In this December 2003 - January 2004 Issue:

PSC Ruling VS. Energy Conservation & Efficiency
Annual Planning Retreat
Your Legislative Watchdog
From the Chair
ExCom Election
Computer Take Back Campaign
Cranberry Sales Results
Sometimes Things Come Up - Sign Up for E-mail Announcements
Need Water Information
Children's Health

PSC Ruling VS. Energy Conservation & Efficiency
by John Berge

At an October 29 meeting of the Public Service Commission (PSC), they announced “tentative” approval of much of the application by WEPCO (Wisconsin Electric Power Company and its various affiliates) for two of the three new coal-fired power plants to be built at the Elm Road Generating Station (ERGS) in Oak Creek. WEPCO didn’t get all it asked for, but it got a lot more than did the Sierra Club, and the other environmental and consumer protection organizations that fought the proposal. WEPCO will receive approval for both super-critical pulverized-coal generators (SCPC) it asked for, but not the integrated-coal gasification combined cycle (IGCC). The latter would have been the least polluting of the three but the cost figures were far from firm and probably much higher. The IGCC unit, in any case, would not have been operational before 2011 and the needs and technology for that time are unknown.

It is apparent that the PSC did not find the energy priorities established by the state legislature in Wis. Stat. § 1.12(4) to be very compelling. Coal should have been the last and lowest energy resource to be considered. This Wisconsin statute states that, “In meeting energy demands, the policy of the state is that, to the extent cost-effective and technically feasible, options be considered based on the following priorities, in the order listed (emphasis added):

(a) Energy conservation and efficiency.
(b) Noncombustible renewable resources.
(c) Combustible renewable resources.
(d) Nonrenewable combustible energy resources in the order listed:
 (1) Natural gas.
 (2) Oil or coal with a sulfur content of less than 1 percent.
 (3) All other carbon-based fuels.”

Robert H. Owen, Jr., a professional and consulting engineer in a brief filed with the PSC after the technical and public hearings and before the PSC issued their ruling, elucidated why these priorities should have been considered and stated that the results should have been a denial of the WEPCO application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN). The following are all quotes from Owen’s brief, but not necessarily in the order they appeared:

“There is no good reason why WEPCO cannot again be a national leader in (energy conservation) or why proper incentives cannot be fashioned to ensure that…shareholders reap substantial benefits from WEPCO energy efficiency successes. In the nine years that have elapsed since the 1994 STEP (Statewide Technical and Economic Potential Study)… energy efficiency has become more cost effective.

“In a similar vein, wind energy production costs have decreased significantly while wind technology for moderate wind regions like inland Wisconsin has advanced dramatically. Wind energy has become so cost effective with the federal wind energy tax credit in place that it is now more cost effective than any new fossil-fuel-based alternative. Wind development potential in Wisconsin may exceed 10,000 MW (megawatts) when offshore potential in Lake Michigan is included.

“Wind turbines have much higher availability factors than coal plants. Wind turbines would immediately improve the emission profile of WEPCO by reducing its CO2 and other pollutant emissions and improve Wisconsin’s employment picture by reducing dollar exports to pay for coal. The water is getting warmer for wind worldwide. It is high time for WEPCO to start getting its feet wet checking out the potential of offshore wind energy in S.E. Wisconsin.

“(The PSC staff’s) analysis shows a very large increment of wind energy is cost effective for WEPCO if the federal wind energy production tax credit (“PTC”) remains in effect in coming years. Indeed, EGEAS (Electric Generation Expansion Analysis System) installs some 11,000 MW of wind in this hypothetical scenario at a rate of about 500 MW per year. Conditioning the wind requirement on a continued PTC assures the ratepayer that the wind will be an economic advantage.

“Some biomass energy sources, like landfill gas and sewage treatment plant methane, are already cost effective, although limited in potential to a few tens of MW, and should be expanded as the opportunity arises. Other sources, like biogas at large dairy farms and other animal feeding operations, are likely to experience large cost reductions in this decade and to be competitive with or lower in cost than ERGS on a life-cycle basis before any ERGS unit could be brought on line. The ERGS FEIS identifies a potential for this technology of 250 MW in Wisconsin. Wisconsin should exhaust this potential before pursuing coal-fired generation. ‘Moo pooh’ power beats coal-fired power hands down under Wisconsin’s energy priorities law. Badger bovine flatulence is a clear winner over imported natural gas.

