By Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign

This week we''re celebrating as more utilities are recognizing that coal is dirty and expensive, and are deciding to make the switch to clean energy.

  • gn: justify;”> Earlier this week, Wisconsin''s Dairyland Power Cooperative announced that it will cease burning coal in three of the six units at its Alma Station by the end of the month. This news comes as Dairyland plans to make new investments in low cost clean energy, and adds momentum to a national trend – moving the United States from dirty coal power to clean energy.

    Last year, these three Alma units burned 13,915 tons of coal.  With Dairyland''s commitment to stop burning coal at these units, downwind residents will avoid breathing the dangerous pollution that comes from burning coal, and eliminate the need to dispose of the resulting toxic coal ash.

  • Last week in Lansing, Michigan, Consumers Energy announced plans to forgo a proposed $3.5billion coal plant near Bay City. The announcement comes after years of organizing and pushback on the proposal by neighboring communities and environmental groups, including the Sierra Club.

    If built, the Consumers plant would have released 2,152 tons of sulfur dioxide and 63.4 pounds of mercury per year. This marks the 159th coal plant proposal that has been defeated since the beginning of Sierra Club''s Beyond Coal Campaign.

  • In the same announcement last week, Consumers Energy also revealed plans to mothball seven of its existing coal-fired units around the state by 2015. Meanwhile, the utility has two wind projects in development that will produce a combined total of 250 MW of clean energy in the state.
  • After years of student activism in Collegeville, Minnesota, The College of St. Benedict/St. John''s University announced it will take a two-year break from burning coal on its campus, as part of a two-year contract with a natural gas supplier. And the school''s already shown a penchant for clean energy, having turned four acres of its land into a solar farm in 2009.

These are all tremendous victories for public health. These plants were leaving families breathing polluted air, and the proposed Bay City plant would have done more of the same.

While there is still much work to be done to get these Midwest communities powered by clean energy, we are thrilled by the grassroots activism that brought about these recent victories.

We know that the steady drumbeat for clean energy will continue, and the Sierra Club will be right in the middle of it all. Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard to win these impressive victories!

Courtesy of