Clean Power Coalition of Southeast Wisconsin

What is the Clean Power Coalition?

In 2017, GGR joined with the CPC as a participating member. The goal has been to eliminate coal-fired power plants in Oak Creek. Through news events, protests, advocacy, letter and e-mail campaigns, articles, and letters to the editor, they succeeded in helping to get We Energies to commit to closing down one power plant in the near future.

The work continues. Steve Oppeneer is the GGR participant in this ongoing work.

Scroll down to see some of the work of CPC. Also, visit https://cleanpowerwi.org/ to learn more.

Greening Greater Racine has collaborated with the Clean Power Coalition of Southeast Wisconsin to support best management practices and incorporate green technology for industries. The information below was taken from the Clean Power Coalition website. To be directed to their site, click HERE
Clean Power Coalition Mission Statement
The Clean Power Coalition of Southeast Wisconsin will educate the public about the dangers of burning coal on the health of those who live and work in the vicinity of WE Energies’ South Oak Creek and Elm Road Power Plants. How we choose to generate electricity has consequences that reach far beyond the return on shareholder investment, affecting everything from public health to a stable climate. When air, water, and soil are polluted, health and life are put at risk.
The Clean Power Coalition – Southeast Wisconsin will promote public debate about the appropriate source of energy for Southeastern Wisconsin. At the same time, the coalition urges WE Energies to:
  • immediately contain the coal dust and other health hazards from the transportation, storage, burning, and disposal of coal from the Oak Creek plants,
  • phase out its use of coal, and;
  • promote rather than obstruct the adoption of renewable energy throughout its service territory.

PurpleAir Monitors are here!
The Clean Power Coalition, in collaboration with Greening Greater Racine, recently raised about $2,000 to purchase PurpleAir monitors to be installed in the vicinity of the We Energies power plant. We are excited to utilize independent monitors to collect data on particulate matter in the Oak Creek area; this will helpl us determine if We Energies is properly controlling levels of coal dust and other particulate pollution in the community. To learn more, visit the coalition’s webpage detailing the new air monitors! Click here to see the PurpleAir map.

Coal Ash in Water: A Toxic Mess
On October 31st, 2011, We Energies spilled coal ash and other debris into Lake Michigan after a bluff collapsed at their facility. Coal ash, the burned byproduct of coal, is extremely toxic and contains concentrated amounts of arsenic, mercury, and lead. Coal poses a threat to water in a number of ways. Yet, despite the risks, the DNR has allowed We Energies to operate with an expired water permit for nearly a decade.  We Energies’ current water permit expired back in 2010. CPC is urging the DNR to move quickly to issue an updated draft permit and schedule a hearing for public input. Stay tuned for further details and updates!

Coal Train Tracking
We’re working to recruit people who live near the coal train tracks to keep track of when they see coal trains passing through. This tracking will supplement our air monitor data. We need your help! If you see a coal train, report it here. We’ll also be knocking doors in November along the coal train route in Racine. Email [email protected] to get involved in that effort!

Coalition Tells EPA: Protect People, Not Coal
On October 1st, several members of the coalition, including Sister Janet Weyker of Greening Greater Racine, took a bus down to the Chicago EPA headquarters to testify against the Trump administration’s proposed “ACE” rule, which would roll back existing requirements to reduce carbon pollution from coal plants. An EPA analysis showed that the pollutants given off from the ACE rule could lead to as many as 1,400 premature deaths per year by 2030 and 15,000 cases of upper-respiratory problems. Read more here.

Impacted Neighbors of We Energies’ Coal Plant Featured in Documentary and Coal History Presentation

Co-sponsored by Clean Power Coalition
January 23 Event is Free and Open to the Public


Racine, WI, January 20, 2020 –  A free program on January 23 at 6:30 P.M. at the River Bend Nature Center will feature a premiere screening of a video produced by members of the Clean Power Coalition of Southeast Wisconsin. This documentary, entitled “We Neighbors,”  focuses on the experiences of the neighbors who live near We Energies’ coal-fired South Oak Creek and Elm Road power plants. Though thirty homes surrounding the plants have been purchased and leveled, these are the neighbors who still live downwind from a 15-acre mountain of coal and in the shadow of the twin smokestacks. Some of those neighbors will participate in a panel discussion of their more recent difficulties as residents living in close proximity to the plant.

The second half of the program will feature a presentation on the history of coal in our area and on the impact of coal trains that travel through Racine by local historian and train expert, Keith Kohlmann. Mr Kohlmann, who teaches technical education in Racine and serves on the board of directors for the Racine Heritage Museum, has written over two hundred articles on trains and speaks on this topic throughout the region.  

