The following is a statement from Rachel Hood, Executive Director of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, on today’s announcement that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment has approved the Holland Board of Public Works’ air quality “Permit to Install” application for a new, 78-megawatt power unit at its James DeYoung plant.
“Obviously, we are very disappointed with the approval of an air quality permit for the unnecessary expansion of the coal-fired James De Young power plant in Holland. It’s not a step toward a better energy future or a step toward more responsible government. It certainly wasn’t a data-driven decision. Asking the Holland Board of Public Works to show need before making such a significant investment in an antiquated technology proven to negatively impact Michigan’s environmental and human health is good sense and good governance.
It is encouraging that the Holland BPW is today referring to new coal as an option rather than a plan…part of a process. As a region, we should hope that as they move forward with this decision-making process, they consider more sensible alternatives.”
The Holland Board of Public Works also issued a statement (PDF) on the decision. As Hood notes, it is of interest that the coal plant investment is being characterized as an option, not a definitive plan.
“We are very pleased to have the air permitting process completed, because without it we could not realistically consider an upgrade of the De Young plant as one of our viable options,” said Loren Howard, general manager of the Holland BPW. “It is a great advantage to the community to have this option, because a decision this important should be made on the most complete information possible.”
The greater Holland community is at a crossroads in determining how best to meet its future power needs. Factors at work are long-term growth in power demand, regulatory requirements for the use of renewable energy sources, rising demand for power world wide and the cost and difficulty of maintaining the aging equipment at the De Young plant, which currently produces a significant portion of the community’s electricity.
“By the end of 2011 our community needs to make some decisions about how we are going to generate base load power,” Howard said. “Whatever the path or paths we may choose, it takes time to bring new generating resources on line and we need to move ahead with the decision making process.”
The chief options under consideration are to build cleaner, more efficient generating capacity at the De Young plant, buy more power from the open markets or buy a share of ownership in another power generating project.