Thursday, May 5, 2011

Environmental Justice in Milwaukee: Coal-to-Gas Plant Conversion is a Big Step in the Right Direction

Today We Energies announced it would take the first steps to convert the Valley Power Plant from coal to natural gas. You can read more about it in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The ACLU of Wisconsin is a member of the Cleaner Valley Coalition which applauded We Energies’ announcement today that it will take the first steps to convert the Menomonee Valley coal plant to natural gas. This action has the potential to significantly  improve the Milwaukee community's air quality and the health of its residents by reducing dangerous air pollution.

“We can all breathe a little easier knowing that We Energies is taking this first step to clean up the plant,” stated Karyn Rotker, Senior Staff Attorney with ACLU of Wisconsin, “This is one of the state’s dirtiest plants, in the midst of communities of color, and we are glad those communities will benefit from a transition to a cleaner fuel source.”

The Cleaner Valley Coalition is a broad and diverse coalition which asked We Energies to clean up the Valley coal plant in the Menomonee Valley and ensure it complies with the latest health standards as soon as possible. Today, during its annual shareholders’ meeting, We Energies announced that they would begin the process to develop the infrastructure for a natural gas pipeline to the plant.

“This is a huge step in the right direction that should be applauded,” stated Virginia Zerpa with the Milwaukee Latino Health Coalition, “However, we must ensure that future decisions made regarding upgrades and construction to the plant continue to have the least negative overall impact on the community and that residents of those communities also benefit from any opportunities – such as job opportunities – new construction provides.”

Milwaukee is consistently given failing grades for its air quality. More than 24,000 people live within a mile of the plant and suffer the worst consequences of the plant’s pollution. Furthermore, Valley lacks modern pollution controls and is a significant source of soot and smog, which are linked to serious health problems like asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes.

“The coalition encourages We Energies to move as quickly as possible,” says Reverend Brisco of MICAH, “People’s lives are impacted by Milwaukee’s dirty air each and every day.”

Find out more about the Cleaner Valley Campaign on their website. Or get the latest updates on the coalition's Facebook page. This blog post was originally posted on the Cleaner Valley Campaign's website.