The feds are going after the state for operating dirty coal fired power plants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has launched an investigation into the state-owned coal plants, after months of inaction by the state. EPA sent a letter last week to the state Department of Administration, requesting information on 15 power plants in the state to determine whether or not are in compliance with federal air pollution laws. “What that means is, they are emitting too much air pollution and have been for years,” said Jennifer Feyerherm with the Wisconsin John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club notes that back in February of this year, the Wisconsin DNR told the state Department of Administration that five of the state’s coal burning plants are in violation of the Clean Air Act. “We’re at the point where we need to do the right thing, because our state owned plants are violating the law. And, our taxpayer and tuition dollars are being shipped out of the state to blow the tops off of mountains to bring the coal back to burn in plants that are breaking the law.”
Feyerhem said it’s not just what’s coming out of the smokestacks that hurts, it’s the way in which the coal is being mined – so-called ‘mountaintop removal’ in the southeastern U.S. “They literally go in and blow the tops off Appalachian mountains, removing several hundred feet off the tops of mountains, and destroying lakes rivers and streams.” Coal plants at five UW campuses are out of compliance: at Eau Claire, LaCrosse, Oshkosh, and River Falls. Feyerherm suggested that converting the aging plants to biomass, as is being done at UW Madison’s Charter Street plant, makes more sense than ‘putting another band-aid’ on the plants in the form of updated scrubbers.