Tag Archives: plant

Settlement reached over mercury from coal plant

Clean Wisconsin, Sierra Club, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin Public Service announced March 21 a settlement in a legal dispute over how much mercury can be emitted from a coal-fired power plant in Rothschild.

“The Weston coal plant emits toxic pollution, including mercury, which can cause neurological and developmental problems, especially in children,” Elizabeth Wheeler, senior staff attorney at Clean Wisconsin, said in a news release issued March 21. “It’s critical that a protective mercury limit is in place for Weston 4 to protect public health.”

Wisconsin law requires that newer coal-fired power plants such as Weston 4  limit mercury emissions to the maximum degree achievable. Testing of Weston 4’s equipment showed the plant could reduce mercury to 0.8 pounds per trillion British thermal units (lbs/tBTU), but WPS contested the limit, hoping for a far less stringent requirement.

Wheeler said, “Given all its health impacts, weak mercury limitations are not an option. While it has been a long road to this agreement, today’s settlement upholds the DNR’s more stringent limit.”

Mercury is a neurotoxin that can affect the brain, liver and kidneys and cause developmental disorders in children.

The EPA estimates more than 10,000 children born each year in Wisconsin are prenatally exposed to elevated levels of mercury, an exposure that puts them at risk of having lower IQs and reduced memory.

Also, according to Clean Wisconsin, every inland body of water in Wisconsin is under a fish consumption advisory due to mercury pollution.

“We support the DNR’s efforts to maintain protective permit limits,” Wheeler said. “Coal plants are Wisconsin’s No. 1 source of mercury pollution, and until they can be replaced with clean energy sources, their toxic emissions must be controlled.”

More about mercury & coal

Clean Wisconsin’s Enviropedia.

Wisconsin Assembly votes to lift barrier to new nukes

Editor’s note: The Senate is due to take up the bill on Feb. 16.

“No nukes now. No nukes probably forever,” says environmental activist Kevin Moore. 

Moore, in the late 1980s, went to jail as a protester seeking to block the licensing of nuclear power plants.

He’s remained active since. And, like many no-nuke demonstrators who committed to the cause in the late 1970s and 1980s, he’s baffled by the current campaign to build new plants.

“Did I miss something?” the 72-year-old activist asked. “Did they figure out what to do with the waste?”

The answer is no.

Yet, the Wisconsin Assembly has passed AB 384, which would remove a barrier to building new nuclear plants enacted in 1983, four years after a meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania and three years before the explosion and fire at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. Current state law prohibits new plants until the construction of a federal storage facility for nuclear waste.

A Senate committee held a hearing on its version of the pro-nuclear bill, SB288, on Jan. 5, but had not voted on the measure when WiG went to press.

Republican state Rep. Kevin Petersen, in a memo introducing the bill, described nuclear power as affordable, clean, safe and necessary. 

Proponents also argue Wisconsin needs nuclear options to comply with the Obama administration’s clean power plan requiring energy producers to reduce carbon emissions. 

But opponents say that’s a false argument.

“Nuclear energy is a distraction from realistic, cost-effective methods to reduce carbon emissions in Wisconsin: energy efficiency and renewable energy,” the Clean Wisconsin environmental group said in a statement on AB 384. “Nuclear is exorbitantly expensive and new plants take decades to get up and running.”

The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters refers to AB 384 as the “Nuking Wisconsin’s Energy Priorities Law” and has urged members to lobby their legislators.

The Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter also opposes the measure.

Meanwhile, the national Sierra Club has responded to a renewed nuclear energy push with a “nuclear free future” campaign.

“The Sierra Club remains unequivocally opposed to nuclear energy,” read a statement from the leading environmental group.

“Although nuclear plants have been in operation for less than 60 years, we now have seen three serious disasters,” the statement continued, referring to Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and the disaster in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011. “Nuclear is no solution to climate change and every dollar spent on nuclear is one less dollar spent on truly safe, affordable and renewable energy sources.”

