Environment Picture

Snyder administration appeals to preserve Holland coal plant denial; House Dems announce support for new coal

Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration is going to court to try and maintain a Department of Environmental Quality denial of an air permit for a coal plant expansion in Holland; meanwhile, House Democrats have started the new session by endorsing construction of new coal plants in Michigan.

Attorney General Bill Schuette filed papers in early January indicating the administration’s plan to support state regulators’ denial of a permit to expand a coal plant in Holland. An Ottawa County Circuit Court judge had voided the denial, and the state intends to challenge that ruling to reinstate the denial.

The Holland Board of Public Works is seeking permission for the $250 million, 78-megawatt expansion. It comes at a time when demand for electricity has dropped to 12-year lows in many parts of the state and renewable energy and conservation programs required by a 2008 state law are finally gaining a foothold.

Snyder did not comment on the appeal – which may be more about preserving the authority of the state’s executive branch than environmental protection. Nevertheless, environmental groups were unanimous in applauding the Schuette/Sndyer legal appeal, noting that a coal plant expansion would hit ratepayers with rate increases for polluting energy that is not necessary and undermine progress being made in wind energy, solar power and the state’s revitalized energy conservation program.

Only days later, the leadership of the State House of Representatives’ Democratic caucus announced their support for a new coal plant in Michigan. The announcement disregarded the state’s own Public Service Commission staff analysis that says Michigan needs no new coal power for at least the next 12 years. It also disregarded the damage a new plant would do to the burgeoning clean energy economy that has been one of the few bright spots on Michigan’s jobs landscape during the recession.

Additionally, any new plant construction would burden citizens and businesses with significant rate increases. New coal plants recently socked western Upper Peninsula ratepayers with increases of 33 percent. And the state’s Public Service Commission staff projected that a proposed coal plant in Rogers City would have cost customers an additional $70 per month.

“At a time when Michigan is positioned to attract tens of thousands of new clean energy jobs – in addition to the 109,000 we already have – the House Democratic leadership has apparently made the choice to chase those jobs away by embracing old coal instead,” said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (MLCV) in a press release issued Jan. 13. The statement was released by MLCV, Michigan Environmental Council, Sierra Club and Clean Water Action.

The Michigan Environmental Council and its allies aim to work diligently in 2011 to educate new lawmakers and leadership about the state’s energy options – and how clean energy industries are creating jobs and prosperity without the pollution that accompanies coal power.
-Hugh McDiarmid, Jr.
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