“Beyond these currently available and near-term biomass energy technologies, there is medium-term biomass gasification technology being developed which has very large potential, perhaps 3000 MW or more in Wisconsin, to turn wood or other biomass into electricity and heat at reasonable cost. This technology is similar in some respects to IGCC—it is not yet ready for prime time, but it does have longer term potential. And, utilizing a cleaner feedstock which can be grown here, not mined in some other state, this technology could ultimately have a much lower environmental impact than IGCC coal. If its feedstock would be grown in a sustainable manner, it would have no net CO2 emissions, and it would generate a lot of jobs in rural Wisconsin.

“There are other biomass technologies which could be harnessed for electric production and might be cost competitive after 2010. One interesting technology already available on a modest scale is to produce bio oil from biomass feed stocks including wood (Wisconsin has an active manufacturer using this technology to produce wood smoke flavorings) and use the oil in standard or slightly modified diesel engines and combustion turbines to produce electricity or electricity and heat. This technology is interesting because it might allow biomass to be used to replace natural gas in peaking electricity applications.

“While wind and biomass have near- and mid-term potential to be major contributors to Wisconsin’s electric grid, solar PV (photo voltaic

cells) has similar potential in the longer term. If we are seriously considering installing 60-year-life fossil power plants, we do need to think long term about alternatives.

“While PV is now an expensive source of grid electricity, PV costs have been slowly declining for years, and they will continue to decline. For many off-grid applications with modest power requirements, PV is the low-cost option. PV systems are often cheaper than even modest-cost grid extensions.

“Because PV tends to be available at summer peak times, PV can be used in some cases as an alternative to transmission and distribution upgrades. By offsetting grid costs as well as producing peak kW and summer season kWh, PV can deliver more value to the grid in some instances than other generation sources. PV’s distributed value often exceeds its value as a central station generating technology. PV is likely to first penetrate the grid on a significant scale in Wisconsin in cases where it delivers significant local grid benefits as well as clean electricity. This is likely to start to occur on a significant scale within the next ten years.

“In the even more distant future, say 2050, when our electric grid will be mostly powered by renewable energy, to the extent that we still have an electric grid, save for a few expensive mistakes sited before 2010 by utilities misjudging the public’s tolerance for technological dinosaurs, PV is likely to serve a major share of the load. Its daytime availability and relative abundance in summer, as compared to wind, assure it a major role. It may provide half of our electric energy some day.

“Ultimately, natural gas will yield its place as the convenience fuel for fixed locations in urban America to hydrogen. Hydrogen fuel cells may begin to make some inroads into the automotive market by 2010. As fuel cells for cars become more economic, there is a likelihood that fuel cell heat-and-power modules for homes and businesses will also become more economic. This creates a potential for large-scale loss of electricity sales on the grid, as self-generation may become attractive to many customers. This development would especially devalue base load power plants.

“To the extent that hydrogen can be economically produced by renewable means, such as offshore wind energy— and it probably can—a hydrogen economy is a positive environmental development. Combination of hydrogen with oxygen in a fuel cell does not produce carbon dioxide or other pollutants. Rather, it produces potable water.

“As no one can now predict with any confidence that relatively cost-effective fuel cells will not be available within about ten years—cheap wind-energy-produced hydrogen almost certainly will be available, undermining the future market for base load generation—2003 is definitely not the ideal time to be running out to build coal-fired base load generation prematurely at the risk of WEPCO ratepayers.

“The next step is for the commission to unequivocally tell WEPCO in the ERGS CPCN denial order that the commission expects WEPCO to implement the energy priorities law in its future generating plant proposals. This includes an up-to-date, comprehensive, analysis of energy efficiency potential and other higher-priority alternatives in every generating plant application. It should include the estimated Wisconsin employment impact of each proposal and alternative. WEPCO should be warned that no generating plant application will be deemed complete without such a good faith analysis.”

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December 4: There will be no Conservation Committee meeting this month unless something comes up at the last minute. Contact Nancy Hennessy at (262) 639-5639 with any questions or requests.

December 11, 7:00 p.m.: Southeast Gateway Group Executive Committee Meeting at Messiah Lutheran Church located at 3015 Pritchard Drive in Racine. All members are welcome.

