MILWAUKEE — Coal plant neighbors and other members of the Clean Power Coalition of Southeast Wisconsin delivered stockings full of coal to We Energies’ headquarters Tuesday.
The group wanted to demonstrate its concerns about We Energies' reliance on coal energy, it said. They also delivered 1,700-plus petition signatures in favor of replacing coal plants in Oak Creek with clean, renewable energy.
“With these petitions, We Energies’ customers have spoken resoundingly in favor of replacing the coal plants in Oak Creek with clean energy sources like solar and wind. Clean energy is coming to town. The only question is, how long will We Energies choose to stay on the naughty list by burning coal?” Dana LaFontsee, a coalition representative, said in a news release.
We Energies spokesman Brendan Conway said the company is developing other energy sources.
"We share their interest and enthusiasm for renewable energy. We‘ve proposed two solar energy pilot programs that have the potential to add significant amounts of renewable energy for our customers and we welcome the Clean Power Coalition’s support of those programs," Conway said in an email to TODAY'S TMJ4 on Wednesday.
Conway said the company has eliminated more than 2,000 megawatts of coal-fueled generation since 2004.
"We've set a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 as compared to 2005 levels and we are well on our way to meeting that goal," Conway said in the email.
Families who live near We Energies’ Oak Creek power plants have expressed concerns to the company for years about negative health effects they say they are suffering as a result of exposure to coal dust and coal ash.
On March 5, the group said, winds blew dust from a coal storage pile at the Oak Creek plants into neighborhoods north of the plants.
Test results confirmed the black dust found covering homes, cars and yards in several Oak Creek neighborhoods was coal dust, the group said.
Residents reported additional dustings throughout the spring and early summer.
"The newest units at the Oak Creek Power Plant are among the cleanest and most efficient in the country and all of the units at Oak Creek operate with the latest emission controls. The air permits for the Oak Creek site are designed to protect public health and the environment, and are among the most stringent nationwide. We continue to operate within the air permit limits," Conway said in the email.
As the group approached We Energies on Tuesday, it sang versions of classic carols including “Coal Dust Kills," sung to “Jingle Bells,” and “Dusty the Coal Man,” sung to “Frosty the Snowman.”
"We appreciate Christmas carols as much as anyone but without the Oak Creek Power Plant, reliable power for our homes and business would be at risk. Including the power for the beautiful holiday lights and the baking of those delicious Christmas cookies," Conway said.
Carl Lindner, a Caledonia resident, said in the news release he is concerned about his health.
“Like everyone who lives in southeastern Wisconsin, I continue to be exposed to the toxic effects of We Energies' coal plants in Oak Creek. Coal energy increases our chances of contracting asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, COPD and cancer. We Energies knows this, but they still haven’t transitioned to renewable energy. When will they stop putting short-term profits ahead of our health?”