Don't stop Holland's clean coal project

February 23, 2009
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Gov. Jennifer Granholm recently directed the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to review all applications for coal plants in Michigan in an effort to move toward more green energy alternatives. Not only does this effectively put clean coal plants and many related alternatives on hold, it will force many workers out of a job, something no one in Michigan can afford.

In preliminary discussions between the Holland Board of Public Works and DEQ, there have been indications that the air permit process for building a new plant or modifying an existing plant, now 25 months long, will take even longer. In addition, the DEQ may take up to a month to deliver new guidance about such requests due to the governor’s directive. This means we will have a harder time not only reaching the goals of the Holland BPW, but also the state’s goal of producing 10 percent of its energy through alternative sources by 2015. As you may recall, the Legislature last term passed a well-planned bipartisan package to require Michigan power companies to reach this environmental goal. Now, with one directive, the governor has rewritten this legislation that she just signed last term.

Moving forward, we must examine the immediate impact that Gov. Granholm’s directive will have on the Holland BPW.

First and foremost, jobs will be lost. Dozens of workers who are working to turn the James De Young plant into a clean coal plant will lose their jobs. Michigan cannot afford to make decisions that will cost jobs at a time when the state’s unemployment rate is the highest in the nation.

Second, the plant’s new boiler, which is designed to use biomass in the form of wood waste to meet up to 30 percent of fuel needs, is put on hold. We cannot allow clean energy projects to come to a halt simply because they are taking place at a coal plant. Her directive effectively stops progress toward burning cleaner fuels.

Finally, the Holland BPW has applied for a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to fund a massive Carbon Sequestration Project that would effectively lead to a zero-emission coal plant right here in Holland, which the governor recently indicated she supported. As the DOE reviews grant requests from all over the country, Michigan must position itself as a worthy recipient of the funds by cutting through the red tape before the funds are handed out. If Holland cannot get an air permit from the DEQ, its competitiveness with other projects around the country is severely damaged.

I applaud the governor’s goal to move to a cleaner Michigan and focus on alternative energy solutions, and I look forward to working with her toward that goal. However, stricter permitting guidelines and a moratorium on coal plants is hurting Michigan’s chances of reaching the goals passed by the Legislature last year. It is crucial that we do not get in the way of the progress that is already being made. I ask the governor to re-examine her directive and work with the Legislature to enact a reasonable energy policy that protects and creates jobs while protecting the environment for generations to come.

Joe Haveman is a Holland Republican who represents the 90th State House District.

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