October 1, 2008

Controversy in Cassville


CASSVILLE, Wis. - Now the wait begins.More than 400 people attended Monday's public hearing, hosted by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin at the Cassville Elementary School gymnasium, on Alliant Energy's application to build an 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.The commission has the authority to approve, deny or modify any proposed electric construction project.On Monday, the plan attracted supporters and critics. Supporters cite economic development, jobs and the need for more energy in the state. Opponents point to fears ranging from health concerns to an increase in pollutants and global warming.Pam Kleiss, of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Wisconsin, said coal-burning power plants release pollutants that cause a significant challenge to public health, not to mention the costs.Dr. Charles Winterwood, of Dubuque, a retired physician, said coal-burning power plants are the largest polluters in the United States. He pointed out coal plants also emit a dangerous substance: mercury."We need a clean alternative to coal," he said.Maureen Van Den Bosch, of rural Fennimore, agreed with Winterwood."I empathize with Cassville," she said. "But more coal is unacceptable. This plant is not the solution."The majority of the testimony, however, favored the proposal.One of the first speakers was Cassville Village President Louis Okey, who was blunt."Cassville needs this plant," he said. "It may not survive if it doesn't get this plant. There are a lot of places where a plant like this isn't wanted. There's overwhelming support here."I beg you, for our future, please say, 'Yes.'"Signs dotted Amelia Street, the village's main thoroughfare, in support of the plan.Jeff Glass is a lifelong Cassville resident."I'm a power plant brat, and this whole community is a watchdog," he said. "No one wants to pollute. I trust them (Alliant) to get where we are now and were we need to be."Potosi Village President Frank Fiorenza led off the testimony."In order to grow, to bring in jobs, power is needed. Businesses have to have reliable power, and they will come to Wisconsin."Two of the three commissioners - Lauren Azar and chairman Eric Callisto - attended the hearing. Timothy Le Monds, director, governmental and public affairs for the commission, said the hearing was the final stretch. Another hearing is scheduled today in Portage. All the testimony provided will be put on record for the commissioners to consider.Le Monds said the commission will probably come to a decision sometime in December.

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

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