Wisconsin's DNR seeks penalties against We Energies for bluff collapse
OAK CREEK- The Wisconsin Department of Justice is reviewing whether a utility company broke any rules that may have lead to a bluff collapse last fall.
A bluff collapse at a We Energies power plant in Oak Creek prompted a landslide that sent trailers, a pickup truck, large pieces of equipment, coal ash and dirt sliding into Lake Michigan.
Now, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is seeking penalties against the utility.
"This is really the next normal step in the process that has been ongoing since the event last October," said Brian Manthey with We Energies. "This is what we expected and certainly we have been providing all the information to the (Department of Natural Resources) as needed throughout the course of the investigation."
According to the DNR, the utility may have violated state statutes or conditions of its permits.
"What we have done is address all the different questions they have asked about the various aspects of the bluff and what was built there," said Manthey. "We felt that we felt the various guidelines."
Environmental regulators are referring four possible violations to the Department of Justice, alleging We Energies built a storm water pond outside its authorized area -- neglected to notify the DNR when the pond was 50 percent complete and failed to develop an erosion-control plan.
The two sides sat down and talked about the issue in March. The process could end with We Energies facing potentially millions of dollars in fines.
Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Nick Iannelli reached out to the Wisconsin Department of Resources seeking comment Friday, but a spokesperson said the department does not comment on investigations that are ongoing.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Feyerherm, director of the Sierra Club's Wisconsin Clean Energy Campaign, said the environmental group is keeping a close eye on these developments.
"This is a good thing, this is DNR doing its job and working to protect the public from toxic substances..." said Feyerherm to Newsradio 620 WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Afternoon News with John Mercure." "We're glad to see them taking this action."
The group filed a notice of intent back in November, 2011 to possibly sue We Energies over the environmental damage. At the time the group said, "We Energies must be held responsible for the toxic mess at the bottom of Lake Michigan."
Feyerherm didn't commit one way or another as to whether the group would sue We Energies.
"We are continuing to review our (legal) options and certainly are keeping our eyes very closely on what the DNR and DOJ will do going forward."