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State Regulators Reject New Coal Plant For the First Time Ever

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November 12, 2008

Madison, WI - The state Public Service Commission has said 'no' to more power from coal for the first time in history. Regulators rejected a proposal from Alliant Energy on Tuesday to build a new coal power plant on the shore of the Mississippi River in Cassville.

Charlie Higley with the Wisconsin Citizens Utility Board says it's a clear sign that times are changing, with new cost factors on lthe horizon, such as the possibility of regulations for carbon emissions.

"It's also because the prices of coal itself have gone up. Coal is now no longer the cheap energy option that it was."

Higley says the commission's decision should save ratepayers as much as $800 million, now that Alliant will be forced to look towards alternatives that are both cheaper and less-polluting. He adds that some of those alternatives were included in the company's application to build the Cassville coal plant, and now could be used elsewhere.

"They could go for things like energy efficiency and renewable energy. And, if necessary, they could also consider converting one of their existing power plants that uses natural gas to provide needed power for that part of the state."

The PSC said costs were a factor in the decision, with the coal plant proposal more expensive than other alternatives. It praised Alliant's plans to burn some biomass fuel at the plant, but said that overall costs and risks to ratepayers were too high. An Alliant spokesman says the company is not planning to appeal, and will now go back to the drawing board on how to meet customer energy demand.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - WI