December 18, 2003: Christmas pot luck dinner meeting. Please bring a dish to pass and your own plates and silverware. We will meet at 5:30 p.m. for hors d’oeuvres. All members and guests are welcome. The program will feature the winners of our Green Award. This Southeast Gateway Group General Meeting is scheduled at Messiah Lutheran Church located at Pritchard Drive and Durand Avenue in Racine.

December 20, 2003, Saturday. 10:00 a.m.: - Third Saturday Hike and Lunch at Bong Recreation Area in Kenosha County. Meet at the trailhead parking lot. If there is enough snow, bring your XC skis or your snowshoes. Park sticker is required for admission. The hike will be followed by lunch at a local restaurant. Contact Dana Huck for information at (262) 639-0465.

Happy New Year! Welcome, 2004!

January 1, 2004: Deadline for the February-March issue of the Southeast Sierran.

January 8: The usual day for the Conservation Committee meeting conflicts with New Year’s Day, so the meeting will be held at Berges’ house at 7:00 p.m. on January 8. This would normally be the Group Executive Committee meeting, but in January, the ExCom meeting is postponed until immediately after the Planning Meeting on Saturday January 17 from 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. at Messiah Lutheran Church. A lunch will be served. The Planning Meeting is open to all, committee chairs and others, who want to be involved in the planning and carrying out of the programs, activities, campaigns, etc. of the Southeast Gateway Group.

January 15, 2004: Computer Take Back Campaign. David Wood, Executive Director of GRRN, GrassRoots Recycling Network will speak about procedures for recycling outdated computers. (See article on next page.) This Southeast Gateway Group General Meeting will be held at the Kenosha Public Museum at 5500 First Avenue in Kenosha at 7:00 p.m. We will meet for dinner at 5:30 p.m. at the Villa D’ Carlo restaurant at 5140 6th Avenue in Kenosha. Everyone who is interested is welcome.

January 17, 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.: Southeast Gateway Retreat & Planning Meeting at Messiah Lutheran Church located at 3015 Pritchard Drive in Racine. See article below for full information. All members are welcome.

January 18, 2004, Sunday at 7:30 a.m.: Car pool to Bald Eagle Watching Days in Sauk Prairie. We will attend the Live Birds of Prey & Radio Tracking Program which begins at 10:30 a.m., the Eagle release at 2:00 p.m. and stop in at the Wollersheim Winery before heading home. Admission to the Birds of Prey program is free, but seating is limited. Please contact Dana Huck at (262) 639-0465 to sign up.

Southeast Gateway Group Annual Planning Retreat

January 17, 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

The January 17, 2004 Annual Planning Retreat is an extremely important event for our group. We use this time to set our group goals, objectives and activities for the coming year. It is also a time to become acquainted with new members. We need new and innovative ideas concerning fund raising, outings, programs, education and increasing membership involvement. We would welcome your ideas and help, and this is the perfect forum to offer your ideas. You can share your ideas about environmental issues, preserving wildlife and their habitats and much more.

The Retreat will begin with registration and welcome at 8:30 a.m. In addition to meetings of the full group, there will be breakout sessions for gathering ideas and planning. There will be a morning break and a lunch break as well.

So bring yourself and your ideas and comments. I will be looking forward to seeing old and new members. All members are welcome, so please attend. If you have any suggestions, please call Dian Sorenson at (262) 633

Your Legislative Watchdog
by Jean McGraw

I don’t know who said, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” He was right. Consider forest fires. Fire burns wood; it burns the houses of people who insist on living in forests. Therefore fire is bad. Let’s fight fires with all the tools we have and put them all out.

Of course, Smoky Bear was right when he said no smoldering cigarette butts, no campfires in tinder-dry woods; these unnatural causes of fire must be controlled. But what about lightning and wind induced fires?

It took a long time for the more knowledgeable to realize that fires can be beneficial. Fire thins trees, rejuvenates browse for wildlife and recycles and replenishes soil nutrients. Some tree species such as sequoia and lodgepine require fire for regeneration. Many species of birds flourish—and some require—fire for nesting and insect foraging.

