Wisconsin power-plant expansion could have long-term eco-consequences

The fate of a Wisconsin coal-fired power plant could augur poorly for the environment, say its opponents. At issue is what does and doesn’t count as a “new” power-generating facility: Under the Clean Water Act, new facilities are subject to strict regulations on cleaning technology; an addition to an existing facility, however, is subject to looser rules. The Oak Creek power plant south of Milwaukee wants to double its capacity with a pair of new generators — old-school pulverized-coal units rather than newer, cleaner gasification units — which it contends is an expansion and thus subject to the looser rules. So far Wisconsin authorities and the U.S. EPA have agreed. Opponents are steamed. “For them to argue this is an existing facility just boggles the mind,” said a rep for an area manufacturer. New language inserted in the preamble to the Clean Water Act by the Bush administration seems to allow for this interpretation, though, and Oak Creek is “the poster child of the worst that can happen” as a result, says attorney Reed Super.