From an article by Dee Hall in the La Crosse Tribune:

MADISON — The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is dragging its heels in addressing charges that four University of Wisconsin System coal-fired plants are violating the federal Clean Air Act, an environmental group says.

The Sierra Club alleged in comments last summer that the heating plants at the La Crosse, Eau Claire, Stevens Point and Stout campuses have undergone millions of dollars worth of upgrades that should trigger additional pollution controls.

A consultant’s report commissioned by the state Department of Admini-stration disagreed, concluding that the $16.8 million in changes at the four facilities don’t qualify as “major modifications.“

Officials at the DNR, which issues operating permits for the four plants, say they’re still evaluating the comments.

Jeff Johnson, environmental engineering supervisor for the air-management program at the DNR’s regional office in Eau Claire, said the permit reviews are “complicated” and it will take time to evaluate the written comments filed by the Sierra Club and others expected from the U.S. Environ-mental Protection Agency.

“I do not have all the information on how the comments from Sierra Club and EPA will be handled, but do know we have a small task force working on resolving these issues,” Johnson said.

Charges that state-owned power plants are violating the federal clean-air law come at an awkward time for Gov. Jim Doyle, who late last year unveiled his Clean Energy Jobs Act. It calls for 25 percent of the state’s energy to come from wind, solar, biomass or other renewable sources by 2025. At the end of 2008, the state was at nearly 5 percent.

Wisconsin currently relies heavily on coal, which is a major source of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.

‘We can only move so fast’
While the overwhelming majority of that coal is burned by private utilities, the state owns 15 coal-fired plants that serve UW campuses, state treatment facilities and prisons and state-owned buildings in Madison including the Capitol. The plants provide steam to heat the buildings, and some generate electricity and chilled water for cooling.

“Clearly one of the first and best steps he (Doyle) could take is to clean up the state of Wisconsin facilities,” said Jennifer Feyerherm, director of the Sierra Club’s Wisconsin Clean Energy Campaign. “It seems like the first logical step for someone who wants to take the lead on global warming.”