“Ride for Renewables” Participants Experience the Dangers of Coal
Participants in Community Bike Ride Near Oak Creek Coal Plants Learn How Southeast Wisconsin Is Affected by Coal Pollution
Oak Creek, WI – As they cycled a trail around the power plants in Oak Creek co-owned by We Energies, MG&E, and WPPI, 35 riders young and old learned how the coal used to generate their power damages the health of people and the environment. The ride, hosted by the Clean Power Coalition of Southeast Wisconsin and the Sierra Club on Saturday, August 11, was a free educational event designed to highlight the dirty nature of coal and the importance of switching to clean energy.
Along the six mile route, which started at the We Energies Trail on 7 Mile Road and traveled past coal-filled train cars to the perimeter of the plants, participants heard from some of the neighbors to We Energies’, MGE’s, and WPPI’s Oak Creek coal-fired power plants.
Greg Millard, who has lived on the north side of the Oak Creek plants for 17 years, told the group that his neighborhood still gets coal dust three to four times a week, despite We Energies attempts to cover their northside coal pile with a coating meant to contain the dust. “Nobody is helping us,” said Millard.
Ride participant Chris Zapf from New Berlin said she was compelled to attend the ride because she is concerned about the health of the people who live in the area. Her companion, Steve Schutz, also from New Berlin, added, “We want to support the community that’s being subjected to the pollution.” After listening to the speakers share their first-hand experience with coal pollution, Schutz remarked, “I have had solar panels for 20 years. Renewable energy is the future.”
After the ride, cyclists had the opportunity to learn about renewable energy by visiting the solar panels and wind turbine at the nearby Eco-Justice Center in Caledonia. “The Eco-Justice Center is powered by solar, wind, and geothermal renewable energy which are providing approximately fifty percent of the Center’s energy needs, “ explained Executive Director Sister Rejane Cytacki. “These energy sources are sustainable for future generations and do not pollute air, water, or soil. “
Background: Families who live near We Energies’ coal-fired Oak Creek power plants have been expressing concerns to the company for years about negative health effects they are suffering as a result of exposure to coal dust and coal ash emitted from the plants and the trains that deliver the coal. On March 5, winds blew dust from a coal storage pile at the Oak Creek plants into neighborhoods north of the plants. Test results confirmed the black dust found covering homes, cars, and yards in several Oak Creek neighborhoods was coal dust. Residents reported additional dustings throughout the spring and early summer even after We Energies claimed to have taken additional steps to contain the dust. In the past several years, similar incidents have occurred in other neighborhoods, especially to the south of the plant. Coal contains toxic metals including lead, mercury, and arsenic. The health effects of inhalable particulate matter such as coal dust include aggravation of asthma, respiratory symptoms, an increase in hospital emissions, and increased mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and lung cancer.
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 / Our Wisconsin Revolution / Racine Dominicans / Racine Green Party / Sierra Club, Beyond Coal Campaign / Sierra Club, John Muir Chapter / Sierra Club, Southeast Gateway Group / 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 / Wisconsin Green Muslims / Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters.
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