Settlement reached in Wisconsin cooling tech dispute

6 August 2008 — Three Wisconsin utilities settled a lawsuit brought by environmental groups over cooling technology installed at the two-unit, 1,230 MW supercritical Elm Road Generating Station in Milwaukee. The settlement will provide $100 million for Lake Michigan protection projects over a 25-year period and will lead to the closure of two coal-fired units in Michigan.

According to terms of the agreement, Clean Wisconsin and the Sierra Club will withdraw their legal challenges to a state permit and in return:

  • The Elm Road owners (We Energies, Madison Gas and Electric, and Wisconsin Public Power Inc.) will fund $4 million per year from 2010 through 2035 for projects to address water quality issues in Lake Michigan.

  • We Energies will retire two coal-fired units in Presque Isle, Mich.

  • We Energies will ask the Wisconsin Public Service Commission for approval to build 50 MW of 100 percent biomass-fueled power in Wisconsin.

  • The ERGS owners will buy or build 15 MW of solar generation by 2015.

  • The ERGS owners agree to support legislative efforts to establish a renewable energy portfolio standard of 10 percent by 2013 and 25 percent by 2025.

The environmental groups filed suit after the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued a permit allowing the use of a once-through cooling system at the coal-fired power plant. The organizations argued that once-through cooling did not represent the best available technology for cooling and thus should not be permitted.