Power Plants are Wisconsin’s Largest Source of Global Warming Pollution

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Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center

Madison, WI – On the heels of record drought last summer and extreme flooding in the state this summer, a new report from Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center finds that power plants are Wisconsin’s single largest source of carbon pollution, making up 43 percent of the state’s emissions. Scientists predict that extreme weather events will become more frequent and severe for future generations, unless we cut the dangerous carbon pollution fueling the problem.

“America’s dirtiest power plants are the elephant in the room when it comes to global warming,” said Katie Siegner, Field Associate for Wisconsin Environment. “If we want a cleaner, safer future for our kids, we can’t afford to ignore power plants’ overwhelming contribution to global warming. For Wisconsin, tackling the problem means cleaning up the dirtiest power plants and shifting to clean energy.”

The report, titled, ‘America’s Dirtiest Power Plants,’ comes as the Obama administration readies a new set of rules to tackle global warming. It illustrates the scale of carbon pollution from Wisconsin’s power sector and ranks Wisconsin’s biggest carbon polluters.

Key findings from the report include:

  • In Wisconsin, the top five most polluting power plants are the Columbia Energy Center co-owned by Wisconsin Power & Light (WP&L) and MG&E, the Pleasant Prairie Power Plant owned by Wisconsin Electric Power, the Weston Power Plant owned by Wisconsin Public Service, Wisconsin Electric Power’s South Oak Creek station, and WP&L’s Edgewater Generating Station.
  • Wisconsin Power & Light’s Columbia Energy Center south of Portage made the list of the top-100 dirtiest plants, ranking as the 88th most carbon-polluting power plant in the nation.
  • Wisconsin is ranked 19th in the country for the share of carbon pollution coming from our power plants, which are also the largest source of carbon emissions in the state: power plants contribute 43 percent of the state’s total emissions.
  • Wisconsin’s power plants produce as much carbon each year as 8.9 million cars. (For comparison, in 2007 WisDOT registered just over 5.3 million cars in Wisconsin.

“Greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming are linked to human health,” said Dr. Beth Neary, a pediatrician and member of the Wisconsin Environmental Health Network. “We need to consider the health of the people of Wisconsin when we’re talking about climate change and it may be necessary to bear short-term costs to offset long-term health-related costs.”

This summer, President Obama directed his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to propose limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants, the largest single source of carbon pollution. In a major step, the EPA is expected to propose an updated rule for cutting carbon pollution from new power plants this Friday, September 20. Wisconsinites have already submitted 47,000 public comments in support of limiting carbon pollution from power plants.

“The first step is to not repeat the mistakes of the past – we can’t afford to continue being dependent on old, dirty energy sources. We need strong rules based on science to make sure that new power in Wisconsin is coming from clean energy like wind, solar, and energy efficiency,” said Representative Chris Taylor.

Wisconsin Environment called on state leaders like Senator Tammy Baldwin to join them in vocally supporting limits on power plants’ carbon pollution. “Wisconsin can’t afford to wait to act on climate, so it’s critical that Senate champions like Senator Baldwin speak up in support of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan,” said Katie Siegner.


Wisconsin Environment Research and Policy Center is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to protecting our air, water, and open spaces. For more information, visit www.wisconsinenvironmentcenter.org