WisBusiness: Supreme Court Ruling Favors Oak Creek Power Plants

By Gary Fisher

The proposal to increase the capacity of the Oak Creek power plant located south of Milwaukee got a boost today when the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted 4-2 to reverse a Dane County Circuit Court ruling.

The justices heard arguments in March for and against the biggest power plant project in state history – adding two coal-fired generators that Wisconsin Energy Corp. wants to build in Oak Creek. Today’s court opinion allows We Energies’ to build twin 600-megawatt generators that would rely on billions of gallons of lake water for use in their cooling pipes.

Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan had found a discrepancy between the law and how it was applied when the state Public Service Commission approved the expansion. Flanagan vacated the PSC’s decision to approve construction of the two coal-fired units in Oak Creek. The commission and Wisconsin Energy Corp., the parent company of We Energies, immediately appealed the Flanagan decision and bypassed the Wisconsin Court of Appeals to ask the Supreme Court to rule on the matter.

Of today’s opinion, Oak Creek spokesman Thad Nation said the proposal has met the certificate of public convenience and necessity prescribed by the state Public Service Commission.

S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. of Racine and the environmental group Clean Wisconsin have been fighting the requests by utilities to build new power plants.Fisk Johnson, chairman and CEO of SC Johnson, today said he was disappointed in the decision.

“This is a sad day for the citizens of Southeast Wisconsin. I respect the Supreme Court’s decision, but I am disappointed in the impact it will have on our region.”

Challengers of the approval of Wisconsin Energy Corp.’s Oak Creek power plant, Clean Wisconsin and SC Johnson & Sons Inc., Racine, have also filed a lawsuit with the Dane County Circuit Court, challenging the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ air pollution permit for the We Energies project.

Wisconsin Electric, better known as We Energies, operates the Oak Creek site and sought five years ago to add 1,800 megawatts in three generators. Two would use traditional pulverized coal, while the third would employ an integrated gasified coal process that burns more efficiently and allows the capture of dangerous substances before they enter the environment.

See the HTML version of the decision.