House Minority Leader Richard E. Hammel, a Democrat from Mt. Morris Township, said during a Jan. 14 press conference with members of the Democratic caucus that building a clean coal plant is one of three Democratic initiatives to create Michigan jobs.
Hammel and his fellow Democrats emphasized that the building of a clean coal plant would help attract new employers to the state and create as many as 5,000 jobs.
An approval process for the construction of such plants was created through energy reforms pushed by House Democrats in 2008. Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration, however, added regulation that slowed the construction of these plants. Environment regulators were told that before they could approve the creation of a new clean coal plant, they would have to determine whether such a plant was really needed.
There have been eight plants that have applied for air permits in the last four years. None of these plants, however, have moved forward, either because they were denied permits or because companies changed plans.
One group that was denied an air permit, Holland's Board of Public Works, sued the state in August, 2010, arguing that Granholm's "need requirement" is illegal. Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative is also suing the state because they too have been denied a permit.
With the demand for electricity dropping, however, Granholm has argued that creating new coal plants will only raise costumer's rates. Environmental groups are in favor of her need regulation, stating that new plants would undercut economic development as well as create greenhouse gases. Although Hammel advocates the building of coal plants because it will create jobs, these groups argue that the construction jobs created will only be temporary.
An Ottawa County judge overturned Holland's permit denial in December, 2010, ruling that need could not be a factor in the issuing of air permits. He ordered the Department of Natural Resources and Environment to reconsider the Board's application within 60 days.
Neither Holland nor Hammel, however, will have the support of the current administration in their aim to create a clean coal plant. With Attorney General Bill Schuette saying the state will appeal this judge's decision, Gov. Rick Snyder's administration stands behind Granholm's policy.