Audience applauds end to coal at Charter plant

Posted on August 12, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Coal, Wood | Tags: |

From an article in the Wisconsin State Journal by Ron Seely:

Compliments far exceeded complaints at a hearing Wednesday night on a plan by the state and UW-Madison to rebuild the Charter Street Heating Plant, eliminating the use of coal and replacing it with natural gas and Wisconsin-grown alternative fuels such as wood chips and switch grass.

Nearly 100 people attended the hearing on the final version of the environmental impact statement for the $250 million project.

Though the plan will bring some challenges for the neighborhood around the plant — more train traffic and noise, for example — most comments at the hearing focused on the positives of getting rid of the dirty pile of coal that now towers over North Mills Street.

In fact, when Al Fish, head of facilities and planning management for the UW-Madison, mentioned that no coal will be burned at the plant a year from now, the audience erupted in applause. He seemed shocked.

“I don’t think there has ever been applause at a environmental impact statement hearing before,” Fish said. “This truly is a historic moment.”

Nearly all of the comments from the public were regarding some aspect of the plan to burn biofuels, which will be hauled by train from farms and forests across the state. The plant will require 250,000 tons of biofuels a year.

Gary Werner, with the John Muir chapter of the Sierra Club, praised the switch to cleaner fuels.

“I’m happy and proud that the University of Wisconsin chose to use this as an opportunity to move into a whole new era of energy generation,” said Werner.


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