We Energies plans to continue reducing carbon emissions system-wide even though President Donald Trump called for the undoing of several Obama-era climate change regulations.
U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week saying the policy is hobbling oil drillers and coal miners, a move environmental groups have vowed to take to court. The decree’s main target is former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan that required states to slash carbon emissions from power plants – a critical element in helping the United States meet its commitments to a global climate change accord reached by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015.
The Clean Power Plan would have required states to cut carbon dioxide emission rates by 41 percent of 2012 levels by 2030, according to We Energies’ 2014 Corporate Responsibility Report.
We Energies spokesperson Cathy Schulze said the utility plans to continue focusing on reducing carbon emissions.
“Our goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 is a system-wide goal,” Schulze said. “We don’t have a breakdown on specific power plants. We continue to evaluate various approaches to achieve our goal. Already, we have reduced carbon intensity more than 20 percent since 2005.”
But with the Oak Creek Power Plant, We Energies’ numbers around carbon emissions and its production levels tell a different story.
As a result of the increased power production, the We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant produced 11.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2015, a 5.3 million or 87 percent increase compared to 2012. The power plant produced 11,142 GWH of power in 2015, an increase of 5,478 GWH or 97 percent by adding two generating units, according to We Energies’ 2015 Environmental Performance Report.
In total. Wisconsin had emissions of 38 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, but would be on track to produce 42.6 million tons by 2020.
Read more about what’s coming out of the stacks.
Former We Energies Neighbor Criticizes Utility
Over 20 families living near the plant have complained to We Energies in 2015 claiming they are getting sick from living near the plant, their home values are being impacted, and some have said their water is contaminated. Last year We Energies and a mediation group working with We Energies hired scientists to conduct environmental testing on their homes and 19 of 26 homes tested positive for varying amounts of coal dust.
Since 2009, We Energies has purchased 29 properties in an effort to create a buffer zone around the plant.
“We Energies… that’s their game, they only tell half of the story,” said Bill Pringle, a member of the mediation group. “They always tell the part that makes them look good. They’ll say… ‘Oh we reduced our carbon emissions.’ And they reduced them, but they burn more coal.”
Pringle likens We Energies’ argument to the old cars that didn’t have catalytic converters in the 1950s and 1960s that had an open exhaust. The car manufacturers said they reduced emissions and the cars are cleaner, but there are more cars on the road, he said.
“That’s what we’re dealing with. And people need to understand it that way,” he said.
Still, We Energies maintains that it operates within the EPA’s guidelines.
“We continue to monitor laws, regulations, and orders surrounding greenhouse gas emissions and we will comply with any government requirements related to regulating greenhouse gas emissions,” Schulze said.
Clean Power Plan Expected To Reduce Premature Deaths, But Kills Jobs
Even with We Energies vowing to continue reducing it carbon emissions, a number of state Republicans have been against the Clean Power Plan while a number of environmental groups have come out against Trump’s decision.
Gov. Scott Walker praised Trump last week for his decision.
“The Obama Power Plan was bad policy for our state and our country,” Walker said. “We applaud President Trump and Administrator Pruitt for beginning a new relationship with the states by rolling back these costly regulations that would have cost many jobs, increased electricity prices for working families, and added billions of dollars in regulations. We have proven in Wisconsin that you can protect and enhance the environment while supporting our economy.”
In 2015, Wisconsin was also among 26 other states to challenge the Clean Power Plan and stop what the Walker’s office called “unlawful overreach into state authority.” Last year the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the plan.
Clean Wisconsin, a group that advocates for clean air, water, and Wisconsin’s natural heritage, blasted Trump’s decision.
“President Trump is putting the financial interests of his fossil fuel industry cronies ahead of our children’s health and safety—no one is surprised, everyone is appalled,” said Keith Reopelle, policy director for Clean Wisconsin. “The Clean Power Plan is a common-sense standard on carbon pollution that gives states and the utility industry tremendous flexibility to cut carbon pollution at the lowest cost possible.
“Climate change threatens public health in Wisconsin, particularly for children and seniors, but it also threatens some of our more important and iconic industries, including agriculture and tourism.”