September 27, 2008

Support, Criticism for Alliant’s Plan


News You can use WHAT: The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin is conducting a public hearing on the application of Wisconsin Power & Light Co., Alliant Energy, for authority to construct a coal- fired electric generation unit known as the Nelson Dewey Generating Station in Cassville. No formal action will be taken by the commission during the hearing. WHEN: 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29. WHERE: Cassville Elementary School gymnasium, 412 Crawford St., Cassville, Wis. Coming Sunday Could switchgrass, touted as the next miracle source of the renewable fuel industry, be the next cash crop driving southwest Wisconsin's economy? We explore the potential of switchgrass in Sunday's TH.

CASSVILLE, Wis. - The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin will conduct a public hearing next week in Cassville on the proposed new Alliant Energy electric power plant.

Alliant wants to add a 300-megawatt generator - which would produce enough electricity to light 150,000 homes - at the Nelson Dewey Generating Station along the Mississippi River in western Grant County. The company said the plant also will be capable of burning biomass such as switchgrass, corn stalks and wood. Alliant's alternate site is the Columbia Energy Center, just outside of Portage.

Alliant's plan has both supporters and critics.

Earlier this month, a coalition of organized labor, farm and environmental groups, and the economic development community rallied in Madison in support of the project.

The Nelson Dewey plant will utilize coal, a more-affordable option for customers, Alliant officials say, but will have the ability to burn up to 20 percent biofuels: switchgrass, waste wood from area forests and corn stalks.

Louis Okey, Cassville village president, is a vocal supporter.

"Cassville is hurting," he said. "We need something to boost our economy. And Alliant has been a good corporate neighbor for more than 50 years. They're a great company to have here."

Although power plants are property-tax exempt, communities receive shared revenue payments from the state. Based on the shared- revenue formula, the Nelson Dewey Unit would provide annual payments of $580,000 to the village of Cassville and $380,000 to Grant County.

"We fully support the project," said Ron Brisbois, Grant County Economic Development director. "We need the hundreds (an average of 400) of construction jobs that will be created with the plant construction. Cassville needs the new (35) full-time jobs that will be created at the power plant after the expansion is completed. Our farmers, landowners and businesses need the opportunities that will be created with the biomass market."

The Citizens' Utility Board and environmental group Clean Wisconsin has spoken out against the proposed plant, saying they want the state to focus on conservation and renewable energy sources such as wind power.

"Alliant is proposing to build a plant that uses one of the dirtiest, most expensive technologies available," said Sam Weis, a Clean Wisconsin spokesman. "At a time when people across America recognize the need to reduce global warming pollution and invest in clean, renewable energy, Alliant is proposing a plant that would emit 3 million tons of global warming pollution into the air each year - the equivalent of adding 635,000 cars to our roads this year. On top of global warming pollution, this plant would increase the soot, smog and mercury pollution in our air and water."

Dick Rundell, of Platteville, belongs to the grassroots citizens group. "Constructing the coal-fired power plant will divert our efforts away from the alternative energy sources that we should be pursuing," he said.

Originally published by CRAIG D REBER TH staff writer/[email protected]

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