Public Service Commission authorizes We Energies to move forward with natural gas conversion

MADISON — A significant victory for public health and the environment was made this morning when the Wisconsin Public Service Commission authorized We Energies to move forward with plans to replace the coal generators for cleaner burning natural gas at the Valley Power Plant in downtown Milwaukee. The PSC’s authorization followed a lengthy collaborative effort of citizen-action groups that rallied for cleaner air in Southeastern Wisconsin.

“Thousands of people, including an estimated 30,000 Milwaukee County children with asthma, will soon be breathing cleaner air for many generations to come,” said Katy Walter, Clean Energy Specialist with Clean Wisconsin. “Today’s authorization made it official: Valley’s days are numbered as one of Wisconsin’s most notorious polluters.”

One of the oldest coal plants in Wisconsin, Valley was built in 1969 and over the years has become known for emitting high levels of soot and smog. More than 24,000 people live within a mile of the plant. The American Lung Association has consistently rated Milwaukee with an “F” for its high number of unhealthy air days. Converting the 280-megawatt plant to natural gas will help substantially reduce pollution.

“Especially as the EPA prepares to establish carbon rules, it is extremely important for all of Wisconsin’s power plants and industrial facilities to take a serious look at the steps we can all take to reduce our dependency on coal,” said Walter. “The community’s work at Valley will undoubtedly have a significant impact on air quality, and it serves as a great example of the good that comes when dedicated people organize around the issues that affect us all.”

Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest and oldest environmental group, worked closely with multiple organizations on the Milwaukee-based Cleaner Valley Campaign. The campaign’s success has grown into the Cleaner Milwaukee Coalition, which will continue to monitor progress of the Valley plant conversion while branching its efforts into other issues in support of a sustainable future throughout Southeast Wisconsin.