Following our recent victory, the Cleaner Valley Coalition has decided to broaden our mission and focus to tackle some of the many environmental justice issues that plague Milwaukee. The newly reformed Cleaner Milwaukee Coalition believes in a future where all residents of the Greater Milwaukee area equally enjoy clean water, clean air, and a healthy environment.
Cleaner Valley Coalition Statement on We Energies’ Rate Case
(read by T. Ruth Shank, Co-Chair)
October 1, 2012
Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC)
Subject: Docket No. 05-UR-106
Hello, my name is Ruth Shank; I am the co-chair of the Cleaner Valley Coalition.
The Cleaner Valley Coalition membership includes the following organizations: The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Children’s Environmental Health Science Core Center, Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin, Clean Wisconsin, Community Asthma Network, Interfaith Earth Network, Islamic Environmental Group, Latino Action Coalition, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Milwaukee Latino Health Coalition, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Black Nurses Association-Milwaukee Chapter, Pulmedix Asthma Care Center and PFT Lab, Sierra Club, Southside Organizing Committee, Walker’s Square Neighborhood Association, Wisconsin Asthma Coalition, and Wisconsin Interfaith Power and Light.
We are a coalition of research and health advocacy groups, civil rights organizations, faith and grassroots organizations, local service providers, and individuals concerned about the health of our families and our community. Together, we are working to improve air and water quality for all Milwaukee residents by cleaning up We Energies’ coal plant in the Menomonee Valley.
The Cleaner Valley Coalition has worked very hard and strategically to ensure that We Energies is a part of improving the health of Milwaukee residents by reducing dangerous air pollution from the Valley Coal Plant. To that extent we were very pleased when We Energies announced that they will stop using coal as a source to produce energy and start to use natural gas by the end of 2015. We commend We Energies for this move to clean up our air and water, and stop the negative environmental public health impacts on our children.
We Energies requested a rate increase hearing by the Public Service Commission. When the Cleaner Valley Coalition learned that the PSC had not scheduled a hearing in Milwaukee, we requested the PSC make every effort to host this public hearing in a location near our neighborhoods and at a time suitable for the working class. We suggested that the public hearing be held in Milwaukee after 6:00pm.
We applaud the fact that the PSC scheduled this hearing in Milwaukee. At the same time, the Coalition is appalled that the PSC scheduled this hearing at 1:00 pm during the work day. Although there are a few representatives from the community here today, scheduling this hearing at such an inopportune time has, in essence, made it impossible for many community members to attend and voice their opinions. It is offensive that the PSC expects Milwaukee residents who are most adversely affected by the health and economic impact of the We Energies Valley Plant to take off work to speak at this hearing, while scheduling a 6:00 pm hearing in a suburb of Milwaukee. Our expectation is that in the future, the PSC will demonstrate greater sensitivity to the concerns of the communities most greatly affected by the negative environmental public health and economic impacts from power plant pollution and rate hikes. It is imperative that community members be given the opportunity to voice their opinions. In addition, it is imperative that meeting facilities be accessible to persons with disabilities. The location chosen by PSC for today’s hearing is not accessible to those with impaired mobility.
In moving forward, we ask that the PSC contact the Cleaner Valley Coalition for support and assistance. We could assist with both the selection of an appropriate venue which that is centrally located, and accessible to all levels of physical abilities as well as, suggestions on scheduling appropriate times for community members to attend these public hearings which affect Milwaukee residents.
Thank you for your time.
Cleaner Valley Coalition Celebrates Clean Air Victory
Milwaukee to Breathe Easier with We Energies Power Plant Conversion
The Cleaner Valley Coalition commends We Energies for announcing plans to end dirty coal burning at the Valley Coal Plant with the recent announcement of the conversion to natural gas. This decision is a result of pressure from the Cleaner Valley Coalition to improve the health of Milwaukee residents by reducing dangerous air pollution from the Valley Coal Plant.
“We can all breathe easier knowing this decision will save lives and mean cleaner air for all Milwaukee.” said coalition Co-Chair Juan Carlos Ruiz.
For the City of Milwaukee in 2010, both hospital and emergency department asthma visits were two times the state rate. In the 8 zip codes surrounding the Valley coal plant they were almost three times the state rate. In 2011 the cost of hospitalizations for asthma, coronary heart disease and stroke was more than $65.7 million for the community surrounding the Valley coal plant (Source: Wisconsin Department of Public Health.)
The Cleaner Valley Coalition is a coalition of community, environmental, health, civil rights and faith organizations, and has pressured We Energies to clean up the Valley coal plant in the MenomoneeValley. The Valley Coal Plant lacks adequate 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.
“ Today’s decision is good news for Milwaukee. We expect future decisions regarding upgrades and construction to the plant to have minimal negative impacts on the community and that Milwaukee residents benefit from the job opportunities,” stated Juan Carlos Ruiz.
“ With this conversion, We Energies should also invest in renewables, weatherization and energy efficiency programs to reduce the impact on ratepayers’ bills and the amount of natural gas burned at the plant”, said Dennis Grzezinski, Senior Counsel with Midwest Environmental Advocates.
“The Cleaner Valley Coalition of local community, health, civil rights, environmental and faith groups have fought hard for this clean air win,” added Emily Miota, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Organizer.
The Cleaner Valley Coalition currently includes: Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin (BHCW), Milwaukee Latino Health Coalition (MLHC), Children’s Environmental Health Sciences Core Center, Community Asthma Network, Wisconsin Asthma Coalition, Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin, National Black Nurses Association – Milwaukee Chapter, Pulmedix Asthma Care Center, Latino Action Coalition, ACLU-WI, NAACP-Milwaukee Chapter, Walker Square Neighborhood Association, Southside Organizing Committee, Wisconsin Interfaith Power and Light, Interfaith Earth Network, Islamic Environmental Group, Clean Wisconsin, Sierra Club, Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA), and Milwaukee Riverkeeper.
