Coal plants attract controversy

According to a PSC press release, Wednesday’s informal decision will likely be finalized by Nov. 10. The two new coal plants will be added to four existing at the sight, giving Oak Creek’s plant the ability to produce 24,000 megawatts of power, 600 megawatts less than what WE Energies wanted, said WE Energies spokesman Thad Nation.

“The average increase (in energy demand) has been going up 3 to 4 percent a year for the last 10 years” in Wisconsin, Nation said. “We wanted to meet that need going forward.”

The PSC indicated the two plants would also be built according to a different construction schedule. Instead of plants being built and operational in 2008, 2009 and 2011, the plants will be up and running in 2009 and 2010, he said.

Environmentalists who have opposed the plan from the beginning are even more upset that the only plant not approved was the Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle plant. The IGCC plant, Nation said, is “next step technology in terms of reducing emissions.”

He said there are only four such plants in the world because the technology, which takes coal, coverts it into a synthetic gas and burns the gas to create power, is not quite up to speed. He said WE Energies concluded that while the technology would most likely be up to speed by 2011, it would be too costly.

Cynthia Georgeson, spokeswoman for Responsible Energy for Southeastern Wisconsin’s Tomorrow, said if any plant should be built, it should be the IGCC plant. She said the PSC completely ignored concerns of Wisconsin citizens.

“The Public Service Commission didn’t care at all what the voice of the people of southeastern Wisconsin had to say,” she said. There was an “ocean” between southeastern Wisconsin and Madison, Georgeson said.

Georgeson said the new plants would make 100,000 pounds more pollution every day.

Nation, however, said with improved environmental controls added to the old plants and state-of-the-art technology on the new plants, pollution would be reduced by over 60 percent from 2000 levels.

Robert Bolender, mayor of Oak Creek, adamantly opposes adding pollutants to the city.

“I’m not strong in my stance — I’m determined,” he said. “We’re not going to have more pollutants in the city of Oak Creek.”

Two monitoring stations will operate to make sure emissions are kept to a minimum in conjunction with the “Power the Future” plan. He said one is currently built and operational, although it has not produced emissions reports yet, and another is under construction.

“It would be nice if the power plant wasn’t there,” Bolender said. “If I could read in the dark” we would not need it, he said. A need for power creates the need for otherwise unwanted power plant expansion.

“If you don’t have power, people aren’t going to come here,” he said.

Bolender said if the old plants do not run at low emissions levels, he would seek their closing.

“We will not let the power company pollute more than in the past. I’m anticipating they’re people of their word,” he said.

Oak Creek will receive $2.5 million dollars per year during construction of the new plants. After construction, the city will receive utility shared revenue from the state, Nation said.