Sierra Club: MGE customers demand a response to coal dust incidents
MGE co-owns Elm Road Coal Plant, a Source of Coal Pollution
Madison, WI -- Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) customers held a rally today to raise awareness of MGE’s role in recent and ongoing coal dust pollution incidents near the Elm Road coal plant in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. They urged MGE to take responsibility for problems there and to issue a public response. Residents of southeast Wisconsin who live near MGE’s Elm Road coal plant have drawn attention to recent incidents of coal dust pollution, which they say have been ongoing for years and largely ignored by utilities that own and operate the plants. MGE gets 19% of its electricity from the Elm Road coal plant and is a co-owner of the Elm Road Plant, one of two in the Oak Creek area.
“This isn’t the first time this has happened,” stated Greg Millard, a resident of Oak Creek affected by coal dust pollution. “This is the first time they got caught. Coal dust has been a problem for decades, and the utilities know it. We want something done about it. We want folks in Madison to know that MGE is involved in this mess, too. MGE needs to take responsibility and help."
Activists met in front of MGE’s headquarters, near the intersection of Blair and East Wilson Streets. A replica of a red plastic playground slide with coal dust was there, in reference to a viral Facebook video shared after a March 5th coal dust incident. Many had signs related to MGE’s role in coal dust pollution in Oak Creek. Some wore respirator masks, and others brought along their children to emphasize air pollution’s impact on families.
"I am rallying because I don’t want MGE to turn its back on sick Wisconsinites. MGE proudly calls itself a community energy company, but the harmful situation in Oak Creek proves otherwise,” said Abby Lois, a local activist concerned about coal. “It is unacceptable that MGE's coal use is poisoning people."
On March 5th, winds blew dust from a coal storage pile at the Oak Creek and Elm Road coal plants into neighborhoods north of the plantin the town of Oak Creek. Test results confirmed the black dust found covering homes, cars, and yards in several Oak Creek neighborhoods was coal dust. Residents reported another dusting on March 25 after We Energies claimed to have taken additional steps to contain the dust. In the past several years, other incidents have occurred in other neighborhoods, especially to the south of the plant. Coal contains toxic metals including lead, mercury, and arsenic. The health effects of inhalable particulate matter such as coal dust include aggravation of asthma, respiratory symptoms, an increase in hospital emissions, and increased mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and lung cancer.