On Monday, the Holland Board of Public Works held an open house event on the campus of Hope College. The purpose of the event was to provide residents of the Holland area some information on the future direction of energy production and distribution for the lakeshore city.
Hoping to provide some alternative information on energy production and conservation, the West Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club was at the open house to distribute leaflets. The leaflets were particularly critical of the proposed construction of a new coal power plant in Holland. When members of the Sierra Club began passing out material, they were told by both campus personnel and members of the Holland Board of Public Works that it was not permitted.
Anticipating that the event may not be friendly to criticism, the Sierra Club ad attempted to reserve an adjacent room to the Holland city event so that people could easily access alternative points of view. This request was denied and now a coalition of groups that the Sierra Club is part of, known as Clean Energy Now, is requesting that Hope College “serve as a host and moderator of a town hall meeting to present many sides of the Holland Board of Public Works proposal to expand and build a coal-fired power plant in the downtown Holland area.”
In addition to the Sierra Club, there were members of a new group called Holland West at the meeting. This group formed about a year ago with the intent of educating and advocating for a clean and sustainable energy future. Members of the group were frustrated that the City of Holland did not make the event more open and allow their group to have an information table as well.
The open house itself consisted of five stations where displays and handouts were available. Holland City staff were also on hand to talk with people about concerns that they might have related to the community’s future energy needs. The words “conservation” and “renewable energy” were used in many of the displays and handouts, but not much more than the idea of changing light bulbs was presented as an action for conservation.
We talked to several of the City staff members who said that about a third of their energy comes from turbine engines and that more of that electricity will be produced in the City of Wyandotte, Michigan. There is a possibility of partnering with the waste company Granger to access landfill gas, but this would only provide a small percentage of energy. There was some information on possible wind power production but the emphasis in the material was to continue to rely heavily on coal powered electricity.
When we asked where the current coal being used comes from, we were told it was from Utah and Colorado. However, when doing a search on the anti-mining “I Love Mountains” website, their research indicated that the Holland coal plant gets its coal from the Appalachian Mountains by strip mining.
Holland has applied for a permit with the Michigan DEQ to upgrade an existing coal plant so that they can move from a capacity of 11 megawatts to 78 megawatts. The Holland City staff told us that they will hold a public forum this fall and invite the community to express their opinions on this matter. The DEQ will then deliberate on whether or not to grant the permit. If you want to stay informed on this issue or get involved in opposing the new coal plant, contact the Sierra Club at jan.oconnell [ - at - ] sierraclub.org.