The Nelson Dewey coal plant will shutter.
The Nelson Dewey coal plant along the Mississippi River will be shut down.
Department of Energy

Wisconsinites will be breathing a lot easier after another coal-fired power plant is shuttered and two more are overhauled to reduce air pollution.

The coming improvements are courtesy of the EPA’s latest legal victory over polluting coal-plant operators. The EPA and the Sierra Club reached a settlement with Wisconsin Power and Light Company and other utilities following allegations of Clean Air Act violations.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Under the settlement, filed in federal court in Madison on Earth Day, the utilities will be assessed a civil penalty of $2.45 million for alleged violations of air pollution laws over the years. …

But the big-ticket item in the settlement is the nearly $1.2 billion the utilities are spending to keep the largest of the coal plants operating by adding more modern pollution controls. …

By agreeing to stop burning coal at the Nelson Dewey plant in Cassville and two of the three boilers in Sheboygan, that means 590 megawatts of coal will be retired, or the equivalent of one large modern coal plant.

Statewide, including other coal plant settlements, the Sierra Club estimates that over 1,500 megawatts of coal power have been retired, or about 17% of the state’s fleet of coal plants.

“Over the last several years, Wisconsin has effectively begun to transition away from our oldest, dirtiest sources of coal-powered electricity and made way for 21st-century clean energy technology,” said Jennifer Feyerherm, a Sierra Club organizer, in a statement. “Today’s settlement marks yet another victory for clean air and healthier Wisconsinites.”

The EPA says the new settlement agreement will save lives, prevent lung and heart disease, and reduce haze and acid rain. 

As David Roberts has explained, it’s not only pollution laws that are causing problems for coal in the U.S. Coal just isn’t as economical as it used to be. It’s cheaper to burn natural gas nowadays, and prices of solar and wind power have also been plummeting.

Too bad Wisconsin has been lagging behind in wind energy. Time to start ramping that up.