No coal plant for Portage or Cassville - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

No coal plant for Portage or Cassville

Image of proposed coal plant Image of proposed coal plant

MADISON (WKOW) -- Alliant Energy subsidiary Wisconsin Power and Light preferred a proposed $1.3 billion power plant be along the Mississippi River in Cassville.  A backup site would have been in Columbia County.

On Tuesday, however, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission voted 3-0 to reject the plan.

Leading up to decision day, trucks loaded with switchgrass drove around Capitol Square on September 10, reminding the public of the renewable part of the plan.  The plant would have burned 80-percent coal and 20-percent biomass.

Hotly contested public meetings were also held in Cassville and Portage. Many people favored the plan because it would mean jobs. Others expressed environmental concerns.

"I've never seen public comments that are that thick, this is really significant," said PSC Commissioner Mark Meyer, who held up a binder at Tuesday's meeting that was filled with pages of comments.

When it came time for the final vote around noon, all three public service commissioners had reservations about a plant that would still largely rely on coal.

They said natural gas would be a cleaner, albeit non-renewable choice for power. They also said possible future regulations on carbon emissions left a giant question mark on WPL's application.

"CO-2 is going to be regulated by the federal government in the future," said PSC Chairman Eric Callisto. "We would be foolish to not take the economics out of such regulation."

"I do think coal is going to be an important part of our mix here in the future," said Meyer. "I just think this is the wrong project at the wrong time," he added.

Alliant Energy spokesperson Rob Crain said the company will work with PSC staff to draft a new proposal more to its liking.  "We still view that the biomass in Wisconsin is a huge opportunity for the state," said Crain.  "Where that fits in for the future, we're going back to the drawing board and look at all the available options we have."

Crain said it's unlikely Alliant will appeal the PSC's decision, though the company will want time to review the written decision.

Both the PSC and Alliant agreed that Wisconsin will need a new power plant in the future. Commissioners questioned, though, if projected electric demand will not grow as fast as anticipated given current economic struggles.

Commissioners also said that while the proposal would have helped local economies in Grant and Columbia counties, their concerns over coal emissions and future federal regulations took predecent.

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