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October 13, 2008

Wisconsin Chapter Makes Statement at Coal Plant Hearings

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At two early October Wisconsin Public Service Commission hearings, the Wisconsin Chapter of the Sierra Club made their opinions known about a proposed coal-fired power plant.

Jennifer Feyerherm said they bussed two loads of people to hearings in Portage and Cassville, Wisc., to let the commission and the public know about the risks of coal and the planned 300-megawatt Alliant Energy coal-fired power plant.

"We had between 75 and 100 people at the Portage hearing," said Feyerherm, head of the chapter's Clean Energy Campaign. The proposed Alliant Power plant is planned for Cassville, but the back-up site is Portage. If constructed, the plant will cost over a billion dollars and emit over three million tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year, and increase soot, smog, and mercury pollution.

Feyerherm said she enjoyed holding the workshops before each hearing aimed at teaching residents wanting to testify about this particular plant and coal in general.

She found the wide variety of people wanting to testify inspiring, but two of the speakers at the workshops especially impressed her.

"At the workshop, one gentleman was very nervous about speaking at the hearing, and he was one of the last ones scheduled to speak," she explained. "But (at the hearing) he did a great job talking about the green-washing of this plant and said the PR campaign for this plant was like putting green lipstick on a pig."

The second speaker who made an impression on Feyerherm was small, but made a huge statement: A ten-year-old boy.

"A woman came (to the training workshop) with her husband and 10-year-old son," explained Feyerherm. "He sat through it, paid attention, and when we explained a graph of CO2 emission, he raised his hand and asked how much does each clean energy option cost. Coming from a 10 year old - it was awesome.

"The next night, he went to the hearing. When I saw him, he handed me a print-out of what we wanted to turn in for his testimony. I read it, and it was very astute and coherent - in fact it was better than many adults! But he didn't just turn it in - two hours later, his name gets called and he marched up before 500 people, got sworn in and spoke. This kid owned it. He read his testimony in front of 500 people and then reached into his pocket and pulled out a petition he'd circulated at his school that day, and turned it in. That's amazing."

Feyerherm said the Public Service Commission will make their decision about the Alliant Energy coal-fired power plant by the end of December, and that there are also hearings coming up about the plant's air permit.

To learn more about the fight against this plant, check out the chapter's energy and global warming page, and this article from The Capital Times in Madison.

Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Chapter.

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