More regulations are on the way for coal plants, thanks to a new Supreme Court ruling.
The 6-2 decision upholds the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate pollution from coal plants. It also ends a battle between Midwest and east coast states, who say smog from area power plants are polluting their cities. Experts say the ruling signifies a major win for environmental protections.
"From a public health perspective and from an environmental perspective, this is good news," said UW-La Crosse biology professor Rob Tyser.
The ruling clears the path for more regulations to be imposed on coal plants. But one major power provider in our area says it's not too concerned for the future of its operations.
"We've cetainly been working for more than 10 years actually trying to comply with those rules," said Rob Palmberg, vice president of generation for Dairyland Cooperative.
The power company has already spent upwards of $400 million to bring its plants into compliance with current and future regulations.
Palmberg says with so many environmental lawsuits raging in the courtroom, Dairyland directors have kept a close eye on the potential changes that could result.
"They've gone into the court system, they've gone out, they've changed suddenly, but in general we've always felt we knew sort of the magnitude of where these were going," he said.
Most of the work Dairyland is doing deals with air quality control, the one of the issues directly dealt with in the Supreme Court this week.
The tighter regulations come at a cost to the power plant and others like it, but experts the price is worth it.
"If you reduce the amount of oxides being released, then public health really benefits," Tyser said.
The national ruling is fresh from the courtroom, so Dairyland isn't sure of the specifics or a timeline at this point - but Palmberg isn't too worried.
"In general, based on what we knew, we feel like we're in pretty good shape to comply," he said.
Dairyland has mostly finished the projects to bring its four area power plants into compliance with the new regulations, with just a few left. Directors say they plan to be fully finished sometime in 2016.
Oftentimes, more regulations can mean a bigger power bill for consumers, who end up paying for the additional protections companies put in place at their plants. Dairyland says it doesn't expect prices to spike for its consumers, largely because of the planning directors have already done for more than a decade in anticipation of these regulations.