Michigan Chapter

Holland Beyond Coal

WHO WILL DECIDE HOLLAND’S ENERGY FUTURE?

Holland Windmill

The 250 year old DeZwaan Windmill on Windmill Island is the symbol of the west Michigan City of Holland.  There's good reason for the windmill to be there because of the tremendous, renewable energy source the winds off Lake Michigan provide to this community.  The growth of clean energy businesses in the area is another bright spot in an often gloomy economic scene in Michigan.

Despite this close connection to wind power and other clean energy sources, in 2007 the Holland Board of Public Works (HBPW) proposed to more than double the size of the municipal utility's coal fired power plant.  The James DeYoung plant sits on the shore of Lake Macatawa in the center of the city, surrounded by neighborhoods and businesses.  Holland area residents questioned the wisdom of this proposal, and Sierra Club is working with community leaders to advocate for a clean energy future for this lovely Lake Michigan town. 

Today, Sierra Club members and their neighbors continue to call on the City of Holland and HBPW to drop the proposed coal plant expansion, and instead get Holland off coal and onto a clean energy based economy as soon as possible.  The challenges are great.  In 2010, after a tremendous amount of hard work by clean energy advocates, the State of Michigan denied a proposed air pollution permit for the expansion of the DeYoung plant. State Public Service Commission staff concluded that there are cheaper, cleaner alternatives to meet the electric needs of the community, and so the environmental officials decided the additional pollution from the plant was unjustified.  But in February 2011, using a badly flawed court decision as cover, Governor Snyder's DEQ reversed that permit denial, allowing the utility to move ahead. HBPW says a decision on whether or not to expand the plant will be made either in fall 2011 or early 2012, and Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council are in court asking for a reversal of the state's flip-flop on the air pollution permit.

Fortunately, the public clamor for a smarter, more forward looking energy future for their town has led the City of Holland's Sustainability Committee to put together a forty year Community Energy Plan, and look to experts and the public for input and direction.  Meanwhile, Sierra Club is again working with community members to ensure that the public's voice, and an honest exploration of ALL clean energy options, including moving off coal entirely, are in front of the decisionmakers at the City and HBPW when the process is completed. 

We invite Holland residents committed to a clean energy future help make that dream a reality by joining Sierra Club leaders in actively participating in the process, and helping to engage others in this important effort as well!  Contact Jan O’Connell by email or call 616-956-6646 to find out more and to get involved. 

 

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