Make your views about MG&E heard--public comment period

.DDust from an MG&E storage area downtown.

MG&E has a bigger impact on the environment than any other private organization in Madison.  Besides issues of air pollution and climate change, MG&E has a huge impact on the lakes.  The three power plants in town* have enormous thirst, together using about as much water as the Madison Water Utility.  The Cogen Plant (west campus)  alone uses about 80 million gallons a year drawn from Lake Mendota.

"We're starting a 30-day public comment period on a proposed amendment to the Environmental Cooperative Agreement between DNR and Madison Gas & Electric. The amended agreement contains changes that reflect new superior environmental performance goals and changes in DNR programs. It also contains commitments from both parties to work collaboratively on several emerging issues and more. 
The public notice appears in today's Wisconsin State Journal. The public notice, the proposed Amended Agreement, a factsheet and information on the original Agreement are available at this web site.

Please direct any questions or comments about the proposed Amended Agreement to Kim McCutcheon, DNR Program Manager, at (608) 275-3207 or via e-mail at kim.mccutcheon@wisconsin.gov "

I received the above email from Shelly Heilman of the DNR on 2/20/12.  The first "Environmental Cooperative Agreement" was set up  over five years ago under a new law that gave MG&E "streamlined" permitting procedures if they agreed to certain environmental measures, such as an Environmental Management System and Community Environmental Advisory Group.  The cooperative agreement was set up with the Blount Street Power plant as the original focus, with intent to expand to other MG&E operations later.  So if you have concerns beyond the Blount Street operation, this is a good time to raise them.

Here are several issues I'm aware of, concerning MG&E.
  • At Odana Golf Course, MG&E is pumping about 50 million gallons a year of salty runoff water into the ground, exceeding allowable levels for salt in the groundwater.  This was a "deal" worked out between MG&E and the DNR, to compensate for the 80 MGY they pump from Lake Mendota for the Cogen Plant.  This contaminated water is violating two permits MG&E holds with DNR--that they not contaminate the groundwater, and that they pump about 80 MGY to compensate for water they use.  Measures within DNR to rectify these two problems are proceeding at glacial speed.  The two issues are also being considered separately--whereas they should be considered together.  They must be considered together because, to come within compliance with the salt contamination, MG&E is pumping less water into the ground--putting them more out of compliance with the need to restore 80 MGY to the ground.  More
  • MG&E operations downtown are creating dust.  Madison has high levels of dust in the air, comparable to a large city, putting the health of tens of thousands of sensitive people at risk. More on MG&E's dust.  More on Madison's bad air.
  • The visitor parking area for MG&E downtown has an advanced filter to clean runoff from the lot before it enters the lake.  So far, so good. However, this operation is very inefficient, since 30% of the water from the lot never goes through the filter.  Some simple asphalt levees or some regrading could rectify the problem.  More
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*  Madison's three power plants: The Blount Street Station just east of the Capitol.  The University Power Plant on Charter Street which was forced by a recent lawsuit to upgrade pollution control, and the Cogen Plant (cooperatively with the UW) on the west campus.  A fourth plant just east of the Capitol generates heat for state office buildings.

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