Clean Power Coalition-Southeast Wisconsin
Press Release

Over 30 Organizations Call on DNR to Stop We Energies’ Mercury Variance

Momentum to Oppose Water Permit As Written is Growing

By - Feb 19th, 2019 02:34 pm

Oak Creek, WI – On Monday, 33 organizations submitted a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) expressing opposition against several provisions of We Energies’ water discharge draft permit, including a proposed mercury variance that would allow We Energies to discharge mercury into Lake Michigan at up to three times the safe standard. The permit as written would also allow We Energies to continue a dirty, outdated process for treating coal ash until 2023, the latest possible date under federal rules. The letter is opposed to both of these measures. The statement of opposition from the groups comes on the heels of hundreds of public comments in opposition to the proposed permit as written. Over 150 people attended the public hearing last Monday and all of the comments opposed the variance.

“From extensive studies, we know that mercury is bad for the health of humans and wildlife. It is not acceptable to let We Energies have a pass at those regulations either in the water they discharge to the lake or in the handling of the coal ash byproducts,” said Todd Brennan, Senior Policy Manager for the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “I’m glad such large and varied coalition of stakeholders has come to together on this point and agrees that the time has come for We Energies to comply.”

“Under the law, a deadline extension to 2023 for converting from wet ash handling to the less toxic dry ash handling can only be granted if the utility can prove that it would be ‘technically and economically infeasible to comply by 2020.’ At the February 11 hearing, the DNR’s own slide presentation showed that We Energies is already using dry ash handling in some areas at the Oak Creek plant. Clearly, it is technically feasible to use this technology,” stated Dana LaFontsee, a spokeswoman for the Clean Power Coalition. “As for being ‘economically infeasible,’ it would seem that a company which reported record net income and earnings per share in 2017 and total shareholder return over the last 15 years of 724 percent can well afford to do the right thing for its customers and everyone who enjoys our beautiful Lake Michigan.”

“Mercury is a potent neurotoxin and  levels in Lake Michigan are already too high. Mercury bioaccumulates or increases in toxicity at the higher levels of the food chain, posing risk to aquatic life and fish as well as the people that eat them,” stated Cheryl Nenn of Milwaukee Riverkeeper. “Reducing We Energies’ discharge of mercury and toxic runoff from coal ash into Lake Michigan is vital to ensuring clean water and healthy communities.”

Eric Hansen, with Citizens Acting for Rail Safety – Milwaukee Area, had a strong message for the DNR. “Don’t squander the rightful inheritance of generations to come: clean water, clean air, healthy communities and a healthy planet. Don’t sign off on this foolish, ill-advised permit.”

The organizations that signed on to the letter are as follows:

Alliance for Climate Education
Alliance for the Great Lakes
Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin
Citizens Acting for Rail Safety – Milwaukee Area
Clean Power Coalition of Southeast Wisconsin
Cream City Conservation
Eco-Justice Center
Forward Kenosha
Freshwater Future
Friends of Grant Park
Grassroots North Shore
Greening Greater Racine
Interfaith Earth Network Southeast Wisconsin
Kenosha County Democrats
Kenosha Green Congregations
Michigan Environmental Council
Midwest Environmental Advocates
Midwest Environmental Justice Organization
Milwaukee Riverkeeper
Our Wisconsin Revolution
Physicians for Social Responsibility Wisconsin
Racine Dominicans
School Sisters of Notre Dame CP JPIC Office
Sierra Club Southeast Gateway Group
Sierra Club, Beyond Coal Campaign
Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter
Students Allied for a Green Earth (SAGE)
Water Protectors of Milwaukee
Whitefish Bay Action Team
Wisconsin Environment
Wisconsin Environmental Health Network
Wisconsin Green Muslims
350-Milwaukee

Background: Please see the press release issued by the CPC on January 31st.

The Clean Power Coalition-Southeast Wisconsin will educate the public about the dangers of burning coal on the health of those who live and work in the vicinity of We Energies’ South Oak Creek and Elm Road Power Plants. How we choose to generate electricity has consequences that reach far beyond the return on shareholder investment, affecting everything from public health to a stable climate. When air, water, and soil are polluted, health and life are put at risk. The Clean Power Coalition will promote public debate about the appropriate source of energy for Southeastern Wisconsin. At the same time, the coalition urges We Energies to: 1.) immediately contain the coal dust and other health hazards emanating from the Oak Creek plants, 2.) phase out its use of coal, and 3.) promote rather than obstruct the adoption of renewable energy throughout its service territory.

Clean Power Coalition convening member organizations: Eco Justice Center / Greening Greater Racine / Moms Clean Air Force / NAACP State of Wisconsin Environmental Committee / Our Wisconsin Revolution / Racine Dominicans / Racine Green Party / Sierra Club, Beyond Coal Campaign / Sierra Club, John Muir Chapter / Sierra Club, Southeast Gateway Group / UW Whitewater Students Allied for a Green Earth (SAGE) / Wisconsin Interfaith Power and Light / 350 Milwaukee. Supporting member organizations: Citizens Acting for Rail Safety / Gaia Coalition / NextGen America / Racine Coalition for Peace and Justice / Racine Interfaith Coalition / Interfaith Earth Network / School Sisters of Notre Dame / Wisconsin Green Muslims / Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters.

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