Columbia Energy Center

From Global Energy Monitor

Columbia Energy Center is a 1,112.0-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station operated by Wisconsin Power & Light Company near Pardeeville, Wisconsin.


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Plant Data

Alliant Energy Coal Exit

In 2020, Wisconsin Power & Light Company parent company Alliant Energy set an “aspiration” to reach net-zero carbon by 2050 and eliminate all coal power plants from its fleet by 2040.[6]

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 7,912,253 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 22,396 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 5,146 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 460 lb.

Permit Issues and Sierra Club Lawsuit

In March of 2008 Alliant Energy based in Madison, Wisconsin received a notice of intent to sue from the Sierra Club. The notice claimed that the company did not file applications for air permit renewal on a timely basis and in doing so violated the Clean Air Act. In 2009, as a result of pressure from the Sierra Club and others, the federal government revoked its permit to the Columbia Energy Center. The result could mean that Alliant will be forced to install pollution reduction equipment or it could mean shutting down the facility for good.[7]

On April 22, 2013, WP&L settled air pollution violations with the EPA by agreeing to spend $1.2 billion to clean up coal-fired power plants and shut down older plants. The company agreed to stop burning coal at the Nelson Dewey Generating Station in Cassville and two of the three boilers at the Edgewater Generating Station in Sheboygan, retiring 590 megawatts of coal. The company will also add pollution controls to the Edgewater Generating Station and the Columbia Energy Center in Portage, co-owned by Madison Gas & Electric.[8]

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Columbia Energy Center

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[9] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[10]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from the Columbia Energy Center

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 61 $450,000,000
Heart attacks 97 $11,000,000
Asthma attacks 1,000 $53,000
Hospital admissions 45 $1,000,000
Chronic bronchitis 37 $17,000,000
Asthma ER visits 62 $23,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

Coal Ash Waste and Water Contamination

In August 2010 a study released by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice reported that Wisconsin, along with 34 states, had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash that was not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report, in an attempt to pressure the EPA to regulate coal ash, noted that most states do not monitor drinking water contamination levels near waste disposal sites.[11] The report mentioned Wisconsin's Columbia Energy Center and Oak Creek Power Plant as two sites that have groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.[12]

Coal Waste Sites

Articles and Resources


  1. "SEC Form 10-K filing 2019", section 18, accessed May, 2020.
  2. "SEC Form 10-K 2019", Item 2, accessed May, 2020.
  3. "SEC Form 10-K 2019", section 2, accessed May, 2020.
  4. "EIA 923 July 2020" EIA 923 July 2020.
  5. "The end of an era: Alliant Energy announces retirement dates for Columbia Energy Center", February 2, 2021
  6. "Wisconsin Utility Alliant Energy Pledges Net-Zero Carbon by 2050", July 23, 2020
  7. Sean Ryan, " The Daily Reporter, November 5, 2009.
  8. Thomas Content, "EPA settles with Wisconsin utilities on coal plant air pollution: $1.2 billion will be spent to clean up power plants," Journal Sentinel, April 22, 2013.
  9. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  10. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  11. "Study of coal ash sites finds extensive water contamination" Renee Schoff, Miami Herald, August 26, 2010.
  12. "Enviro groups: ND, SD coal ash polluting water" Associated Press, August 24, 2010.


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