Contact: Dana LaFontsee, 262.888.0231, [email protected]
Oak Creek, WI — Following testimony filed in WEC Energy Groups’s rate cases for Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) and WEPCO (We Energies) at the Public Service Commission, the Clean Power Coalition of Southeast Wisconsin is renewing its call for We Energies to retire its coal plant in Oak Creek and replace it with cleaner, cheaper energy.
The testimony filed today by Sierra Club, a member of the Coalition, concluded that all of WEC’s coal resources are uneconomic compared to market prices and renewable resources, and that ratepayers are paying more than they need to for the electricity and capacity these plants are providing. According to the testimony, the South Oak Creek coal plant is costing customers approximately $75 million each year. The community and members of the Coalition have been raising concerns for years about the health and environmental impacts of the coal plant on residents throughout southeast Wisconsin.
In response, Tom Rutkowski, member of the Clean Power Coalition of Southeast Wisconsin and Executive Committee Chair for the Sierra Club’s Southeast Gateway Group representing the counties of Kenosha, Racine and eastern Walthworth, released the following statement:
“Our community has been suffering the dire impacts of pollution from coal. Coal dust has blanketed our neighborhoods and We Energies wants to increase the amount of toxic mercury it’s allowed to dump into Lake Michigan, which some municipalities use for drinking water. We’ve spoken out about the threat of coal to our health, and We Energies has left us with nothing but questions. When will We Energies take meaningful action to protect our community? When will the utility commit to a transition from harmful coal to clean energy? Now this testimony shows, that on top of everything, the South Oak Creek coal plant is costing customers millions every year. Our community deserves better.
“The Clean Power Coalition urges We Energies’ executives to step up and fulfill their broader responsibilities to the residents and the environment of Southeast Wisconsin by accelerating their retirement of harmful, and expensive, coal-fired power plants and committing to a transition to clean energy. Last week almost two hundred chief executives of America’s largest corporations declared that they will now consider not only the interest of shareholders but will accept broader obligations to society in the way that they do business. The Business Roundtable stated that they will ‘respect the people in our communities and protect the environment by embracing sustainable business practices across our businesses.’ It is a sentiment that is commendable and shows a demonstration of corporate values that the Coalition hopes We Energies can embrace before it’s too late.”
We Energies has had several major controversies related to their coal plants and clean energy policies recently. Families who live near We Energies’ coal-fired Oak Creek power plant have been complaining to the company for years about negative health effects they are suffering as a result of exposure to coal dust emitted from the plant and the trains that deliver the coal. 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.
In December, We Energies requested a mercury variance that would allow them to discharge up to three times the state standard amount of mercury in their water discharge into Lake Michigan. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that bioaccumulates in fish and can produce neurological damage and other harmful health effects in humans when consumed. In February, the Wisconsin DNR held a hearing to gather public comments on this issue. Over 150 people attended the hearing and expressed opposition against several provisions of the draft permit, including the mercury variance.