EPA, DOJ settle with Dairyland Power


The owner of three power plants in western Wisconsin will install more pollution controls, reduce use of coal, and help increase the use of solar energy. That’s under a newly-announced legal settlement with two federal agencies.

The Sierra Club sued La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative in 2010 over alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. Last year, Dairyland quit burning coal at three power plant units in Alma. Now, under a deal with the EPA and the U.S. Justice Department, the company has agreed to spend $150 million on better pollution controls at three plants at Alma and Genoa. At least $2 million will be spent on a solar energy project, including helping homes and businesses install solar panels. Weatherization efforts will increase and Dairyland will pay close to $1 million in fines, though the firm admits no violations of the law. The Sierra Club’s Bruce Nilles says the agreement should bring cleaner air and help Wisconsin catch up to other states on solar.

Nilles says the Sierra Club is also encouraging Dairyland Power to make more use of wind energy. Dairyland vice-president Rob Palmberg won’t commit to that, but says Dairyland is boosting use of renewables.

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Palmberg says the new agreement should not increase rates much, beyond increases planned for some previously scheduled anti-pollution work.

The agreement with Dairyland continues a string of other air pollution settlements, including ones over coal-fired plants in Green Bay and Oak Creek. The Sierra Club has also sued Alliant Energy over their coal plants, and is pressuring a Milwaukee plant to switch to natural gas or shut down.