Saturday, March 10, 2007

WE Energies Court Ruling Raises Lake Michigan Profile

I posted information yesterday about the Dane County Circuit Court ruling that found problems with the permit issued by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources allowing WE Energies to construct a massive power plant complex in Oak Creek without cooling towers.

Without cooling towers, 1.8 billion gallons of water a day is going to be sucked into the plant and returned 15 degrees warmer, resulting in fish kills and other unacceptable ecological problems.

Today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel offers more in-depth coverage.

The importance of the ruling is two-fold.

First, if upheld in higher courts, the design of the plant may change to better protect the lake.

Second, better protecting the lake will inform and instruct other controversial plans that are also not in the lake's best interest - - specifically, the ragged efforts to date by the City of Waukesha to get permission to divert water from Lake Michigan - - without having to justify it with a formal application, or agreeing to return it.

Waukesha's sense of entitlement to Lake Michigan water, though currently blocked by geography, federal law and a US-Canada Great Lakes management compact, has stirred deep opposition in southeastern Wisconsin.

Recent statements by some Waukesha legislators, business interests and the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce that Wisconsin should weaken diversion provisions in the Compact and/or refuse to sign some pending Compact agreements suggest they find protecting Lake Michigan less important than getting water into new sprawling subdivisions.

What the Madison ruling has done, along with the good work by the Sierra Club and Clean Wisconsin to get the attention of the court and the force of law, is to remind us that Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes are precious and finite resources that need stewardship, management and conservation before consumption and bottom-line considerations.

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