Valley Power Plant

The Valley Power Plant is a 280-megawatt coal-fired electric power station located near downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was built in 1969, and is owned and operated by We Energies.

The Valley Power Plant is currently the dirtiest plant in We Energies’ fleet. However, in August 2012, We Energies announced it would convert the plant to cleaner-burning natural gas and in April 2013, the company filed an application with the Public Service Commission for the conversion.

Key Points

  • The Valley Power Plant is one of the oldest and dirtiest coal plants in the state. It is a significant source of toxic mercury pollution as well as soot and smog, which are linked to serious health problems including asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes.
  • We Energies’ Valley Power Plant lacks modern pollution controls and emits high levels soot and smog, which threatens the health of Milwaukee residents, especially the 24,000 people who live within one mile of the plant’s smokestacks.
  • Converting the plant to natural gas will substantially reduce pollution coming from the plant, making the air cleaner and healthier to breathe.
Clean Wisconsin's Work

Since 2009, Clean Wisconsin has been working with the Cleaner Valley Coalition, a diverse coalition of groups and local residents, to pressure We Energies and state regulators to clean up the Valley Power Plant. In addition, Clean Wisconsin, along with Sierra Club, filed a petition with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in March 2011, contending that the Valley Power Plant’s air permit violated the Clean Air Act.

A major victory was won in August 2012, when We Energies announced plans to convert Valley at cleaner-burning natural gas in 2015 or 2016.

Clean Wisconsin Media and Materials

 

 

Questions and Answers

Why is the Valley Power Plant so important?

With the plant located in a low-income area between two predominantly minority communities, the concerns surrounding the plant deal particularly with issues of equality and justice. Valley lacks many modern pollution controls, unlike other coal power plants that are located near more affluent population centers, such as the Oak Creek and Port Washington plants. The conversion of the plant from coal to natural gas will help lower levels of air pollutants such as nitrous oxide and sulfur oxide, both of which are known to have detrimental effects on human health.[1]

How much will it cost to convert the Valley Power Plant from coal fired to natural gas?

We Energies estimates it will cost between $60 million and 65 million for the conversion. This is considerably less than the estimated $280 million in health care costs attributed to pollution from the plant.[2]

What will be the effect of converting the plant to natural gas?

If production of electricity remains the same, converting the Valley coal plant to natural gas could reduce carbon pollution by 212,500 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e)  per year. That’s the same as taking more than 40,000 cars off the road. It’s also roughly the same amount of carbon as taken up by 158,000 acres of forest, about the size of one-third of all Wisconsin’s state forests combined.[3] Converting to natural gas could also reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution by 3,140 tons; nitrous oxide (NOx) pollution by 453 tons[4]*; lead pollution by 20.4 pounds; and mercury pollution by 13 ounces per year.[5]

*Baseline of 2009 Valley plant generation and emissions data, from EPA Emissions and Generation Resource Integrated Database [eGRID, 2012]. Potential future emissions calculated as equivalent generation at national average emissions rates of large (100+ MW) natural gas plants [eGRID, 2012].

Quick Facts
  • The Valley Plant is the dirtiest plant in We Energies’ fleet, yet sits in the most densely populated area of the state.[6]
  • The Valley Plant emits pollutants that increase asthma, heart attacks and respiratory illness in children.[7]
  • The Valley Plant sits in an area surrounded by low-income communities of color and continues to pollute, while plants in more affluent communities like the Oak Creek and Port Washington plants have far better pollution control technologies.[8]
  • The Valley Plant is making peope sick, responsible for an estimated $202.4 million in health care costs a year.[9]
  • In Milwaukee County, 30,000 children suffer from asthma.[10]
  • In a study done by the NAACP, Valley Power Plant was ranked 4th in their list of most harmful coal-fired power plants in the United States. [11]
  • Around 24,000 people live within one mile of the plant. [2]
  • The average income within three miles of the Valley Power Plant is $12,852.[11]
  • The Valley plant has one of the oldest expired water permits in the country, with technology standards that have not been updated since 1987. [12]
  • 1 million fish are killed each year by the cooling process at the Valley plant; in addition, fish eggs and larva get trapped or sucked into the existing intake system.[13]
Wisconsin Data, Trends, and Legislation

At 280 megawatts, the Valley plant is the 9th-largest coal-fired power plant in Wisconsin, using an average of over 800,000 tons of coal per year.[14] Since Wisconsin doesn’t have any in-state coal resources, the $45 million that is spent per year to import this coal leaves the state.[15] The Valley plant also uses around 160 million gallons of fresh water each day for cooling.[14]

For each of the 875 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity it produces per year, it also produces about 950 tons of carbon pollution, (in CO2 equivalent) and 2,400 pounds of nitrous oxides (NOx).[4] On an annual basis, this amounts to roughly 830,000 tons of carbon pollution and 1,060 tons of nitrous oxides, in addition to 3,150 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), 1 pound of mercury pollution, and about 86,000 tons of coal ash.[4][5][16] 

Current Law

All coal-fired power plants are required to comply with the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Valley must obtain and comply with operation permits that limit the amount of pollution that they are allowed to put into the air and water. Wisconsin’s permit programs and related requirements can be found in Wis. Stat. Chs. 283 (water) and 285 (air).

We Energies filed a conversion application for Valley with the Public Service Commission in April 2013. The PSC docket number is 6630-CU-101.

Comments

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Please cite this resource as: Clean Wisconsin, Inc. “Valley Power Plant.” Clean Wisconsin Enviropedia. Retrieved from www.cleanwisconsin.org/enviropedia.