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Weyker: Bluff collapse at We Energies

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Oct. 31 marks the ninth anniversary of the bluff collapse at We Energies’ Oak Creek power plant. That environmental disaster sent loads of coal ash — a toxic stew of heavy metals, such as mercury, arsenic and lead — and debris into Lake Michigan. The disaster happened as a result of We Energies’ failure to follow EPA guidelines for toxic waste disposal. Approximately 22,720 cubic yards of material, including coal ash, fell into the lake. We Energies paid a $100K fine for that violation but that fine did not include costs to the environment or human health.

Burning coal is bad for our health, bad for the environment and a bad financial deal for customers. At the rate case hearing last year in Madison, an independent economic analyst testified that closing the south unit of the Oak Creek plant would save $75 million dollars annually, money that could be put toward the transition to solar and wind energy. The cost of renewables is less expensive now than fossil fuels. Switching to clean renewable energy is a wise, healthy and practical move that We Energies should take now.

By the end of 2021, We Energies is required to comply with DNR demands to ensure safe water by eliminating wet coal ash handling. To meet that deadline, more money would need to be poured into an already wasteful power plant.

We ask that We Energies puts the health of its neighbors and makes the transition to clean, renewable energy a priority.

Sister Janet Weyker, Caledonia

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