. Additional steps include approval of a certificate of necessity filed earlier this month with the Michigan Public Service Commission, and suitable financing.

The Thetford project is expected to create 600 construction jobs, about 30 operating and support jobs, and ongoing economic benefits for the regional I-75 corridor and Genesee County. Total direct and indirect benefits tied to the project is estimated to be $320 million for the state and Genesee County.

If all goes accordingly with the project, the plant will become operational in 2017 and will produce 50 percent less carbon emissions than seven older coal plants it will replace.