JACKSON, Mich., July 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- 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. "We appreciate the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's thorough review and timely approval of this air permit request," said Tim Sparks, Consumers Energy's vice president for energy supply operations. 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 July 12 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 Thetford project is estimated at $320 million for the state and greater Genesee County, according to an independent, third-party economic impact study. The certificate of necessity filing, allowed for under Michigan's energy reform law, provides Consumers Energy's comprehensive analysis for the 700 megawatt natural gas plant. The review process for the filing is expected to take nine months. When operational in 2017, the Thetford plant will produce about 50 percent less carbon emissions than seven older coal plants it will replace. This switch in generation will help Consumers Energy reach its greenhouse gas reduction target of 20 percent by 2025. Consumers Energy owns the 230-acre Thetford Township site, which features access to high-volume natural gas delivery and high-voltage power transmission lines. Together, these favorable characteristics make the Thetford site the most valuable low cost option to meet Consumers Energy customers' future energy needs affordably and reliably. The current project schedule calls for construction to begin in 2014 and for the new combined cycle power plant to begin serving Consumers Energy's electric customers in 2017. At 700 megawatts, the plant would be able to serve a community of about 445,000.