An environmental group is declaring a victory for public health and the environment in Milwaukee. Residents in downtown Milwaukee should eventually be able to breathe easier, after We Energies announced new plans to convert its aging, coal-fired Valley Power Plant to cleaner-burning natural gas. Katy Welter with Clean Wisconsin says the plant is one of the dirtiest in the state. “The folks that live around the plant are really bearing the burden of this pollution that comes from the plant,” she said.
The plant sits right in the heart of downtown, with some 24,000 people living within in one mile of it. “This really was a plant that concerned us for a lot of years,” said Welter. In March of 2011, Clean Wisconsin and Sierra Club filed a petition with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, contending that the Valley Power Plant’s air permit violated the Clean Air Act. At the same time, Clean Wisconsin also worked with its partners the Cleaner Valley Coalition, which includes health, environmental, civil rights, faith and community organizations, to pressure We Energies to clean up the plant. “Unfortunately, other plants that had been owned by We Energies in whiter, more affluent communities, had been cleaned up years ago.
We Energies has announced it will file an application with the Public Service Commission to convert the plant to natural gas. The company predicts the conversion to be completed in 2015 or 2016 if approval is received. “Our analysis shows that converting the fuel source for the plant will reduce our operating costs and enhance the environmental performance of the Valley units,” said Gale Klappa, chairman, president and chief executive officer of We Energies.