Environmental groups say Wisconsin is in good shape for upcoming pollution rules

2014-05-19T16:00:00Z Environmental groups say Wisconsin is in good shape for upcoming pollution rulesJUDY NEWMAN jdnewman@madison.com, 608-252-6156 madison.com

Two weeks before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release new nationwide pollution standards for existing power plants, two environmental groups say Wisconsin should be able to handle them without creating hardships for utilities or consumers.

The World Resources Institute said Monday an analysis shows that expanding current programs could cut Wisconsin’s carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 43 percent below 2011 levels by 2020.

“Wisconsin is already taking major strides to curb carbon pollution, which make it well-placed to handle even ambitious federal standards for power plants,” said Rebecca Gasper, research analyst for the World Resources Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based global research organization.

The institute suggests five steps:

Employ more generators that use waste heat to produce power at industrial and university sites.

Continue investing in Focus on Energy, the organization that promotes and helps subsidize renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

Expand the state’s renewable energy use beyond the 10 percent renewable required by 2015.

Use natural gas-fueled power plants more.

Improve efficiency of coal-fired power plants.

Raising renewable standards and funding energy efficiency projects are probably at the top of the list, Gasper said.

The EPA’s new rules will be a “huge deal,” said Keith Reopelle, senior policy director for Clean Wisconsin, in Madison, but he said he does not expect them to create a huge impact on the electric industry.

“We’ve demonstrated that we have the ability to reduce carbon emissions significantly,” Reopelle said.

He said environmental groups have been meeting with utility officials around the state, and they have agreed on about a dozen options. “Flexibility is the big theme here,” Reopelle said.

Gasper said of 10 states the institute has analyzed, Wisconsin is “one of the better” because policies on carbon pollution already are in place. No cost estimates were available.

Both Madison Gas & Electric and Alliant Energy subsidiary, Wisconsin Power & Light, declined to comment on the groups’ remarks.

“We don’t want to speculate regarding expectations for EPA rules that are not issued yet,” Alliant spokesman Scott Reigstad said.

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