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Oak Creek Plant: Fish Killing Machine Or Efficient Cooling System?

June 9, 2008

Oak Creek, WI - Some people call it the "Giant Fish Killer," but WE Energies says it's simply the best method available to provide cooling technology for its Oak Creek coal plant. In the middle of the debate are the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and several judges from years of court battles.

WE Energies is asking the DNR to allow it to use its water intake structure to take cooling water from Lake Michigan. But Clean Wisconsin attorney Katie Nekola says the cooling system would draw billions of gallons of water a day from the lake, with devastating consequences.

"In the process it pulls small fish and shellfish into the pipe and kills them: billions of fish."

The stakes are high, according to Nekola. If the Wisconsin DNR grants an exemption to allow WE Energies to use the cooling system, her group plans to pursue all legal challenges at its disposal.

"For us to ignore the impacts that some of these large industries have, on Lake Michigan in particular, is just foolish."

Public comments are being taken today at a DNR hearing in Oak Creek, where Nekola and others plan to protest the company's attempts to use the system. WE Energies points to DNR analysis that found fish would not be harmed, but Nekola argues the DNR has supported the plant from the start, repeatedly deferring to WE Energies at the expense of the health of Lake Michigan.

Information on the issue can be found online at www.cleanwisconsin.org.

Jim Mishler/Steve Powers, Public News Service - WI