Could burning trash be a part of Wisconsin's clean energy future?

Some environmentalists and legislators are urging Gov. Jim Doyle to veto a bill they say undermines the state's renewable energy goals — and falsely promotes garbage as a clean technology source.

"Signing this bill will result in less renewable solar, wind and biomass energy for Wisconsin at a time when our economy and our environment desperately need more, not less, of these technologies to decrease our dependence on dirty fossil fuels," a coalition of environmentalists wrote in a letter to Doyle this week.

The bill, SB 273, would give renewable resource credits to electricity providers who can replace power from coal, oil, natural gas or nuclear sources with things like solar, geothermal and biomass energy. An amendment to the bill, added by Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Weston, and others shortly before the end of the legislative session included power sources such as "synthetic gas created by the plasma gasification of waste" and fuel from the "pyrolysis of organic or waste material."

Decker could not be reached for comment.

Sen. Jeffrey Plale, D-South Milwaukee, a lead sponsor of the bill, said critics are misrepresenting the issue. He said the bill would promote new technologies, including a "demolecularization" process to get rid of trash that can't be recycled. And Josh Morby, a spokesman for Alliance Federated Energy of Milwaukee, called the critics "shortsighted."

But environmentalists, who are already fuming about the recent death of the state's clean energy bill, which would have required 25 percent of the state's power to come from renewable sources by 2025, say the bill is misguided. Wisconsin's current goal is to get 10 percent of its power from renewables by 2015.

"Not only did the Senate stop us from expanding renewable energy, we went backwards," said Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison.

He and Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, lead sponsors of the failed clean energy legislation, and Tia Nelson, executive secretary of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, are also asking the governor to veto the bill.

Dan Kohler, director of Wisconsin Environment, said if the amended bill becomes law "it will diminish the Governor's accomplishments on clean energy and be a shame given his leadership" on other environmental issues.

Groups that wrote to Doyle calling for a veto include the Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Wisconsin Environment, Clean Wisconsin, Advocates for Renewable Energy, the Citizens Utility Board and others.

Doyle's office didn't respond to questions Wednesday and Thursday about whether the governor would sign the bill.

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