Mr. Kohlmann states, “It is good to understand today’s situation within the context that created it. The pollution lobby would like all of us to participate in historical amnesia, and ignore the evidence of a legacy of environmental damage. I can show how energy technology has changed over the last 100 years, and how it continues to change. I hope it leads to a lively discussion.” In addition to this historical context, Mr. Kohlmann will discuss the hazards of transporting coal over a thousand mile route and the problems that arise when trains pass through residential neighborhoods.

The event is cosponsored by the Sierra Club, the Eco Justice Center, the Root River Council, 350 Milwaukee, Racine Dominicans, and Greening Greater Racine, six of the more than twenty-five groups that support the coalition’s mission- to urge We Energies to retire its coal plants and adopt renewable energy. 

When: Thursday, January 23, 2020, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Where: River Bend Nature Center, 3600 N Green Bay Rd, Racine, WI 53404
Who: Open to the public, but of special interest to anyone concerned with the health impacts of coal, especially coal plant neighbors and those who live near the route of the coal trains, affected residents, concerned parents, clean energy and climate advocates.
How: Those interested in attending may RSVP through the Sierra Club website events page
Background: Families who live near We Energies’ coal-fired Oak Creek power plants have been expressing concerns to the company for years about negative health effects they are suffering as a result of exposure to coal dust and coal ash emitted from the plants and the trains that deliver the coal. We Energies claims to have taken additional steps to contain the dust, but neighbors continue to experience dust in and around their homes. Coal contains toxic metals including lead, mercury, and arsenic. The health effects of inhalable particulate matter such as coal dust include aggravation of asthma, respiratory symptoms, an increase in hospital admissions, and increased mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and lung cancer. 

Just over two years ago, the Clean Power Coalition of Southeast Wisconsin offered its first public program, a screening of a film called “Cheshire, Ohio.” The film documented the struggle of residents in a small Ohio town that was purchased by American Electric Power, the company that owns and operates the nearby coal-fired utility.  

 

​Hands Across the Sands

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We Energies Customers, Neighbors Outraged By Anti-Solar Proposal
Dozens Gathered for “Hands Across the Sand” to Call for Clean Energy Transition

Oak Creek, WI – On Saturday May 18, 2019, despite the unseasonably cold and cloudy weather, dozens of community members gathered at Bender Park in Oak Creek to protest coal and other fossil fuels at a local “Hands Across the Sand” event. Attendees called on We Energies to withdraw their proposal to impose a massive fee on rooftop solar and make the switch from coal to clean, renewable energy sources. Many expressed indignation at We Energies’ treatment of the environment and active attempt to slow down and monopolize solar development.

In a speech to the crowd, Pastor Jonathan Barker of Grace Lutheran in Kenosha stated,  “I am horrified by the way We Energies treats our lake, that they are willing to dump mercury and poison the fish that bring both life and sustenance to us. I’m also outraged that they are putting forth this idea to raise an exorbitant fee on rooftop solar. I’ve got a 4.4 kilowatt system on my garage. When I crunch the numbers that they are proposing, it’s jaw-dropping. It is horrendous to me that they would want to attempt to kill the rooftop solar market at this time when we need all hands on deck for this transition to renewable energy.”

Rep. Greta Neubauer of the 66th Assembly District representing Racine encouraged those who had gathered to continue pushing for transformative change. “Many of you have been in this fight for a long time. Some of us are newer to it. But you all understand that this is a long and hard fight. The systems that we are taking on have a lot of power and it is not going to be easy to turn things around,” stated Neubauer. “But, at the same time, we are seeing an incredible moment right now in the climate movement in the United States. We are seeing increasing pressure on companies like We Energies and others across the state. The work you are doing does matter.”

Photos for free use here – credits to Miranda Ehrlich

Background:

“Hands Across the Sand” is an annual international day of action that was created in response to the BP oil spill. People come together on beaches and riverfronts across the globe to say NO to dirty fuels and YES to clean energy. More information can be found at https://handsacrossthesand.org/

We Energies has had several major controversies related to their coal plants and clean energy policies recently. Families who live near We Energies’ coal-fired Oak Creek power plant have been complaining to the company for years about negative health effects they are suffering as a result of exposure to coal dust emitted from the plant and the trains that deliver the coal. Coal contains toxic metals including lead, mercury, and arsenic. The health effects of inhalable particulate matter such as coal dust include aggravation of asthma, respiratory symptoms, an increase in hospital emissions, and increased mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and lung cancer.