The Sierra Club’s nuclear-free campaign emphasizes:

• The issue of what to do with the long-lived waste created by the fissioning of uranium remains unresolved.

• Uranium mining has contaminated large sections of the southwestern United States and many other areas in the world.

• Older nuclear plants sit in areas more densely populated than when they were built and almost all leak tritium and other radionuclides into groundwater.

• Newer nuclear plants remain expensive and need enormous amounts of water.

• Despite what energy industry leaders claim, nuclear power has a huge carbon footprint. Carbon energy powers uranium mining, milling, processing, conversion and enrichment, as well as the formulation of fuel rods and construction of plants.

A letter that Sierra’s John Muir chapter sent to Wisconsin lawmakers on behalf of a Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free Coalition warned passage of the pro-nuclear bill could lead to the state becoming a depository for nuclear waste.

Elizabeth Ward of the Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter, Katie Nekola of Clean Wisconsin, Amy Schulz of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Peter Skopec of Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group and Al Gedicks of Wisconsin Resources Protection Council signed the letter, along with Chuck Baynton and Judy Miner.

The coalition said passage of the bill could “send a strong message to the Department of Energy that Wisconsin is open to hosting a nuclear waste repository. In the 1980s, the DOE ranked Wisconsin’s Wolf River Batholith as No. 2 for a second high-level nuclear waste repository. A 2008 DOE Study on the Need for a Second Repository listed Wisconsin as one of the top potential states based on our granite geology. After the cancellation of the potential Yucca Mountain repository, the DOE is desperate to find an alternative.”

Wisconsin’s energy mix

Wisconsin has one operational nuclear power plant, Point Beach, north of Two Rivers. 

About 15.5 percent of Wisconsin’s electricity is nuclear-generated, 62.3 percent is coal, 13.2 percent natural gas, 3.4 percent hydroelectric and 5.5 percent renewable.

— Lisa Neff

Pocan seeks meeting over plans to close Oscar Meyer HQ

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan wants a meeting with Kraft Heinz’ CEO after a confusing conversation with a Kraft Heinz representative following the company’s announcement it was closing the Oscar Meyer headquarters in Madison.

Kraft Heinz announced earlier this week it was shutting down the Oscar Mayer plant and headquarters, which has employed hundreds of Wisconsinites for nearly 100 years.

“Today, I requested a meeting with the Kraft Heinz CEO to discuss their decision to close the Oscar Mayer operations in Madison,” Pocan said in a news release. “Workers and their families, along with members of the Dane County community were shocked by this loss. The intention of this meeting is to explain Oscar Mayer’s deep roots in the community and the devastating ripple effect this closure would have on our local economy.”

“We must seek answers from Kraft Heinz regarding unanswered questions we’ve heard from constituents,” continued Pocan. “I’ve requested a meeting as soon as possible. … Time is of the essence to ensure workers, the Dane County community and other stakeholders are involved in decisions about the Oscar Mayer plant moving forward.”

State officials said the news of Oscar Meyer’s departure took them by surprise, even though Heinz Kraft merged in July and laid off 165 workers at the plant, stoking concerns the facility would shut down.

The AP reported that Gov. Scott Walker said the decision to close the 100-year-old plant and relocate the headquarters to Chicago “has nothing to do with Wisconsin.”

Walker said his economic development agency had been in touch with Heinz Kraft and “provided assistance,” which he says the company declined.

Radioactivity detected in 2 places at Czech nuclear plant

 An official says low radioactivity has been unexpectedly detected in two places outside one of the two reactors at a Czech nuclear power plant.

Temelin plant spokesman Marek Svitak says the radioactivity was at very low levels.

The reactor where radioactivity was detected is currently shut down for planned maintenance.

Svitak said the Czech nuclear authority and authorities in nearby Austria have been informed.

Environmentalists in Austria have demanded that the plant be closed because of security concerns, but Czech authorities insist it is safe.

Growing the green movement: Earth Day activities, actions, associations

Earth Day, the eco-holiday celebrated around the world on April 22, was pioneered by a U.S. senator from Wisconsin — Democrat Gaylord Nelson.

