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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Doing it cleaner

From an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

We Energies' Valley power plant is a vital link serving the region's energy needs. That doesn't mean it can't run cleaner.

We Energies' coal-fired Valley power plant isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Nor should it. The plant - about a mile south of downtown Milwaukee in the Menomonee River Valley - meets a vital need in the utility's energy network and plays a unique role among power plants by producing steam to heat many downtown buildings, helping to keep heating costs stable.

But it is time to clean up the plant and bring it into the 21st century. We Energies is working on that, but anything the utility can do to expedite the process would be helpful. What that will mean is either switching to a new kind of fuel - natural gas - or adding equipment to the plant to clean up its emissions. Both would cost money, and ratepayers will have to pick up the cost.

The utility needs to figure out which is the better option and look for ways to mitigate the cost, but improving air quality is essential to public health and economic development. It's worth some cost.

As a recent article by Thomas Content and Lee Bergquist made clear, Valley is a plant with a problem. It is We Energies' oldest power plant that lacks modern emission controls. It thus adds to air pollution in the Milwaukee area, a region with air quality challenges.

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