Holland coal plant

Courtesy photo / Holland BPW

Federal regulators are proposing new rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions, and it looks like one community in west Michigan has a decent head start.

In case you missed it over the summer, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing cutting carbon emissions by 30% by 2030.

Power plants are the biggest producers of carbon emissions in the U.S.

Here in Michigan, coal powers half of all homes and businesses. So utilities are probably going to have to stop burning so much coal in order to meet the requirements, assuming they are approved.

The City of Holland owns a coal plant. The James De Young plant is 75 years old.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The city of Holland will issue $160 million in bonds to build a new power plant. It’s the biggest bond offering the city, the public school district or the city’s publicly owned utility has ever issued.

Holland is home to a huge population of conservatives whose families emigrated from the Netherlands. That's why the city is known for its Tulip Time festival, historic windmill, wooden shoes, and as Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra puts it, being frugal.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The City of Holland plans to build a new $182 million power plant. Wednesday night Holland City Council voted eight to one to replace the city’s more than 70-year-old coal plant with a brand new one that burns natural gas instead.

“I don’t know about you but I’ve made some bad decisions in my life and I’ve made them probably because I acted too quickly,” City Councilman Wayne Klomparens said before casting the lone “no” vote.

One consultant says Holland should convert its coal plant to natural gas.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Holland’s city owned utility would be better off if it burned natural gas rather than coal in the future. That’s the conclusion of a months-long study released this week.

The city hired an energy consultant firm to figure out which of its many energy options would produce the best return on investment. The firm said natural gas would be the best bang for the buck. The report says that return also considers other factors like the environment.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Holland City Council adopted guidelines on Wednesday night to handle the city’s long-term energy needs.

The comprehensive plan covers a wide variety of energy issues facing the city over the next 40 years.

Arguably the biggest energy issue long-term is whether the city needs to expand capacity at its coal plant, or maybe modify it to burn natural gas.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

People rallied in Holland today to ask officials not to expand the city-owned coal-fired power plant.

Holland took the state to court get an air quality permit that would allow it to replace a more than 60-year-old boiler with a more efficient one. City officials haven’t decided if they will replace it yet or not.

Tia Lebherz is with the Sierra Club in Holland. She and about twenty others held protest signs outside the Holland farmer’s market demanding the city move “beyond coal”.

Holland Board of Public Works.

The legal battle over a proposed expansion of a coal-fired power plant in Holland is not over yet. The State of Michigan granted the city the necessary air quality permit in February, following years of delays. But now a number of environmental groups are teaming up and bringing the issue back to court.

Holland BPW

The state’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment initially denied the air quality permit. That’s because former Governor Jennifer Granholm said the state must consider whether or not a community really needs more power before issuing a permit. An Ottawa County judge ruled that’s not a good enough reason to deny the permit and ordered the DNRE to review the permit application by this Sunday.