Nelson, who died in 2005, had wanted to turn attention in the United States to the environment. And so, he pushed for an annual observance to encourage the people on the planet to protect species and spaces by recycling, reusing and, perhaps most importantly, reducing.

In 1970, when the first Earth Day took place, Americans burned leaded gas in massive V8 engines. Factories belched smoke and sludge. Air pollution signaled prosperity. But, with the work of politicians such as Nelson, scientists such as Rachel Carson and a growing network of activists, there was an emerging consciousness about caring for the environment.

Nelson, looking back, would one day say that Earth Day organized itself. An estimated 20 million people participated in that first Earth Day.

This year, at least a billion people are expected to get involved in events and activities planned at local, national and international levels.

A march and rally are set for the weekend after Earth Day, with thousands expected to gather on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Beyond the beltway in the U.S., organizations were scheduling rallies, marches, lectures, community cleanups, recycling drives, environmental fairs, repurposed art shows and documentary screenings.

The Global Climate Convergence for People, Planet and Peace over Profits is a national campaign that unites social, economic and environmental justice movements for coordinated actions and education — from Earth Day to May Day and beyond. The convergence has coalitions working in more than 40 U.S. cities, including Madison.

Related events include:

• On April 17, at 6 p.m., At the River I Stand, Goodman Public Library, 2222 S. Park St., Madison, screening and discussion of the documentary about the two months before Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and King’s role in labor struggles. Information: 608-262-2112.

•  On April 19, from 2 p.m.-1 a.m., Mind Your Mother: Celebrate Earth Day! Mining Alternatives Teach-In, Fundraiser & Live Music Bash, at the Evolution Arts Collective Warehouse Space, 202 South Dickinson St., Madison. There will be anti-mining workshops, a potluck dinner, storytelling, music, door prizes and an auction. Proceeds will benefit the Bad River Legal Defense Fund and Anti-Frac Sand Mining Efforts. 

• On April 21, at noon, Peace Vigil: Environmental Impacts of War, the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Doty Street in front of the post office in Madison. The Madison Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom will feature information about the Environmental Impacts of War.

• April 21, 7 p.m., Water Is Life! Puppet Show and Thistle and Thorns, UW-Madison Memorial Union, evening of folk art and education about frac sands and iron mining in northern Wisconsin hosted by the Madison Infoshop and Madison Action for Mining Alternatives. Information: 608-262-9036.

• On April 22, at 5:30 p.m., the Earth Day March and Rally—Protect our Water – Reject the Mines and Pipelines!, departing from Monona Terrace in Madison. Plans include a march from Monona Terrace to the library mall, a 6:15 p.m. rally at the mall with speakers from 350 Madison, the Madison Action for Mining Alternatives and NoKXL Pledge of Resistance. Also: Call for Peace Drum and Dance Company.

• On April 22, 7 p.m., Rock Bottom in the Age of Extreme Resource Extraction, UW-Madison Memorial Union, Beehive Arts and Design Collective performance about fracking, mining and tar sands.

• On April 23, 7 p.m., Economic Democracy panel discussion, Madison Central Library, 201 W. Mifflin St., involving Dane County TimeBank, Wisconsin Wave and others.

• On April 24, noon, Fossil Free UW Banner Drop, UW campuses around the state, with Fossil Free UW dropping banners calling for divestment from fossil fuel companies. 

• On April 24, 5 p.m., The People’s Speakout at Veterans Plaza/30 on the Square in Madison. There will be speeches, live music, spoken word. The event is being hosted by the IWW Social Action and Solidarity Committee. For more information, call 442-8399 or 815-685-8567.

• On April 24, 7 p.m., a screening of Bidder 70, at 122 State St., Room 200, Madison. The film is about climate justice activist Tim DeChristopher, who served two years in federal prison for taking direct action in 2008 at a BLM auction to stop oil and gas drilling on thousands of acres of public land in Utah. 

• On April 26, the March and Rally for People, Peace and Planet Over Profit, noon, library mall in Madison. The Global Climate Convergence coalition marches through Madison to the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, where there will be a rally.