So it isn’t Bush’s “healthy forest” when no fire is allowed and the debris is removed from the forest floor. The fallen, decaying trees are just as important in the forest cycle as the standing ones. This information is slow to penetrate the popular mind. If you must live in the forest, a large area around home should be cleared of trees and brush. This will protect your home from burning.

So how is the Forest Service controlling “bad fires”? The methods of control do far more harm than good. For example, airplanes are used to spray fire-retardant chemicals interlaced with cyanide on forest and streams. A form of cyanide is added to fire retardant chemicals to reduce corrosion. Bomber loads are dumped on forest and streams. Roads are bulldozed into pristine wilderness area. In the process of its fight against fire the Forest Service violates the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. (The Act requires that the Service disclose the environmental effects of


Why? Firefighting is a cash cow. Congress will always appropriate money for firefighting. It’s built into its psyche. The federal money goes to cash-strapped marginal communities. It’s money—so what if it’s used for harmful activities?

It needs to become general knowledge that spontaneous forest fires are a part of the natural cycle and are beneficial. Naturally, if they are suppressed for a long time, eventually there will be a buildup of timber-dry wood which will create a catastrophic fire.

The war against fire pours billions of dollars into local communities desperate for pork. That cash flow has to continue, but we should pay people to become educated about how to care for their forests. That isn’t nearly as glamorous as firefighting.

It is time people from The White House on down learn that fighting fires with cyanide laced chemicals and bulldozers must stop. They do far more harm than good. Mother Nature’s cycle of small periodic fires must be left alone. It’s going to take a lot of education to accomplish this. The Forest Service, being a major financial beneficiary of firefighting funds, is not eager to alter the current system. How do we bring about change?

The Indians knew how to manage fires, but we were too arrogant to learn from them.

From the Chair
by Dian Sorenson

The National Wildlife Federation Enviro Action newsletter expressed concerns about the attack on the Clean Water Act by president Bush. Representatives John Dingell (D-MI), Jim Leach (R-IA), James Oberster (D-MN), Jim Saxton (R-NJ) and Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Jim Jeffords (I-VT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) were trying to get signatures for a letter to President Bush urging him not to change or reduce the Clean Water Act. Without a strong bill to protect our nation’s waters, many states would end up with no protection whatsoever, as they are dependent on Federal protection.

Write or e-mail your Representatives and Senators, urge the to sign the “Dear Colleague” letter to President Bush in defense of the Clean Water Act, and to co-sponsor the Water Authority Restoration Act which would ensure stronger protection for all water resources in all states. Uncontrolled or unregulated use of our water resources could be devastating to our aquatic habitats, large and small.

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ExCom Election…

Newly elected ExCom members are Barry Thomas, Robert Venn and Jeff Sytsma, who was elected as a write in candidate. Congratulations to all. They officially begin their terms on the ExCom in January.

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Thought for the day:

The Ford Model T got better fuel economy than the average Ford car and truck does today. That’s not progress!

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Computer Take Back Campaign:

Our January 15 program will feature David Wood from Madison who will speak on this campaign to solve America’s “e-waste” problems. The purpose of this group is to enact legislation whereby producers are required to take back obsolete computers. They hope to phase out the use of mercury, lead, and toxins used in computers and to safely recycle them.

Millions of computers become obsolete every year and less than 10% are recycled. Many are stored in homes or offices, disposed in landfills, burned in incinerators, or shipped to poor countries. GRRN has been active in Wisconsin to spread the word about hazardous computer waste. They want to build support for a producer responsible solution.

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Cranberry Sales Results

Thanks to all those who helped in selling those delicious cranberries, with special thanks to Melissa Warner who at last count had sold 86 pounds. She denies being a super salesperson, saying that the cranberries sold themselves. Would that all of our salespeople had found it to be so simple to take orders for cranberries to help support the Group’s programs and activities. Other top salespeople included Dian Sorenson (who had some orders from west of the Interstate for the first time), Lila Berge, Frank Egerton and Roz McHugh.

On October 25, Rich Rodenbeck drove up to Wetherby’s and picked up 10 cases of cranberries containing 24 pounds each. He had firm orders for 221 pounds at the time and we have already sold at least half of the extras. This is one more case than we sold last year.