The We Energies Menomonee Valley Coal Plant has one of the oldest expired water permits in the country. The technology standards have not been updated since 1987. This means that the Valley Coal Plant does not meet today’s water regulations to limit the discharge of superheated water and phosphorus to the river, or minimize the impingement and killing of aquatic life while drawing in cooling water.
The Valley Coal Plant uses 162 million gallons of water each day to cool the plant. The water that is discharged back into the Menomonee River reaches near boiling temperatures, which affects both the water quality and aquatic wildlife. We Energies kills about 1 million fish each year during this cooling process, which does not include the fish eggs and larva that get trapped or sucked into the existing intake system.
In addition, heavy metals (e.g. mercury) released by the Valley Coal Plant into the air fall into the water system and enter the fish. On any given day, you’ll see Milwaukee residents fishing in the Menomonee River and its canals. These residents are ingesting high levels of mercury from contaminated fish several times each week, which can result in damage to their nervous system.
The Cleaner Valley Coalition demands that We Energies provide the community with a solution for the Valley Coal Plant that meets all current air and water health standards and has the smallest impact possible on the health of the community.
A very thoughtful and powerful letter from Barbara Rasman printed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday, July 27:
Clean up power plant
How’s your breathing lately? The July 24 Journal Sentinel article, “Lower ozone standard could save lives, report suggests,” highlighted dangerous levels of ozone and airborne particulate matter. Walking, biking or just waiting for a bus can expose us to Milwaukee’s chronically bad air.
The report is a reminder that the We Energies Menomonee Valley coal plant has been dragging its heels into the 21st century. This out of date 44-year old plant continues to pollute the most densely populated area of the state. Its surrounding community has a high rate of asthma emergency department visits and hospitalizations. Asthma, respiratory illness, heart attacks and premature death from heart disease, coupled with related health care costs, take a toll on Milwaukee’s children, elderly and citizens with breathing disorders.
Experiencing respiratory problems myself, and seeing a drawer of inhalers at the Milwaukee public school where I worked, confirms my belief that cleaner air is an environmental and public health matter. We Energies should take the profit guaranteed by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission and do the right thing: Clean up the dirtiest coal plant in Wisconsin. Would Mequon or Elm Grove tolerate such a health hazard?
Already in 2012, we have had 13 air quality advisories for ozone where the air quality was considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, or Code Orange days. Code Orange days most affect children and adults who are active outdoors, and people with lung disease, such as asthma. Ground level ozone is created when certain pollutants react in sunlight. The We Energies Menomonee Valley Coal Plant is a significant source of these pollutants that are toxic to our health.
The Cleaner Valley Coalition demands that We Energies provide the community with a solution for the Valley Coal Plant that meets all air and water health standards with minimal health impacts on the community. Previous articles state that the coalition is asking We Energies to install modern pollution controls or to convert to natural gas. Not exactly. What we want is a plan. We want the solution that is best for the health of the community.
The Cleaner Valley Coalition is calling on We Energies to make a long overdue public commitment to clean up the Valley coal plant and ensure it meets today’s air and water quality standards.
Since December, We Energies has claimed they cannot make any public commitments to cleaning up Valley partly until they update the infrastructure. On Tuesday, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin approved We Energies’ request to update key infrastructure in West Allis, Milwaukee, New Berlin and West Milwaukee. The PSC order noted that a “Study is underway to assess whether it is economically feasible to convert the plant from coal to natural gas.” While the coalition does not endorse a specific fuel choice, the coalition believes that after this decision by the PSC, it is now incumbent upon We Energies to promptly communicate a plan to the community. Now that one of We Energies’ alleged roadblock is out of the way, they demand a full commitment to cleanup and plan now regarding how the company is going to clean up the plant.
“Families suffering from asthma and other health effects have waited long enough,” stated JuanCarlos Ruiz, chair of the Cleaner Valley Coalition, “We Energies has the power to make a public commitment and show us their full plan. But as they drag their feet, our children continue to be poisoned.”
The company needs to inform the communities surrounding the plant, who suffer the most from asthma and other illnesses that are caused or worsened by the plant’s air pollution, how and when their continuing exposure to the plant’s toxic air emissions will be ending. As the Coalition noted a week ago, as of the first day of summer, Milwaukee had suffered about as many air quality alert days in 2012 as occurred during the entire year in 2011. Every year, about a thousand new babies are born in one of the zip code areas nearest to the plant. City residents can’t wait for the company to take years to decide what to do, while they continue to breathe unhealthy air. The Coalition looks forward to hearing from We Energies soon regarding its plan and timetable for cleaning up the Valley Power Plant.
The Cleaner Valley Coalition, a diverse group of health, faith, civil rights, neighborhood and environmental justice organizations, has called on We Energies to address its Valley coal plant located in the heart of downtown Milwaukee. Valley, which was built in 1968, is the only coal plant in We Energies’ fleet without modern pollution controls, despite being situated in the most densely populated area of the city. The Valley plant adds thousands of tons of soot and smog to Milwaukee’s air each year, yet the Milwaukee utility refuses to commit to cleaning up the facility.
The Cleaner Valley Coalition includes: American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin Children’s Environmental Health Sciences Core Center, Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin, Clean Wisconsin, Community Asthma Network, Interfaith Earth Network, Islamic Environmental Group of Wisconsin, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Milwaukee Latino Health Coalition, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Black Nurses Association – Milwaukee Chapter, Sierra Club, Southside Organizing Committee, Walker Square Neighborhood Association, Wisconsin Asthma Coalition, Wisconsin Interfaith Power and Light