Gale Klappa, managing director of WEC Energy Group, recently announced that the older coal incinerator in Oak Creek is due to close in 2024. This decision is hardly a cause for celebration.
The older facility had just become too expensive – $ 75 million a year more than buying power from the Midwestern electrical grid. Another four years means another $ 300 million wasted. It should shut down immediately.
The toxicity of coal is well known. Coal dust causes breathing problems (asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, COPD) and the fine particles can travel up to 30 miles. Coal ash contains large amounts of mercury, lead, and arsenic, as well as known carcinogens. These elements are discharged into Lake Michigan in amounts well above the recommended limits.
The latest report from the Sierra Club rates the 50 largest investor-owned utilities across the country based on their current plans for the next decade to shut down coal-fired power plants and invest in clean energy. On a scale from 1 to 100, We Energies received a “D” (23 points) and WEC an “F” (17 points). And these two energy producers provide Kenosha throughout eastern Wisconsin – Green Bay – with energy that is generated almost entirely from fossil fuels.
The larger system was not mentioned in the We Energies announcement. Two years ago, Klappa announced its intention to continue operating the massive 1300 MW Elm Road Generating Station through 2050. This facility must stop burning coal by 2030, the target date set by climatologists, and begin the transition to clean, renewable energy immediately. We energies and WEC can continue to make great gains and our lives will be healthier, as will our planet.