In December, We Energies requested a mercury variance that would allow them to discharge up to three times the state standard amount of mercury in their water discharge into Lake Michigan. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that bioaccumulates in fish and can produce neurological damage and other harmful health effects in humans when consumed. In February, the Wisconsin DNR held a hearing to gather public comments on this issue. Over 150 people attended the hearing and expressed opposition against several provisions of the draft permit, including the mercury variance.

At the beginning of May, WEC Energy Group, the parent company of We Energies, filed a proposal at the Public Service Commission that would impose a significant fee on solar panel owners. This fee has sparked outrage among clean energy advocates, as it would have a chilling effect on solar projects in the state and is widely seen as a move to monopolize and reduce clean energy development. We Energies proposed a similar fee back in 2014, which was ultimately struck down by the courts.
 

150+ Pack DNR Hearing Room To Protest We Energies’ Mercury Pollution in Lake Michigan ​ Residents of Southeast Wisconsin Call on DNR To Stop Coal Pollution from Impacting Water Quality

Photo credits: Natalie Chulew and Tom Rutkowski

February 12, 2019

Contact: Miranda Ehrlich
[email protected] ​

Oak Creek, WI – Yesterday, over 150 people attending the hearing expressed opposition against several provisions of We Energies’ water discharge draft permit, including a proposed mercury variance that would allow We Energies to discharge mercury into Lake Michigan at up to three times the safe standard. The permit as written would also allow We Energies to continue a dirty, outdated process for treating coal ash until 2023, the latest possible date under federal EPA rules. 100 percent of the spoken comments were in opposition to the permit as written.

“My whole family lives next to the coal plant. The lake has always been our friend. We fish, we play; we do everything there. Recently, I heard about this permit. I thought it was a joke. And then I was appalled when I heard they were actually going to put three times the legal amount of mercury into the lake. It’s a brain poison!” exclaimed Frank Michna, a neighbor of the plants and a long-time fisherman.  “I’m sick and tired of We Energies. We need to get rid of coal. Renewables are the only way.”

Sister Janet Weyker, another neighbor of the plant, agreed. “The DNR, along with the EPA, should be upholding and strengthening safe standards rather than weakening them. If the water permit is granted as it is written now, it would be telling us that the DNR cares more about the economic well-being of the dirty energy companies than about the health of people living around the Oak Creek plant and those who drink the water and eat the fish from Lake Michigan.”

Local community leaders spoke strongly in favor of clean, renewable energy. “We Energies seems to think we live in 1919.  The rest of us are in 2019. Portugal already meets over half of its energy needs from renewables,” stated Steven Shea, Milwaukee County Supervisor.  “Denmark plans to have 100% renewable energy sources by 2030. In December, Germany closed its last coal mine. Where is We Energies’ plan and timeline to move to 100% renewables?”

State Senator Chris Larson also spoke in favor of renewable energy,  saying, “Wisconsin has an internationally recognized, proud heritage of conservation. It is part of who we are to preserve clean air, clean water, and clean land for the next generation. While We Energies and the partners involved in this power plant are moving in the right direction, delaying this process should be unacceptable. The longer they delay in moving to a renewable model, the longer neighbors have to put up with unsafe levels of mercury and the mounting problems of coal ash. Wisconsin can do better.”

Rick Banks, Political Director for Black Leaders Organizing Communities (BLOC) and a member of the Milwaukee Water Council, added, “Water pollution and coal disproportionately impact people of color, so that’s why I believe it is very important for us to be here to stand in solidarity today and say out loud that we don’t want any more coal. We don’t want any more mercury or lead in our water.”

Faith leaders also called on We Energies to clean up their act. Reverend Jonathan Barker, the pastor at Grace Lutheran in Kenosha, proclaimed, “In the 8th century B.C.E. the prophet Amos denounced those willing to do anything to squeeze out a little more profit (Amos 8:4-6).  I am sure if Amos were here today with us he’d prophesy against We Energies poisoning our water with mercury to make their bottom line a little better.”

Linda Flashinski, a resident of Racine, had a plea for the DNR representatives making the decision. “If you and your children and your grandchildren lived in this area, if you and they breathed our air and drank our water, how would you decide?” Flashinski asked. “We deserve to have clean water, clean air, and clean soil. Allowing more effluent at this time is unfair and unjust to the people of this area, our children, and future generations.”

The Clean Power Coalition is urging members of the public to express their concerns by writing to the DNR’s permit drafter: Jason Knutson, Wastewater Section Chief, Department of Natural Resources, 101 S. Webster St. PO Box 7921, Madison, WI, 53707, [email protected]in.gov. All comments or suggestions received from members of the public no later than February 18 will be used, along with other information on file and testimony presented at the hearing, in making a final determination.
 

For more info on EcoFest, click HERE