WisBusiness: PSC returns Alliant coal-fired plant application – again

By Brian E. Clark

For the second time this year, the state’s Public Service Commission has sent back Alliant Energy’s application to build an $800 million, coal-fired power plant in Cassville on the Mississippi River.

In a letter to Alliant, the PSC said the proposal for the 300-megawatt power plant remains incomplete and asked for additional information on air emissions, cogeneration, power transmission, wetlands, endangered species and cultural resources.

Scott Smith, a spokesman for Alliant, said his company will comply with the PSC request. “This is a very large application,” he said. “And while we may not always agree, we understand the process and we are working through it.”

He said Madison-based Alliant still hopes to get PSC approval for the plant this year and have it on line by 2012. He said it would give the company more baseline power, make it less vulnerable to natural gas price swings and provide enough power for 150,000 homes.

Katie Nekola, energy program director of Clean Wisconsin, praised the PSC and the state Department of Natural Resources for doing a “thorough review” of the Alliant proposal. She said her group opposes the plant.

“At a time when Wisconsin and other states are taking steps to stop global warming, building another coal-fired power plant would be a huge step backward,” she said.

Nekola said she was heartened by the rejection – albeit temporary – of the Cassville plant application.

“It’s rather unusual, I’ve never seen the PSC kick one of these back twice,” she said. “We will continue to fight it.”

Cassville is already the site of two coal-fired power plants, one of which is owned by Alliant. Nekola said the company should clean up that plant rather than build a larger one.

In Cassville, however, community leaders and many residents strongly back the proposal and want it to be built because of the jobs it would bring to the community.

Nekola said the plan runs counter to calls by Gov. Jim Doyle to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases linked to global warming. Coal-fired power plants are a key contributor of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

She said her group also opposes the proposal because it is in the Upper Mississippi Wildlife Refuge corridor. Construction of the plant would affect the ecologically sensitive area which is home to endangered species and federally protected natural resources, she said.

Historic Nelson Dewey State Park and prime wildlife areas also are adjacent to the site of the proposed power plant, Nekola said.