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Holland city and Michigan officials to discuss coal plant expansion outside of court

A coal-fired power plant
Holland BPW
James De Young coal plant near Lake Macatawa in Holland.

The state is challenging a lower court’s ruling that would’ve allowed Hollandto expand acoal-fired power plant. But  its unclear whether or not state officials will follow through on the legal battle.

 Holland’s Board of Public Works hopes to replace a less efficient boiler built in the mid-1950s with a cleaner burning one.Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment denied an air permit that would’ve allowed the expansion. They based that decision on areport from the Michigan Public Service Commission that said the municipal utility failed to demonstrate the need for a new power plant. Specifically, the report said the city underestimated conservation efforts and potential renewable energy options. The MPSC says the city over estimated future demand and could get the power it needs through other measures.

Last month an Ottawa County judge called that decision unconstitutional because it was based on projected energy needs, not potential effects on air quality.

MDNRE spokeswoman Mary Detloff declined an interview, citing the pending legal case. The appeal was filed at the direction of the department’s new director Dan Wyant. But Detloff would not confirm or deny whether or not the new administration will go forward with the appeal process. She said in an email Wyant decided to take Holland Board of Public Works General Manager Loren Howard's offer to meet outside of court to discuss the case.

In a legal opinion last year, former Attorney General Mike Cox said the governor’s directive 2009-2, that has the state consider energy needs before authorizing air quality permits, is unconstitutional.

In the past, Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra has admitted the slower economy has dropped demand for power. But he says two advanced battery manufacturing plants coming online in the next year will use about half of the electricity generated by the proposed expansion. Those plants were not confirmed when the city first submitted the air quality permit application. Dykstra say the new boiler would burn cleaner than the facility it would replace. 

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.