Editorial: Be heard on power plant
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Posted February 15th, 2005
Today in Oak Creek, the state Department of Natural Resources
will hold a public hearing on a permit for a water intake
and discharge system that would serve Wisconsin Energy
Corp.'s proposed new coal plant on the shore of Lake Michigan.
The hearing begins at 12:30 p.m. in the courtroom of the
Oak Creek Police Department, 301 W. Ryan Road. It will
last until 4 p.m. and then reconvene at 5:30 p.m.
Anyone who can spare or make the time should try to be
there. The project is that important, and enough questions
have been raised about certain aspects to warrant closer
public and government scrutiny.
The proposed plant - which we continue to support in
general - is designed to help supply the state's growing
energy needs. Utilities have made a good case that without
more power plants and transmission lines, the state's
economic future has dim prospects. Businesses are unlikely
to expand in or to move to a state that can't provide
adequate reliable power.
But critics of the proposal also have made some good
arguments, such as whether there has been adequate public
participation and government oversight as new details
have come to light, and just how much harm the plant could
do to public health and the environment. The latter is
particularly pertinent in regard to potential harm to
Lake Michigan from the water intake and discharge system,
which would be one of the largest, if not the largest,
intake systems on the Great Lakes.
"If approved, the proposal would allow We Energies
to pump up to 2.2 billion gallons of water a day from
an offshore intake through the facility before releasing
heated water back into the lake," said Eric Uram
of the Sierra Club's Midwest office in a recent statement.
"We Energies' proposed power plant and its wastewater
and cooling system come at too high a cost to Lake Michigan,
subjecting the lake to thermal pollution, wastewater contaminated
by toxic mercury and fish kills."
Such arguments cannot be lightly dismissed. Certainly,
the potential of harm from the water intake system raises
serious questions about whether some other method of cooling
might not be more appropriate. At the very least, We Energies
needs to do a better job of making its case.
The state has a tough job: It has to weigh the utilities'
arguments that power demands are escalating against the
critics' contention that a new coal plant will cost too
much in damage to the environment and public health. Residents
- and not just those concerned with a healthy environment
and a healthy economy - also have a tough job. They have
to weigh the same issues and make sure that state officials
understand what the priorities should be.
Maybe after all that, a reasonable compromise can be
found and the state can strike the right balance in making
sure that reliable power is available for homes and businesses
into the future without selling out the environment.