raised to Wisconsin power plant
The Mining Journal
Published March 29th, 2005
OAK CREEK, Wis. (AP) - When Wisconsin's largest utility
proposed in late 2000 to build new coal-fired power plants
next to Lake Michigan here, it embarked on the biggest power
project in state history.
Since then, We Energies' proposal to add twin, $2.15
billion boilers has had a rocky reception from some neighbors
and environmentalists, sparking debates on everything
from the claim of a future power crisis to whether state
regulators were too quick to approve it.
The latest challenge goes Wednesday before the state Supreme
Court, which agreed to hear the case after a judge tossed
out state approval for the plants, saying plans weren't
Dane County Judge David Flanagan said he was surprised
the facility was approved before there was a plan for
the design, location and cost of transmission lines to
get the power to customers.
State officials and We Energies say the transmission
system can't be set up until plans for the plants are
Lawsuits are pending over the air, water and construction
permits the state Department of Natural Resources approved,
including one allowing the plants to tap 2.2 billion gallons
of water from Lake Michigan each day, then return it to
the lake 15 degrees warmer. A permit from the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers is pending.
University of Michigan water scientist David Jude, who
was hired by Racine's S.C. Johnson & Son - a party
to the Supreme Court lawsuit - to investigate the potential
impact, said the plants' intake valve system, the hot
water and construction would hurt the lake's food chain.
"It's probably going to kill all the aquatic life
in some places,'' Jude said. "This is bigger than
any other power plant on the Great Lakes, so it's sort
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency wants the Corps of
Engineers to require its own environmental impact statement,
said fisheries biologist Joel Trick of the Green Bay office.
In a December letter, the agency said the project could
harm aquatic life and lose nearshore aquatic habitat and
"I'm sort of surprised the Wisconsin DNR isn't more
concerned,'' Jude said.
It's not only environmentalists who are opposed.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan urged the Corps
to do a stricter review of the plants, which would be
among the largest water users on the Great Lakes, and
again in February protested the DNR permit that would
allow an 8,000-foot tunnel to daily draw almost as much
water as Chicago and 100 suburbs use in a day.
Her office said the plants would discharge toxic mercury
into the lake, kill aquatic life in the intake system
and its hot water would degrade the lake's ecosystem.
"Our two states share both the benefits of this
important resource and a responsibility to protect it;
and the Attorney General does not believe that issuance
of this permit, as currently drafted, would be in keeping
with that responsibility,'' her office wrote.
Pollution likely would be felt downwind, because of tall
smokestacks that would carry emissions out of the area,
said Lloyd Eagan, director of the DNR's Bureau of Air
Management. But all the emissions are within allowable
levels, she said.
"We are confident that the permit that we issued
for air will protect air quality standards, and by doing
so will also protect public health,'' she said.
Two neighboring communities, Oak Creek and Caledonia,
agreed to support the plants after We Energies said it
would give each millions of dollars a year and spend $20
million apiece for economic development.
The plants, which would add enough electricity to power
615,000 homes, are part of We Energies' $7 billion, 10-year
Power the Future plan. They will run 24 hours a day, seven
days a week when they become fully operational in 2009
"We have no choice but to build new plants. The
question becomes what is the best choice for customers
in terms of keeping the rates as low as possible,'' said
Thad Nation, a We Energies spokesman.