• On March 26, the Sustainable Saturday Night! Family-friendly Potluck, Sustainability Tribute to Pete Seeger, 6 p.m., James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 2146 E. Johnson St., Madison. There will be a community potluck dinner and a sing-along celebrating singer.

• On April 27, from 1-5 p.m., Earth Day for Peace and Justice, Farley Center for Peace, Justice and Sustainability, 2299 Spring Rose Road, west of Verona.

• On April 28, 11 a.m., at the state Capitol, Workers’ Memorial Day, an annual event to remember those who lost their lives on the job. 

• On May 1, 3:30 p.m., Brittingham Park in Madison, May Day International Workers Day March and Rally. There will be a march and rally for immigration justice, workers’ rights and a living wage for all. Demonstrators will gather at the park and march to the state Capitol. 

• On May 1, 6 p.m., May Day Celebration, Wil-Mar Center, 953 Jenifer St., Madison. An evening of food, music and speakers.

• On May 3, noon, civil disobedience training for Keystone XL pipeline protests. 

• On May 3, 9 p.m., May Day celebration, Bandung Indonesian Restaurant, 600 Williamson St., Madison. There will be a Mideast by Midwest performance and celebration of workers’ rights.

Other Earth Day events…

• On April 12, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., the Wisconsin Green Party holds its spring gathering at the Ambrosia Cooperative, 225 E. Lakelawn Place, Madison. The Global Climate Convergence will participate. And Green Party candidates will talk about their issues. For more, go the Wisconsin Green Party. 

• On April 19, from about 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at John Muir Memorial Park in Montello, there will be a celebration of Muir’s birthday and the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Organizers include the Sierra Club, the Wisconsin Friends of John Muir, the Ice Age Trail Alliance, Marquette County Healthy Communities.

• On April 19, the city of Madison sponsors the Earth Day Challenge, with cleanups planned at many parks. For more, call Anne Whisner at the city of Madison at 608-267-4919 or email

• On April 19, Friends of Wisconsin State Parks sponsors a Work Play Earth Day campaign, with activities at many state parks. Volunteers will plant trees and shrubs, install benches, remove invasive plants, stain picnic tables and help with other improvements. Activities also will take place on April 26 and May 3.

• On April 19, the Race Against Extinction fundraiser gets run in Madison to draw attention to environmental issues and bring people outdoors. Runners begin at Vilas Park. Registration is at theraceagainstextinction.org.

• On April 22, the Nelson Institute Earth Day Conference — Earth: To Be Determined — takes place at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison. Registration is underway. Actress and activist Rosario Dawson, sci-fi author China Nieville and ecologists Erle Ellis and Kevin Noon will be featured.

• On April 22, Milwaukee’s Office of Sustainability and Rock the Green hold the third annual Earth Day Celebration with an appearance by Mayor Tom Barrett, a performance by Vic and Gab and a caravan of food trucks. The event takes place 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the City Center, 735 N. Water St., Milwaukee. For more, email

• On April 26, the Milwau Environmental Consortium holds an Earth Day project at Washington Park, 1859 N. 40th St., Milwaukee. Hours are 8 a.m.-1 p.m. The Student Conservation Association at the Urban Ecology Center at Washington Park will complete service projects. For more, email August Ball at or call 414-322-8482.

Read about Gaylord Nelson and the history of Earth Day — and progressive politics in Wisconsin — here.

Have an Earth Day activity or campaign to share? Email . We also welcome announcements of ongoing environmental activities.

Bay View club plans plant sale

The Bay View Garden and Yard Society, in collaboration with the South Shore Park Watch and Milwaukee County Parks, hosts its annual Bay View Plant Sale at South Shore Park, 2900 South Shore Drive, on June 2, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.

The sale features local, commercial plant vendors with hundreds of annuals and perennials, hanging baskets, ornamental trees and shrubs, vegetables and herbs, exotic heirlooms and tropical plants.

For more, go to the group’s Facebook page.

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