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Great Lakes Article:

Wisconsin expected to remain a top Wyoming coal buyer
Associated Press
Published June 26th, 2004


GILLETTE, Wyo. - Wisconsin will remain one of Wyoming's top coal customers even as it replaces its aging power plants, according to one of Wisconsin's utility regulators.

According to the Wyoming Mining Association, Wisconsin accounts for 6 percent - 22 million tons in 2002 alone - of Wyoming coal consumption.

But many of Wisconsin's coal-fired plants, some of which were built in the 1940s, will be due for replacement in coming decades.

Whether the state will replace the plants with coal-fired generators or more environmentally technologies remains to be seen. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources hopes to cut mercury emissions from power plants 75 percent by 2015.

Ave Bie, chairwoman of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, told a Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday that the goal of the regulations is to lower the toxicity of fish in the Great Lakes.

"It's great that the DNR is doing its job," she said. "But I don't think it helps us to be an island, with considerably higher standards than our neighbors."

She said she would like coal to continue providing a large share of Wisconsin's power-generating ability.

Coal currently provides 54 percent of Wisconsin's power generation and coal-fired and nuclear plants make up the vast majority of Wisconsin's electricity portfolio.

The state has 25 coal-fired plants with a combined generating capacity of over 6,000 megawatts. Twelve of the plants burn subbituminous coal and five more plants are expected to be in service by 2010.

Federal regulations might also play a role in coming years. In December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue new limits on power-plant mercury, possibly a 30-percent cut by 2010.

Producers and users of Wyoming coal have lobbied for more relaxed standards for the coal found in the Powder River Basin, which contains elemental mercury.

Industry representatives have said elemental mercury is prohibitively difficult to remove when coal burns. But others say technology is available to keep mercury out of the air.

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