WEC Energy Group executive Gale Klappa recently announced that the older coal burning plant in Oak Creek would be retired in 2024. This decision is hardly cause for celebration.
The older plant had simply become too costly — $75 million annually more than purchasing energy from the Midwest grid. Another four years means another $300 million squandered. It should be shut down immediately.
The toxicity of coal is well known. Coal dust causes breathing problems (asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, COPD) and the fine particles can travel up to 30 miles. Coal ash contains large amounts of mercury, lead and arsenic and known carcinogens and these elements are discharged into Lake Michigan at levels well above recommended limits.
The Sierra Club's latest report grades the 50 largest investor-owned utilities across the country based on their current plans for the next decade for retiring coal plants and investing in clean energy. On a scale of 1 to 100, We Energies receives a "D" (23 points), and WEC an "F" (17 points). And these two energy producers supply all of eastern Wisconsin — Green Bay to Kenosha — with energy almost entirely generated from fossil fuel.
We Energies' announcement didn't mention the larger plant. Two years ago, Klappa stated their intention to continue operating the massive 1300 MW Elm Road Generating Station through 2050. That plant must stop burning coal by 2030, the target date set by climatologists, and it must begin its transition to clean, renewable energy immediately. We Energies and WEC can continue to reap large profits and our lives will be healthier and so will our planet.