STATUS: Prolonged delay, litigation
OPPOSITION: Governor Jennifer Granholm; Sierra Club
BACKGROUND: In 2007, the City of Holland Board of Public Works (BPW) applied for an air permit to add a 78 mega-watt coal-fired boiler to its existing power plant. The project cost was estimated at approximately $238 million. Sierra Club, citing the decision in the Bonanza/Deseret case, demanded that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) deny an air permit. However, the Department granted a draft permit in November 2008. Sierra Club then sued the City of Holland and BPW in federal court alleging that maintenance activity at the plant between 1988 and 2007, including tube and heater replacements, were “major modifications” as defined under the Clean Air Act, that these modifications occurred without the required permits, and that the plant should be shut down. The BPW responded aggressively stating Sierra Club’s allegations were “fabricated.”
In February 2009, then Governor Granholm issued an executive order imposing a moratorium and new approval requirements for coal-fired power plants. Michigan’s Attorney General subsequently opined that the executive order was illegal. On April 1, 2009, the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) (now the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, or DNRE) clarifying regulatory responsibilities. DNRE determines whether an application filed to construct a new coal-fired electricity generating plant meets the requirements of Michigan and federal air quality laws and requirements, and PSC reviews an alternatives analysis to assess whether energy efficiency, renewable energy, or other alternatives meet future electricity needs. In March 2010, BPW submitted the required analysis to PSC. Also in March, BPW’s motion to dismiss Sierra Club’s amended complaint in the 2008 federal court case was denied. In July, PSC rejected BPW’s alternatives analysis. In August, DNRE rejected the permit. In September, BPW sued the State.
LAST UPDATED: November 24, 2010