“If all are not sold prior to Thanksgiving, I think we should donate the rest to one of the churches serving Thanksgiving dinners to the needy,” Lila Berge suggested. This was after she had first suggested that a prize of two pounds of cranberries be given to the person finding the most errors in the next issue of the Southeast Sierran. This was said in partial jest after the major omission problems in the previous issue.

Cranberry/Cherry Cinnamon Pie

1 can cherry pie filling
2 cups whole SEGG cranberries
1 double pie crust from the dairy case or home-made
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup cinnamon-sugar mixture

Gently stir washed cranberries into cherry pie filling. Add lemon juice and cinnamon-sugar. Allow to stand in refrigerator overnight. Prepare bottom pie crust and add berry/cherry mixture. If desired, sprinkle more cinnamon-sugar on mixture before and after adding top crust. Flute edges and bake at 425° F for 40 to 50 minutes or until golden brown.

Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Cookies

1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups SEGG cranberries either fresh or frozen
1-1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate bits, melted
1-1/4 cups chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease cookie sheets. Using an electric mixer, beat shortening and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg. Mix well. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a separate mixing bowl. Add to shortening mixture, mixing until soft dough forms. Stir in cranberries.

Immediately drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool cookies on a wire rack. Dip half of each cookie into melted chocolate and then into nuts. Allow chocolate to cool and dry completely before storing. Makes 3 dozen cookies

Sometimes things come up...

Have you ever gone to a meeting only to find that the speaker you were looking forward to hearing had rescheduled at the last minute? Have you ever missed an opportunity to hear a speaker, or go on an outing, because you forgot to put the date on your calendar? Would you like to be informed of local issues in a more timely way?

Because the Southeast Sierran is only published 6 times a year, we are limited in the information we can communicate to you through the newsletter. Activist alerts, changes in meeting or outing information and opportunities for outings sometimes come up outside of our publication schedule. If you would like to receive up-to-date information, sign up for the Southeast Gateway Group’s e-mail notification. Send an email to Dana Huck at with “SEGG email notices” in the subject line and your name and member number in the body of the email. (If you are not a member, but would like to be one, see the form in this newsletter!)

Possession of email addresses will be governed by the same Sierra Club rules applicable to other membership information.

Need Water Information?

2003 has been the Year of Water in Wisconsin. If you are interested in learning more about water issues, check out Wisconsin’s Water Library at This new site offers access to almost 30,000 volumes and a videotape collection of water-related information, plus links to additional sources on the Web. The site was designed to help Year of Water participants who want to learn more about Wisconsin’s waters, but any Wisconsin citizen can check books out from the library. Just search the collection or browse the suggested reading lists, then request up to five items via email. Library staff will mail the materials to you free of charge for a loan period of four weeks. You can either return materials to your local public library or mail them back.

The project is a special partnership of the UW Water Resources Library, UW-Madison Libraries, and the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. The UW Water Resources Library is an academic library but has nontechnical materials on most water-related topics. The library has always emphasized materials related to Wisconsin and has many books relating to groundwater, mercury, wetlands, and water quality protection. For recreational reading, there are books on water-related tourism, water gardening, building a pond, etc.

(Reprinted from an article in WSNetwork News by JoAnn Savoy, Special Librarian, UW Water Resources Library)

Children’s Health
by Lila Berge

Congress has passed on to the President a bill which further restricts abortion. He will presumably have signed that bill into law long before you receive this copy of the Southeast Sierran. This bill places a child’s life above that of its mother. This bill may have a serious effect on the next election by turning out vast numbers of voters who find this one issue more important than all others…including the environment.

However, the environment seriously impacts a child both before and after its birth. Recent data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that the residues of more than 100 extraneous chemicals are detectable in the blood of almost all American women and their children. Many of the most common 2,000 chemicals have not been tested for developmental, reproductive and pediatric toxicity.

The National Institutes of Health, March of Dimes and American Academy of Pediatrics propose to do a large epidemiologic study on the impact of chemicals on children’s health. Our families, school boards and local governments need information on what chemicals are safe to use. While waiting for such information, Congress should strengthen the Toxic Substance Control Act and enforce the Food Quality Protection Act. The administration should not weaken the Right to Know and EPA’s enforcement of pollution violations. Green engineering principles should be adopted by industry. These principles use lifecycle thinking to minimize or eliminate by-products, reduce energy consumption, conserve natural resources and produce products that are safe.